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Dragon Quest IX review

An outstanding achievement

Dragon Quest IX is every bit as epic as a Legend Of Zelda game, funnier than anything we've seen on the DS and if it's one of the finest crafted games anywhere, that's because DQ laid the foundations other RPGs now use as standard. Experience points, battle menus and turn-based encounters all gained prominence because of the Dragon Quest series.

This time our hero is a guardian angel who starts out in a small village with only a few basic possessions. You must explore and communicate with the townsfolk while indulging in a bit of light thievery from people's homes to augment your meagre inventory. You recruit a sidekick before heading out into the great wide yonder to see what you can find.

Click to view larger image
The template is familiar and it works without a hitch, but this is in fact the main bugbear we had with the game. If you're unfortunate enough to never have played a Dragon Quest game before, then lucky you - there's no better place to start than here. When you've been playing them for years, then that familiarity does tend to breed just a tiny bit of contempt. DQIX's strength is also its weakness.

E Numbers

Yet there are plenty of additions which freshen the experience up for series veterans and for newcomers, the perfectly judged learning curve will help.

Beyond the safety of the village lies an enormous world of green pastures, brilliant blue oceans and countless towns, villages, retreats, boltholes and country pads. Towns are buzzing with life while the wider world is peppered with roaming monsters and the potential to increase your hero's vital stats.

The visuals improve upomn those in DQ VI - we've got buildings and characters modelled in polygons and a camera placed to give you a wider view of it all. The effect is a warm, inviting game - as you wander through the land you'll actually see monsters hopping about in real time. Gone are the random battles which often scuppered you in previous games - now you can skip past a monster if your health is running low.

The battles have you taking turns to trade blows after you've selected what you want to do on the touch screen. There are Attack, Ability, Spell, Use Item and Defend options, and these are joined by a new option - a randomly generated special ability which all your characters can call upon - it'll deal a devastating critical strike, or it might allow a character to cast spells without draining his magic points.

No Experience Needed

In the early stages of the game you'll rocket up through the experience levels, improving your band of brawlers greatly in no time at all. Within a couple hours of play you'll be swelling your party's ranks with a visit to the Quester's Rest Inn in the second major town you visit, Stornway. You'll meet the sassy barmaid, Patty, whose role in the game is to allow you to custom create party members to join you on your quest.

Click to view larger image
Creating your own party is a move which makes you invest more in how they fare in battles. At the very start of the game you create your hero from scratch before kitting out the rest of your party. When you've put all that effort in, the last thing you want to do is see them pummelled. Amusingly, if this does happen, their coffin will follow you around until they can be resurrected in a church - but they'll miss out on experience points in the meantime.

There's a reason that Level-5 has given you a more hands-on approach with your party: social gaming. When you're in range of another DQIX player, you can ask to hop into his or her world, or vice versa. It's not just a case of joining in a series of battles; you actually jump into another person's quest. That means you explore with them and fight with them. Channel Hopper

The overarching story can be enjoyed by yourself or with company. As you travel from town to town, you jump between subplots and each little town has its own melodrama going on. Humour, contagious diseases, long lost love, time-travelling spirit knights - it's all here, delivered with a hearty, knowing wink...

So don't be put off by the menus or the twee visuals - this is one of the grandest adventures you'll ever play, and that it has all been squeezed into the DS is almost worth another plus point down there.

This is an edited version of a review that appears in issue 58 of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more in-depth analysis, screenshots and boxouts buy the magazine here!


49 comments so far...
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  1. Munchlax OWNS Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 09:13

    How is keeping the same battle system a bad point? You said the same thing about Pokemon, and I really don't get it. That's what Dragon Quest is, that's how the game works. Nobody complained when NSMB came out, surely that was just doing the same thing, re-using a tried and tested formula? Enlighten me plaese, I don't understand your reasoning.

  2. omegoku Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 09:37

    Why improve on perfection? There is nothing wrong with the menu system. It makes perfect sense to use it, Anything else would be a compromise.
    Pokemon has used a similar one in every one of its titles, and has not felt the need to improve it (rightly so)
    Change is good (love the quick save, custom characters and no random battles) but change for changes sake is not.

