Dragon Quest 9 is not an MMO

Overview
While a whole slew of information sources over the interwebs have been misinforming people on whether Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is an MMO or not. Let me set the record straight. Dragon Quest 9 is not an MMO! It does however have MMOish type characteristics. So if DQ9 is not an MMO why are young and older gamers alike being drawn to this newest release in the Dragon Quest series? 


Well there are more then a few reasons for a lot of gamers speaking out on their love for DQ9. Some of those reasons include the ability to play multiplayer with your friends, the ability to now actually see the various changes in armor and weapons when you equip them (le gasp!), and the biggest: the sheer amount of content in the post game.

These are some of the biggest comments of note that have been outcried all around the internet & various gaming websites since Dragon Quest 9’s release in Japan in July of 2009, and its most recent release in North America, July 11, 2010. While I must say these comments are definitely important, I myself only agree with a few of them. I’m actually a sad panda bear when it comes to expressing my happiness in this newest DQ9 game. So without further ado, let me tell you what I think is important about Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies.


Story

Story

Taken directly from the manual:

The Observatory is home to the mighty Yggdrasil, the Great World Tree, and to the Celestrians, a race of beings charged with watching over the mortal realm beneath. According to legend, when the sacred fyggs finally blossom on Yggdrasil’s boughs, a celestial carriage will arrive to transport the Celestrians to the Realm of the Almighty.

In order to bring about the blooming of the fyggs, the Celestrians have long gathered benevolessence, the crystalized gratitude of their mortal charges, and offered it up to the great world tree. And now, at long last, fyggbloom draws near…

An incredible story is about to unfold, in which the Celestrian sentinels will become more closely entwined with their mortal charges than ever before.

First off let me say it should be quite obvious to anyone who is slightly interested in this game that, you the main character, starts of as a Celestrian. Of course just like the manual says your job is to act as a sort of “guardian angel” to the mortals, and you end up doing just that. Until certain events transpire that make you become entwined in mortal affairs that you’re not supposed to be involved in…


~My Thoughts~
I’m not going to get into too many of the details here for fear of giving away too much of the storyline that barely exists. If I had to be honest (which I will be) I would have to say that this storyline is pretty “easy on the mind”. The storyline is basically told to you as you travel through the game visiting towns and talking to people in small snippets.There are no deep political plots, or epic plot twists at key points in the game. There are a couple of scenarios that make you say “Oh”, and some scenes are very sad. Overall though, there is nothing present that is truly deep that makes you think.

Those simple perceptions of the storyline are some of the first flaws I found in DQ9. While I can definitely say that Dragon Quest 9 is a spiritual successor of Dragon Quest 3, I think Level-5/Square Enix took the ideas of a simple storyline idea from DQ3, and super dumbed it down. This is just my opinion however, and a lot of people have surely enjoyed the storyline.


Gameplay

Gameplay

The gameplay in this game is definitely where most of my positive comments will come from.

~Presentation~
One of the biggest things that people have been talking about since Dragon Quest 9’s initial previews was the ability to customize your own custom hero & the ability to now see all of your weapon & armor changes. This is a big step in the right direction for Dragon Quest 9 and hopefully future Dragon Quest titles.

When you start up the game you have the choice between picking a male or female as your starting hero and then you get a nice sized selection of characteristics to make them look somewhat unique.


Don't brag. Just show off your good gear!

As far as the world is concerned the towns and the world itself is nicely detailed. They still use all of the iconic sounds for moving into towns, and traveling up stairs. Also you will notice that when traveling around the world your top DS screen shows a handy map, so you can see towns or what might be areas of interest. The world also goes from day to night, and it seems like everything is seamless and the only time your screen will “load” is when you move to other areas of the map or go into town.


While the game itself is definitely visually pleasing let’s jump right into the new class system.

~A Class System that is almost new…~

So to start off, when you first start with your hero you will be a Minstrel. Kind of like the dancer/jester type job class in the game. After you get to a certain part of the game just like past Dragon Quest titles, you will eventually unlock the other 5 starting classes (Warrior, Martial Artist, Priest, Mage, and Thief), and you can change to those classes if you would like to.

Unlike Dragon Quest 8 you are not restricted to a certain playstyle with your main character and your party members. However just like DQ8 you get Skill Points as you level up. These skill points start at level 5 and 6 and then skip a level, and then continue in that pattern.

I do understand that DQ8 had a certain limitation with the way the characters could progress and that actually fit into that game quite nicely. Dragon Quest 7 on the other hand, allowed you to level up different classes based on a set number of battles you completed, and even use spells from every class you leveled in. So with that being said the most important thing that I wanted to point out here is that it seems like this Class System in Dragon Quest 9 is a step back compared to more recent Dragon Quest titles.

To explain it somewhat briefly… Each class has 5 skills to put points into: 1 Class Skillset, and 4 Weapon Skillsets.
When you get access to the other classes and you change to let’s say a warrior you will notice that the Minstrel and the Warrior have the Sword Skillset. So whatever points you put into swords will stay with you and you can still use those Sword only skills. The 2 other things of note: whatever skills you learn from the Class Skillset also come with you when you change classes, and if you max out any Weapon Skillset (i.e. put in 100 points) you can use that weapon with any class.

Now the catch to all of this is that Spells don’t come with you. That’s right: spells do not transfer over with you when you change classes. So if you were hoping to level a priest and then a mage so you can have an all in one character for the early parts of the game think again. This game actually forces you (that is if you do not level enough in a specific class) to use certain classes if you need certain spells. So if your medicinal herbs aren’t allowing you to beat those bosses, then you must have a priest in your party (over-leveling works too). And while there is actually a class that you can unlock that is an ideal magic user ( aka. a Sage) you cannot unlock it until the very last dungeon in the game! Say what?!

