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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

by Jon Lindemann - May 15, 2007, 5:56 pm PDT
Total comments: 14

Thank goodness the next Dragon Quest game is coming to Nintendo DS to revive its sagging sales in Japan. Wait a minute...

Shortly after the release of the wildly popular Dragon Quest VIII for Playstation 2, speculation turned to which console would host the next iteration of the series. Many assumed that, since both the seventh and eighth titles in the series were released on Sony platforms, the next title would logically wind up on Sony's Playstation 3. However, in December 2006 Square-Enix threw everyone a curve ball when they announced that Dragon Quest IX would be released not for a home console, but instead exclusively for the handheld Nintendo DS. They assured everyone that it was not a spin-off game, but truly a legitimate sequel to DQVIII. This makes Dragon Quest IX: Defenders of the Skies the first "main-line" Dragon Quest game to appear on a handheld platform.

In retrospect,the decision made perfect sense. The Nintendo DS is a sales juggernaut, especially in Japan (where, coincidentally, the Dragon Quest series happens to be arguably the most popular video game franchise in history). Square-Enix stated that they wanted DQIX to reach the largest possible audience, and the largest audience these days is definitely owned by the Nintendo DS. As of April 2007, Nintendo's dual-screen gem has amassed worldwide sales of over 40 million units with no sign of slowing down. With this in mind, combining the most popular gaming platform with the most popular game seemed to be a no-brainer and a match made in heaven.

However, not everybody felt that way initially. Fans raised concerns about the DS' ability to deliver a world the size and scope of a typical Dragon Quest title. DQVIII took most people somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 hours to finish, so there was some skepticism as to whether or not a sequel could be properly done on a small DS cartridge. Couple this with news reports stating that developers were instituting action-based battles instead of traditional menu-based battles, and diehards worried that DQIX would be nothing more than a scaled-down, dumbed-down version of their favorite series.

To date, Square-Enix has done its best to address these concerns. They have promised a full-length adventure (one would think at least 30-40 hours of gameplay minimum), and the proposed action-oriented battle system has been scrapped in favor of a return to menu-based battles. Most importantly, Level 5 (creators of DQVIII) are back at the development helm, guaranteeing that the level of quality won't drop a bit. Yuji Horii is once again spearheading the effort, with Kouichi Sugiyama providing the soundtrack and Akira Toriyama (of Dragonball Z fame) providing character design.

But don't take this to mean that DQIX will simply be a portable rehash of its predecessor. Level 5 has announced that this will be the first game in the series to be playable online, allowing up to four gamers to adventure cooperatively using the DS's Wi-Fi capabilities. It's not yet clear if this online component will be a multiplayer version of the main story or an adventure unto itself, but we do know that players will be able to explore the world independently if they so desire. This means that while two players might be taking part in the same online game, one could be buying weapons in a shop while the other could be fighting monsters in a cave north of town.

Multiplayer combat will be turn-based, just like the single-player mode. The DS's top screen displays the battle and is shown to all players, letting everybody keep track of how their party is doing. Commands are selected individually by each player, with everybody being informed of everybody else's moves. There has been talk of being able to "discuss" moves with the other players in your party ahead of time, indicating that DQIX may have Voice-Over-IP capabilities similar to those found in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl.

In both multiplayer and single-player mode there are no more random battles. The tried-and-true "random monster encounter" model that has been a series hallmark has been replaced with something a little more dynamic. You will now see monsters roaming around the overworld map, entering battle with them on contact. This means that you can choose to avoid enemies if desired, a welcome change for those that feel that random battles are a little archaic.

Graphically, DQIX will push the DS to its limits. The cartoony presentation of the series is a perfect fit for the lesser capabilities of the DS hardware, with screenshots released thus far looking great even when compared to DQVIII on the PS2. Environments are large, colorful, and detailed, and Toriyama's wacky monster designs are back with a vengeance. The DS' dual screens are put to full use, with a world map on the top screen and overworld action/character management taking place on the bottom.