  3. monkeymoo Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 11:20

    So I am not the only one who thought that saying the battle system was "dated" was silly.

  4. Beedy Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 11:22

    Definately picking this up tomorrow. Looks amazing! :D

  5. jaydoxx Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 11:25

    Every time i read an article regarding the dragon quest series from ONM I feel as if the writer has played (at the very most) 3 dragon quest titles. The dragon quest series is square enix's safe series, as opposed to the final fantasy series where they make all their risky decisions. Its always been this way. The reason i'm writing this is because whoever writes these articles acts almost surprised at how good the game is when it is the exact same as DQ1 through 8, and will be the same as 10 but with varying degrees of storytelling and graphics. In fact i don't need to read a review to know this game is good, because it can't not be good tbh.

  6. Locarii Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 12:03

    Well, as usual, I'm just going to ignore the stupid "same battle system" negative, as I do with the Pokemon games. If it works, don't mess it up and create a new battle system that people might not like. Maybe I'm the only person who thinks this, I don't know, but I for one am more than happy with a few minor changes to a battle system to make it a bit better. Disregarding this then, the game probably deserves more than 90%, so I'll definitely be picking it up.

  7. Super_Sonic96 Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 14:50

    Just pre-ordered this game, should keep me occupied during the holidays :)

  8. TomMc92 Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 15:14

    Well good reviews all round it seems, well deserved too. Mines just being dispatched from amazon so i should have it tomorrow. Really looking forward to it. Definlty a contender for ds game of the year.

  9. Waldy565 Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 15:19

    Definetley getting this game, maybe next week though as I need to go to game in derby to get it. Still need to know if the amrriage thing from DQ5 is carrying on!! :D

  10. Gothic_Geek Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 15:53

    I can't decide whether to get this, Pokémon SoulSilver, or LoZ Spirit Tracks to take with me when I go to France in August. I've always enjoyed the Pokémon and LoZ series, but I've gotten into JRPGs as of late - at the moment I'm playing FFXIII and loving it! :mrgreen:

    a bit behind I know, but that's what exams do to ya.

  11. Problem Child Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 15:57

    @SuperSonic96, You're a bit late on pre-ordering xD

  12. Cacnea Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 17:58

    Not everyone wants real time combat. I get RSI from button mashing (so am useless at platform games, fighting, driving games etc). Turn based RPGs, and stylus driven games, are the main ones that I CAN play.

    I'll be off to get my copy straight after end of work tomorrow :)

  13. laytonluke911 Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 18:16

    Preordered ageees ago arriving tommorow :shock: I'm godammed exited XD

  14. kh_Roxas Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 18:29

    I preordered my copy two days ago and got it today.

    I have put about 5 hours into the game now and it's great.

    One of the main reasons i get Dragon quests games is because of that turned based combat, if they change it, it won't be dragon quest.

  15. Andew Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 18:30

    i take it you'll need at least two copies of the game to play multiplayer,

    also just to clarify, the game itself it is one cartridge right?

  16. dekulink63 Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 19:18

    :D can't wait to get it looks savage !!!

  17. Zen Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 20:29

    I think virtually everyone who has a DS should get this game.

    It's just that good.

  18. mirage 5x5 Thursday 22nd Jul 2010 at 20:38

    sounds very very good :D

  19. MrGooseyMoose Friday 23rd Jul 2010 at 09:53

    looks EPIC! :D

  20. Gamesman2000 Friday 23rd Jul 2010 at 16:48

    Got this today anyone that doesn't get this i will kill :twisted:

  21. RubbishGamer Friday 23rd Jul 2010 at 21:17

    I also got this today, however unlike some violent children I won't kill you if you don't get it. :wink:

  22. DS2008 Friday 23rd Jul 2010 at 22:11

    I've got this game and its worth more than 90%. it better than anything else on DS. And I will kill anyone that considers themselves a true gamer that doesn't get this. Unless they don't have a DS. I've already clocked in something approaching 4 hours and I started what, 5:30pm.

