By SuperfluousMoniker 8 Comments
I've been playing a lot of Dragon Quest IX lately. Tons. It's practically consumed all my free time since I got it on Monday. So how, you may ask, does it hold up to Dragon Quest VIII, which is frequently cited as the best in the series?
Not favorably. Let me tell you all about it.
First of all, due the inclusion multiplayer in the game, it went whole hog on the 'create your own character' thing. This is actually pretty cool, as I like being able to set up what the members of my party will specialize in. On the other hand, it means that they can't use the crutch from past games where party members would kind of guide you in the right direction and advance the story, not to mention having, you know, personalities. Again, this is something I can live with as long as the game handles it gracefully. Unfortunately, DQIX's answer to this problem is Stella.
As far as truly annoying characters go, she's about it (that I've run into so far anyway). What is annoying is the way some characters have been localized. At some point between Dragon Quest VIII and the Dragon Quest IV remake on the DS, the localization team decided that what Dragon Quest needs to sell as big in English speaking countries as it does in Japan is puns. Lots of puns. Everywhere. Character names, location names, item descriptions, skill names, fucking everywhere. I can deal with a few puns, and the game does have a light hearted feel so they aren't necessarily out of place, but they went too far. Again.
Part of the reason the puns bug me so much is that they changed skill names to include puns and obscure references. Combined with the fact that the game doesn't tell you what skills do until you unlock them, this can be really confusing. Based on the name alone, what do you suppose Blockensphiel does? How about Half Inch? Party Pooper? Trip of a Deathtime (ugh)? How about if they were named Shield Bash, Steal, Mow Down, and Sweep, their previous game equivalents? I guess Mow Down isn't the most descriptive, but at least it gave you a general idea of what the fucking skill did. 'Party Pooper' as the name of a rod skill that strikes an enemy group doesn't make a goddamn lick of sense. Using 'Half Inch' as the name of the steal skill confused the hell out of me as I looked through the skill lists trying to find the one that let me steal. I had to go online and look up what the skills did. Nice work getting that cockney slang in there, localization team.
I could go on with the terrible puns all day. They renamed the Darma Temple (which has been in several DQ games, by the way) to the Alltrades Abby, presumably for the sole purpose of naming its priest to (wait for it) Jack of Alltrades. When Jack gets turned into a monster and you have to fight him, he's called Master of Nu'un. Yeah. Another boss is called the Ragin' Contagion, and he speaks with a southern fried hillbilly dialect that completely ruins his creepy appearance. I walked into a new town once and was startled that the characters didn't seem to have punny names. I was supposed to help a girl named Jonah. "Odd name for a girl," I thought, "but at least it wasn't a pun." Then she got swallowed by a whale-like creature. Bravo, localization team. Giving a girl a boy's name for the purpose of a single reference. Truly, you are kings among men.
"But didn't Dragon Quest VIII have puns?" you may ask. Yes, it did. It had puns and humorous parts, but it knew when they were fucking appropriate and didn't overdo it. They didn't shoehorn dumbass joke personalities on every boss and major character in the game. They didn't fill the skill list with oblique cockney slang references.
Moving on, Dragon Quest IX has done away with random battles (for the most part, they still happen when you're sailing). This is great news, but occasionally something worse happens because of the way they've implemented the system. Basically, the monsters don't stop when you go into the menus, and they will 'appear' even if you don't move. So what would happen to me is I would get in a fight, win, and immediately open my menu to heal my characters afterwards. While healing, another monster would show up nearby, and I'd wind up having to fight him when he aggroed on me the instant I closed the menu. This doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen and it sucks.
The way monsters aggro on you is kind of annoying sometimes. Many will charge straight for where you were when they 'noticed' you, and are easy to avoid, but some will chase you relentlessly until you are forced into a battle. What makes this annoying is that their range for aggro is huge. I've been aggroed by enemies that were off screen before. If your party is high enough level, enemies will run away from you, but this seems to be based on the main character's level. Since I switched classes recently, he's a few levels behind, so I'm frequently chased by weakling enemies my party can mop up in a single round.
What else? Well, the music is kind of disappointing. Mostly the main overworld theme. I don't like it, you hear it a lot, and usually the overworld music is one of the best tracks in a DQ games, so it's doubly disappointing. The town music is okay, but there appears to be only one in the whole game so far, with a variation that plays at night. I could be crazy, but I seem to remember previous games having multiple town themes. Luckily, the battle music is good, because you hear that a lot.
I guess that's enough bitching. I really like this game and recommend it if you like JRPGs, despite that wall of text up there. It's just frustrating that my biggest problem with Dragon Quest V has come back in full force, the encounters thing seems kind of broken, and... Stella.