Recently, I decided to pick up a new DS game in anticipation of having to spend a lot of down time during a long work weekend. To be honest, my job requires a lot of hurry up and wait. So, to keep my down time from being deliriously boring, I decided to pick up my first Dragon Quest game, Dragon Quest IX.
The game is a JRPG, not very different in style from any of the Final Fantasy or Zelda's series of games. Your main character starts off as an angel, who, because of circumstances beyond his or her control, gets cast out of the heavens only to find that they have landed on terra firma with no halo and no wings. From there you adventure out trying to understand what happened and how to get back to your home in the clouds. There is a lot of the starting story that I'm leaving out because I don't want to spoil the experience. I'm really impressed with the visuals and cut scenes in the game. They are just fantastic for a DS game. I've played a few JRPG's on the DS, but most of them, Chronos Trigger and Final Fantasy 3 are all ports of older games and can't produce the kind of quality I'm seeing in this title. It is just visually nice.
The game play is pretty simple. There is a main story line that pretty much pushes the main character forward, but there are lots of side quests that can be done for items and xp. After a certain period in the story the ability to recruit a party members will become unlocked. I, not being that smart, tried to venture out without a group and got spanked, so when you get to the part where you can form a party of adventurers, do it. lol Party members are very customizable. You can choose their sex, hair/eye color and choose their names or you can pick from any number of pre-generated classes.
There is a profession/job for each character, i.e healer, mage, warrior, thief, etc. As you level them up, you get points to advance their skills. There are 5 different skills to level up. When you place a certain number of points in a skill, it unlocks certain abilities for that class. The warriors can unlock different abilities with the sword, the healer can unlock spell protections, etc. You can change your profession when you reach a certain part in the story, but I've not gotten there yet, but I've heard that you can change your profession to some degree. You will lose some of the stuff you've learned but if a character has maxed out a skill, they get to keep it, so if you want your warrior who has maxed out his sword skill to now be a healer, with a different set of skills you can. Now I'm not a 100% sure about that, but that is what I've heard. lol
Another very cool aspect is tactics. If you want to run one of your party members on auto pilot, you can choose from a number of different presets and that preset dictates the actions of your party member. My cleric is on a setting called "Focus on Healing" which means that he'll attack until he notices a party member's health getting too low, then he will start with the heals. This way, I don't have to make those hard decisions and since I've had the healer in my party, I've not had any deaths. Lucky me. There are other tactics that prevent casters from running out of mana or to keep fighter's attacking relentlessly. My healers is the only one set to a tactic right now, which allows me to manually control the other three party members.
The fighting so far has been fun, but there is a lot of grinding. Why so much grinding? Because there is also crafting in the game and to craft you need certain items that either drop from specific mobs or you can pick them up off the ground. This crafting is where you get a majority of your cool magical items. You can craft armor, weapons, rings and potions. As you travel through the world you gather recipes by searching bookshelves in the houses. I've collected a few recipes so far. Some items need for crafting you'll have to buy from vendors. One recipe is an upgrade to a dagger, so you have to have a dagger of a certain quality in order to transform it into something greater.
I'm just scratching the surface of all you can do with this game. You can also set the game to TAG mode and if your near someone else that has their DS in TAG mode, they will visit your world and you can visit theirs. You can trade treasure maps that will help you find some of the more interesting magical items in the game. Apparently there are tons of these maps out there and not every game will be able to find them so being able to trade them is the key to unlocking all of the maps. It's a lot like Pokemon where if you want to capture all the pets in the game you need to do a lot of trading with people online. The game does have a multiplayer mode, but its only adhoc and not over internet, which is a shame. If you have a one to four friends with the game, you can play together, but the story will only advance for the person hosting the game. Everyone else will still be able to level up and get some of the loot, but they won't be able to go back to their game with the story updated.
Not only is the game fun to play, but it's very punny in its own right with monster cucumbers called Cruelcumbers and evil cat magician's called Meowgicians. I've put in over 10 hours so far and there is sooo much left to do. If your a fan of Japanese Role Playing Games, I'd recommend this game. Its a lot of fun, the animation is top notch and hey, there's crafting. Who doesn't want that? lol