  23. Shadowdragonica Friday 23rd Jul 2010 at 22:12

    Hmmmmm...I've never played a Dragon Quest game before (I'm sorry! :? ) however, I am strongly tempted to get this...Ive heard nothing but gud things about it :)

  24. kirby711 Saturday 24th Jul 2010 at 12:22

    Hmmmmm...I've never played a Dragon Quest game before (I'm sorry! :? ) however, I am strongly tempted to get this...Ive heard nothing but gud things about it :)

    Guess what? I haven't played one too. However I asked my parents to buy it for my birthday in August, and it is in my house now... On the stairs... So tempting...

  25. Super_Sonic96 Saturday 24th Jul 2010 at 12:55

    @SuperSonic96, You're a bit late on pre-ordering xD

    lol, i know :P Game lets you pre-order even a day before though (a bit strange,yes) and and its double points too :D

  26. Shigeru Sunday 25th Jul 2010 at 12:10

    Look's good. As long as there's no need for a huge amount of grinding I'll be happy. :)

  27. Lulz Sunday 25th Jul 2010 at 12:49

    This is a great game, it delivers just about everything you could want from a DQ title.
    Been going strong for many years now (since before I was even born!) and hopefully I can raise my kid on the tongue in cheek goodness in the years to come

  28. Linebeck013 Monday 26th Jul 2010 at 08:10

    Cant wait until payday to get this!You looky beggars that have been playing it already, i envy you!

  29. AtomFizz Monday 26th Jul 2010 at 14:20

    Never played a Dragon Quest game before but this looks brilliant :) should be getting my copy tomorrow :D :mrgreen:

  30. WaterMaster230 Monday 26th Jul 2010 at 20:33

    I need help ONM!! or anyone in this topic! would you say this game would be good for someone who has never played an RPG game before?

  31. omegoku Tuesday 27th Jul 2010 at 09:58

    I need help ONM!! or anyone in this topic! would you say this game would be good for someone who has never played an RPG game before?

    This is a perfect game to get into the RPG scene!
    It has some classic stuff like the battling and the leveling as well as new stuff like customizing and visible enemies.

    The difficulty is not very high, at least the bit i have played

  32. hqmanpoke Tuesday 27th Jul 2010 at 11:30

    i bought this a few days after release.. and just wow, i love the game. I'll admit this is the first dragon quest game i've played, and it definately shows off the best points about the series. Nice graphics, charming characters, this has to be one of my favourite games with monster hunter tri right now

  33. SimonONM Tuesday 27th Jul 2010 at 11:47

    I need help ONM!! or anyone in this topic! would you say this game would be good for someone who has never played an RPG game before?

    Yes, absolutely. This is the game other RPGs take inspiration from.

    As for the menu battle system, yes, it's part and parcel of the series, but when you consider Nintendo's push to get the game into the hands of newcomers, it may be just a tiny bit offputting. It works perfectly, and it's definitely arguable that it doesn't and will never need changing, but if it doesn't at some point then Yuji Horii is missing a trick.

    Jaydoxx, I've played every single game in the main series. I don't know where you get the surprised thing from. I keep carping on about the quality of the building blocks being unchanged for 25 years to anyone who'll listen. And Sqeenix are more than happy to take risks with DQ. Multiplayer? Ditching story-driven party members? That was very risky, and got them some abuse from fans in Japan. But it worked, so who's to say a battle revamp isn't on the cards down the line.

  34. mariosgal64 Tuesday 27th Jul 2010 at 17:34

    Never played any of the games in the series so said id give it a try..addicted!! :) its similar to final fantasy/pokemon/zelda which i love, so im fairly chuffed with this aswell!

  35. Rabbid_girl Thursday 29th Jul 2010 at 07:26

    This is my first dragon quest game....but probably not my last! This is hugely adictive and the review is spot on...the fighting is a bit meh but still packs a good challenge!

    P.s I am now in love with slimes and creulcumbers-They rock!!!

  36. laytonluke911 Thursday 29th Jul 2010 at 14:05

    I think Dragon Quest deserves a higher score than pokémon. You can customize your charecter as much as needed, the combat is deep, simple and engaging and packs a real challenge later on. It never fails to impress graphically and the localization is top-notch. I think 93% please and thank you.