Player characters will be more customizable than ever. Gone are the days of simply naming your character and accepting whatever appearance the game gives you. From the outset, DQIX players will be able to choose their character's gender, height, weight, hair style, skin color, and facial features. In addition to that, equipping your character with different armor and weapons will alter their in-game appearance, and the act of equipping will be easier than ever thanks to a drag-and-drop interface using the DS's stylus and touchscreen.

As for DQIX's story, little is known at this point. A trailer released in January 2007 (below) shows a majestic city in the sky with a single fruit-bearing tree at its top. At the end of the trailer a single fruit falls from the tree and plunges downward into the clouds. The same fruit is featured in the game's logo, leading one to assume that the tree and its fruit are likely a critical aspect of DQIX's overall plot. Whatever the case, you can be sure that DQIX will be grand in scope and worthy of its lineage.

Talkback

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorMay 15, 2007

Quote

Player characters will be more customizable than ever. Gone are the days of simply naming your character and accepting whatever appearance the game gives you. From the outset, DQIX players will be able to choose their character's gender, height, weight, hair style, skin color, and facial features. In addition to that, equipping your character with different armor and weapons will alter their in-game appearance, and the act of equipping will be easier than ever thanks to a drag-and-drop interface using the DS's stylus and touchscreen.

That is the coolest thing ever!

CalibanMay 15, 2007

I agree with Pale. Just yesterday I was thinking that they should have made a similar option for Pokemon D/P, instead of just choosing boy/girl they should let me customize my character.

thatguyMay 15, 2007

Well, I find Diamond and Pearl lacking on several features that should have been included, but unfortunately, it's still a good game, so I had to buy it, and was unable to protest.

I like where this looks like it's going, but I have to wonder about the turn based battles. I didn't see anything that looked that way in the video. I thought it was strange.

Some of the newer screenshots floating around show a menu on the bottom screen that says, FIGHT! I think that's part of the menu-based battles.

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorMay 16, 2007

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Originally posted by: Caliban
I agree with Pale. Just yesterday I was thinking that they should have made a similar option for Pokemon D/P, instead of just choosing boy/girl they should let me customize my character.

Ya know why I think they left it out of diamond and pearl? Because they wanted to give people a reason to buy Battle Revolution.

/sigh.

ShyGuyMay 16, 2007

Cynical, but probably true.

Why is there no character customization in Traject??

CalibanMay 16, 2007

Pale, are you sying that in Pokemon Battle Revolution I can customize my character?

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorMay 16, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: ShyGuy
Cynical, but probably true.

Why is there no character customization in Traject??

Because I was sick of working on it and wanted my damn degree.

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorMay 16, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Caliban
Pale, are you sying that in Pokemon Battle Revolution I can customize my character?

There is at least some level of character customization. It's hard to tell if it is just having a ton more choices of pre made characters, or actually choosing accessories. I'm trying to figure it out.

thatguyMay 16, 2007

I think what Pale is trying to say is that he's figuring out if there is a way to customize his boot to your face in the game. Apparently, this is what he has succeeded in doing to everyone in pokemon, though he is too afraid to fight me, it seems.

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorMay 16, 2007

Too busy having a crappy job in which I regularly take part in unpaid overtime would be the real reason.

:-/

Also, I'm not that good at Pokemon. face-icon-small-wink.gif

IceColdMay 17, 2007

Isn't that an old trailer?

It's from January 2007, so yeah it's a little old. It was the newest one I could find though.

GoldenPhoenixJune 02, 2007

This is actually an RPG I am anticipating besides FFIV remake for NDS.

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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Level-5
Players1 - 4
Online1 - 4
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Release Jul 11, 2010
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Dragon Quest IX: Hoshizora no Mamori Hito
Release Jul 11, 2009
PublisherSquare Enix
RatingAll Ages
eu: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Release Jun 23, 2010
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
aus: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Release Aug 19, 2010
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral
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