Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
A grand sweeping tale of exploring one's own mortality and having a good laugh
Where do I start? Well, I guess I should start with the art direction, since that's what's most obvious on the cover. Akira Toriyama's craziness really shines through. At every turn, you'll see someone original, be it evil cucumbers with spears, grinning drops of mercury or my personal favourite, dancing sacks of treasure. Even the obvious palate-swaps have at least one thing memorable about them (for the most part, anyway). And one will always find giggles when equipping a new helmet that doubles all one's stats but makes one look like a complete weirdo.
Speaking of stats, this is one of only a few games I've played where absolutely everything ties together. Each weapon has it's own skillset, each skillset has it's own class, each class has it's own abilites, each ability has a good use. There's always plenty of good options, I could give some really good advice here that'll make it reasonably possible to take down the final boss with just one guy, but that'll not only get block under the T&Cs but probably won't be nearly as effective as the way you managed to pull it off. And when you do pull it off, neither of your eyes will be dry, I tell you.
The themes discussed in the DQ9 concern the subject matters of mortality, among other things. Each location has it's own issue of the day, usually relating to how we cope with death, whether it be through denial, moving on, or trying not to move on, but the general message the game presents is that death is just a fact of life. I shan't give too much away, but particular highlights are Angel Falls, Coffinwell and Swinedimples. The game also highlights the role of religion, both in our daily lives, and as a driving force of history, and writer Yuji Horii handles it with all the right amount of subtlety that'll keep you guessing where this idea came from. But don't let this paragraph fool you into thinking that Dragon Quest 9 is all frowns, there's plenty of joy to be had. And the charm oozes from each line of dialogue, each regional accent, each expression on each person's face. The willingness of the game to lighten up, coupled with the themes we all understand, help give Sentinels of the Starry Skies a grand sense of scale while still feeling deeply personal.
And that's just what you get before the credits roll. Once you've come out the other end of this emotional rollercoaster, you'll have plenty to keep your interest. Extra dungeons test your minds ability to make judgements, extra quests expand on what happened to everyone after the incredible climax, extra equipment from the online store give you something to show off in co-op. Did I mention there's co-op? I'm not sociable enough to have tried it myself, but apparently it's pretty good from what I've heard.
Well, I suppose with the themes present, I guess there could have been more expansion on the idea of an afterlife, which is only touched upon briefly, if at all.
The Bottom Line
It's one of those games that just suits what ever mood your in. If you want to unwind, just go up your mercury-drop victory count. If you're feeling brave or need to get your brain in gear, head on down one of the extra dungeons. If you're in a reflective mood, experience the great tales of love and loss that fill the game's world like our own.
by CrankyStorming (3001) on June 13th, 2011