Monday, August 23, 2010

Played Lately: Dragon Quest IX

  • My school days are long lost to haze of memory now, but there are certain things that are just as vivid now as the day I lived them. One such memory occurred back in 1989. I was hanging out in the band director's office with a couple friends, Jason and Josh, before school started. Although we spent a lot of time talking about video games, this particular morning we we sharing our adventures with the new Nintendo game everyone was excited about, Dragon Warrior. That game was like a bolt out of the blue to me. All of the CRPG I played were archaic in their systems and ugly with their four color palette. DW was bright and beautiful and a lot of fun. It was everything I wanted in a CRPG in an easy to play format. Fast forward a couple decades to where I eagerly awaited the launch of Dragon Quest IX. The wait has been worth it.

  • What I like about the series, and this game especially, is its positive outlook. It is the polar opposite of the grim and gritty fantasy from Dragon Age. The people are cheerful, even against great adversity, the enemies are colorful and playful, and the world is a joy to explore. This is not generic fantasy; it is a world of optimism and hope. It is such a relief to get away from the heavy handed pessimism of mature games sometimes. DQIX might be best described as JRPG comfort food.

  • After telling you how fluffy the game is, I now have to admit how well the title cinematic hit me. I'm not talking about the demo movie that runs over the start menu. This is the film that follows the tutorial sequence and leads into the main title. It was a wonderful cutscene that did a great job of setting up the major conflict in the game. One thing it did that I haven't seen before (probably because I don't look very hard) was the way it used both DS screens to show two different angles on the action when it was appropriate. Even though the game is one of those forever things, I still would be interested in starting over to see it again.

  • One of the stand out parts of the game is the eccentric characterizations on display. In particular, Stella, the faerie pilot of the Starflight Express, is an absolute hoot. The way they mangle her lines makes her come across as earnest instead of an idiot, as she would be played in any other game. You can tell the translators had a lot of fun coming up with all of the hilarious lines. Some people might be put off with how silly some of it is, but it fits the world they have built so well. Bravo to the translation team.

  • Another of the great aspect of this game is that there is so much to do. There is a huge world to explore, plenty of adventures to find in an almost episodic manner, any number of quests, mini-medals to collect, equipment to upgrade, new classes to try, alchemy to perform, and on and on. I've heard some people complain that these types of games almost require you to buy the strategy guide to find everything in the game. So far, I have not found that to be the case. The game unfolds at its own pace, introducing new things a bit at a time. I've have never felt overwhelmed or lost. What I have felt is the urge to dig deeper into Dragon Quest and see everything that I can. For instance, my main character has leveled four different classes to twenty just so that I can see what is available, as well as earn extra skill points. If I wanted to, I think DQIX would let me play forever. And I just might.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

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