Top critical review
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Surprisingly, kind of boring
on September 3, 2011
I've been following the Dragon Quest series since the original was released for the NES (I got mine for free with a Nintendo Power subscription!) Needless to say, I'm a huge fan. When this game got announced for the DS, I was extremely excited. I pre-ordered it, and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Well, I got it, played it some, and then I let it sit. Over the past several months, I've picked it up here and there. I'll play it in fits-and-starts. Ultimately, I can't bring myself to really play it. Sure, the graphics are very polished and nice, and I love the music (just like any other title from the series!) There are also some bright spots scattered here and there too. The game, however, feels like that the people behind this game wanted to make a game that would last a long time. Well, they succeeded with quantity over quality. The most important feature of any RPG is story, and with DQ9, we're being told a story that's only OK. I can deal with a story that's only OK, if the game has engaging game-play. But we don't even have that here! What we did get was an annoying level-up/jobs system, a mess of tedious side quests and forced grinding. Let me fill in some details here:
Level Up System -- It takes a lot of XP to level up as you move through the game if you stick with one class. Sure, you can switch classes and knock out a few easy levels and get some skill points, but the best skills come at higher levels. Trying to make an uber-character can take too much time and research. When playing a Dragon Quest game, I kind of just want to move through the story.
Side Quests -- You'll run across some NPC's with blue-colored conversation balloons over their heads. These folk have side quests that you can complete. Unfortunately, many of them are of the form "go kill X number of enemy Y using tactic Z." These tactics used seem to be the most annoying way to fight (go kill them with an under-powered skill, or weak weapon, for example.) Some of these side quests are required if you'd like to train a character in a particular job, which is unfortunate. Others have rewards that don't mean nearly as much to the game, and are there for our amusement (or in my case, annoyance.)
Characters -- You recruit a party of generic members in this game, very much like you did in DQ3. It was fine back then, as personality had no role what-so-ever in the first few Dragon Quest titles. But once they hit DQ4, characters with at least a smidgen of personality were introduced. Here, we get customized sprites. They simply follow you around and follow orders.
This game did have some interesting ideas behind it. The combo-system is neat when you can get it to work. I also like how the characters appearance change when you equip different things (even if the new look was sometimes awful!) Running around and NOT having random encounters is a huge plus for me. In fact, random encounters can ruin my taste for a game sometimes. With DQ9, you almost always know when a fight will take place!
So is this game terrible? No. I've certainly played worse. But I do think it might be the worst of the series! I expect some level of grinding with any Dragon Quest (or RPG) title. It's kind of the nature of the beast here. We're kind of forced into a grind here, though, and it really detracts from the game. Especially when the story is rather weak! (The story actually had an interesting start, but became a lather-rinse-repeat throughout.) I'm sure fans of the series will appreciate the game on some level. In the end, I found some appreciation for the parts that I played. But it's not on my "I need to finish this" list. I may get around to it, but not any time soon.