  37. SuperLuigiBros Saturday 31st Jul 2010 at 21:05

    My fave DS RPG. I lov the batl system as its simpl and easy 4 a Dragon Quest newcomer like me 2 get the hang of. 90% is a good score, if a tad harsh 1

  38. Toastie boy Saturday 7th Aug 2010 at 18:11


  39. king slime Monday 9th Aug 2010 at 15:28

    id never played a dragon quest game before until i got dragon quest IX. But i think its the best game in the world! I am on the final boss battle now and havent found anything wrong with the game all the way through!! Nothing needs to change with this game :D
    Although the way some enemies chase you is a bit annoying when youre low on health :shock:

  40. ChikoritaChick Monday 9th Aug 2010 at 16:48

    I recently bought this game with my pocket money that I had saved up for a while. Reading the ONM magazine and the booklet that cam with it helped me to make up my mind about whether or not I should buy this game. When I got home I immediately opened up the game and played it. I was blown away by the amount of detail put into this game. I have defeated the first few bosses, some of which have been rather difficult, which adds to the game. I have made a great team that consists of a minstrel (me), a mage, a warrior and a thief. I am in Zere Rocks at the minute and I play this game all the time. I agree with that the menu battles are a bit old and may have already been done in a game such as Final Fantasy but I think it was a bit harsh to take away 10% of it's marks. All in all it's a brilliant game and it's definately worth the marks as the game is consistent in detail, the storyline is superb and the character customisation makes the game very acessible.

  41. spinky Thursday 12th Aug 2010 at 18:47

    got the game the other day and its completly awesome :o. on second last boss battle. felt i had played it hardly more than 5 minutes check adventure time more than 40 hours played!!!!!!!!!!!!

  42. mikey12 Sunday 15th Aug 2010 at 21:18

    This my first real rpg iv'e played for a while and my first dragon quest game. And for some reason i feel right at home.Anyone can understand yet its not dumbed down at all and its a great multi player game too. I'm always playing it with my friend Shaun and its great fun. The characters you meet can have fantastic personality's. And there's a bucket load of puns for cringing at. And not once has the thought come across my mind:

    This is a dated menu system

  43. mcmb Monday 16th Aug 2010 at 20:23

    got it! It's EPIC! :D

  44. scribblemew Thursday 19th Aug 2010 at 11:28


    I hate that after a certain point, after you bring the train back from the Observatory to collect the Fyggs, you are basically left to your own device and structure. Well, that isn't totally true. After you get the boat, you have to make your own way, wiht almost no hint as of where to start

  45. TheFinalJudgment Monday 25th Oct 2010 at 22:37

    When i saw this game in the shevels i thought it was gonna be crap. I had Ł30 and I got all the other games i wanted and since i liked the idea of multiplayer thing i got it. When i first started it up i put it down searching stuff up on my computer and BOOM! And from that moment i knew that i Would love the game. I hope Dragon Quest 10 Will Have Stella & Sterling, Starflight Express And Me Being A Angel (Cant Spell The Proper Name) Thats my Fav Things About The Game. I Also love all the music and when the Starflight Express Steams Off. SPOILERS: Sad Ending :(

  46. PowerDohnut Saturday 1st Jan 2011 at 21:13

    Great game. Handheld of the year, for me.

  47. spacemen13 Monday 12th Dec 2011 at 16:46

    Even if you not really into rpgs. This has over 100 hours of gameplay, awesome use of online and you customise your character head to toes. The main game is just the beginning with hundreds of funny and smart side quests, I'm still discover more everyday, me and my friends love working together to fight, search for items, find our way through caves. A essential game every nintendo ds owner should own.

  48. dragoncrasher Saturday 28th Apr 2012 at 15:27

    This is epic. I'm on to Wormwood Creek now. It deserves more than 90%, guys!

  49. Phantom George Saturday 19th May 2012 at 12:24

    How is this game good one bit?The awful graphics,weak storyline,plus when you HELP a town you dont go around slapping people do you?RUBBISH!!!!!!!!! :evil: :twisted:

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