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to have to over level my classes or be stuck to one particular subset of classes just to do well in a Dragon Quest game. I don’t think I’ve been spoiled too much from past DQ titles….

All in all, I believe this class system implemented here could have definitely been better. And actually my ideal Dragon Quest game after this would have to have visually pleasing combat like in this game or DQ8 combined with Dragon Quest 7’s Class System. I think that would be the best system by far! :D

Touching back on the classes again you do get get an extra 6 classes besides the basics…eventually. The catch on this is that you have to unlock them through annoying quests. Such as: go critical hit this monster 5 times while casting War Cry to scare them, while also hopping on one toe and rubbing your belly. Then and only then can you unlock this class…
Ok. It’s not that bad, but some of the class unlock quests are very similar to that. Kind of turns me off to the whole idea of unlocking extra classes.

~Multiplayer does not mean MMO…or does it?~
As far as the multiplayer for DQ9 is concerned it can only be played over a local wireless connection. So no this game is not playing online with your friends in a different country, state, etc. And for those of you who didn’t know all of the combat is turn based so even if you are with a friend you still have to pick attacks through a menu system to initiate combat. I still think it would be fun playing with friends, but for the older gamers like myself the extra multiplayer component is wasted since I don’t have any people who want to come sit at my house just to play DQ9! Lol.

However the main MMOish qualities of DQ9 mainly have to do with its post game content. The actual game itself is ~40-60 hours depending on your playstyle. You start off walking from town to town, and then eventually you get a ship to explore more of the world, and as you visit new towns you will see quests everywhere. While they are not required to finish the game some quests give you money, items, or even unlock those extra classes I mentioned.

If you don’t finish these quests though before you beat the game that’s alright! You can actually come back after you beat the game and open up even more of the world. Because there are some parts of the world that you cannot even access until you beat the game…

“Wait, what did you say Zleven?”
You heard me.
Unfortunately for certain gamers who don’t have the time or luxury to continue to play extra content after the game is beat… all of the extra grinding for levels, item gathering, quest completing, your last mode of transportation, the one class you cannot unlock until you beat the game, and world exploring is pointless after the game is completed. This is another one of those HUGE flaws I was talking about that might not sit to well with a few gamers. And it’s also why this game definitely has MMOish type characteristics ;)

The only true online component to the game is the ability to download new treasure maps, quests, and a shop list for rare items you can’t find in the game so that was a nice touch by Square-Enix. :)

Extra Info

  • All of your characters that you make for your party are silent. It’s just you, them, and your imagination.
  • There is Alchemy in this game just like DQ8, so try not to sell too many items. Especially items you only have 1 of.
  • There are several stats in the game, and Deftness is more like Luck; like chance to get a critical hit.
  • Sometimes you need to talk to certain NPCs more than once to get key sequences in the game initiated. So if you leave one of the first towns and start battling thru the game and get to a boss who whups your arse, that means you forgot to pick up your party! Go back and get them.
  • Single Player combat is good ole’ turn based, which is based off of agility. But now you can have combo multipliers when melee attack back to back. They also kept in a Limit Break type system called: Coup de Grace.
  • The puns in this game are freaking outrageous. You will either love them or hate them for the sheer amount that you will notice or not notice till later. I found over 15 puns in the first several hours of the game. How many can you find?
  • Weapon descriptions have lots of wording with the same first letter of almost every word. Pretty neat.
  • When you do multiplayer, only the person hosting the game advances the storyline in their own game.
  • There are a few anime cutscenes in the game! :D
  • The only place you will encounter random battles now is out at sea. On land and in dungeons you can see every monster! So you can avoid/initiate battles as you see fit.
  • Here are all of the classes: Warrior, Martial Artist, Mage, Priest, Thief, Minstrel, Paladin, Gladiator, Sage, Luminary, Ranger, and Armamentalist.
  • An MMO is a massively multiplayer online game.

Image Gallery
This image gallery contains screenshots and art for Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies on the Nintendo DS. Enjoy! :)

Videos

Below is a newer trailer of Dragon Quest 9:

Dragon Quest 9 Trailer from NintendoNowEmpire

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Dragon Quest 9 Review by IGN

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DQ9 Customization Trailer from Gametrailers.com
Click on Standard Def to play video here.

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Pros & Cons


Here is my semi-small list of personal Pros and Cons.
Pros:

  • I like the fact that I can see whatever I equip now. The DS graphics look neat in that respect…oh and customizing my character to look like Goku never hurts.
  • No more random battles (except out on your ship).
  • Game content wise is huge. There is a lot of stuff to do after you beat the game.
  • The art style is still in the famous Akira Toriyama style that myself and others have grown to love.
  • There’s a quest for everything. :D
  • It’s a Dragon Quest game.

Cons:

  • Some people will not have time to do all of the extra stuff after they beat the game.
  • Gathering materials for alchemy crafting is tedious.
  • Class System feels incomplete.
  • Story is no where near as epic as past Dragon Quest titles.
  • You don’t know who the true villain is till you get close to the very end of the game.
  • There’s a quest for everything. D:
  • Game fails to explain important game mechanics, which might frustrate people who failed to pay attention to dialogue or check everything twice.

Words from Z
So regardless of how many things I may have sounded negative about I actually did enjoy playing Dragon Quest 9.

The game had a nice light hearted story that flowed as I moved though the game. And when it was over for me, it was pretty much over. I personally don’t like all of the after game grinding for doing extra stuff. In my opinion, the devs should have included all of that stuff as extra sidequests in the game and given the player access to them, and the whole world, before you beat the game. Oh well. At least I know other people are enjoying the game a little bit more than I did.

My question now is are you going to play it?

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