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 Dragon Quest IX

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Ninja Academy Student
Ninja Academy Student

Male Number of posts : 6
Registration date : 2011-01-08

PostSubject: Dragon Quest IX    Sun Jan 09, 2011 5:38 am

Major role-playing franchises have experimented with new ideas over the years, but Dragon Quest has remained faithfully predictable. When its peers veered away from random encounters and turn-based combat in the PS2 era, DQ stuck to its successful old-school style. While this may be endearing for longtime fans, re-using the same gameplay formula isn’t a great way to win over a new audience. Perhaps that’s what inspired Level-5 to give this RPG juggernaut an overhaul; the days of knowing exactly what to expect from Dragon Quest are over.

The series’ transformation is not immediately apparent. After spending a few hours with the recently released Japanese version of Dragon Quest IX, we noticed the colorful art style and combat system of previous iterations are largely unchanged. However, the move to the DS has opened the door for a new mechanic that shapes the landscape of the entire game: multiplayer.

In the past, multiplayer in an RPG usually consisted of letting a second player enter battle commands for select characters; Dragon Quest IX allows you to team up locally with up to three of your friends to explore the whole world. One player acts as the host, and the others enter the host’s world as guests. While adventuring as a guest, you won’t make any story progress for yourself, but you can help the host advance by completing quests together. For instance, a high-level character can jump in to assist a low-level friend with a tough dungeon. Since you get to keep any experience, items, and gold you find, providing this kind of help isn’t a total waste of time for the high-level player.

Just because teaming up is possible doesn’t mean it’s the only way to play. Players can split up and fight monsters individually, giving each other the option to jump in and help if things start looking bad. A status screen keeps you updated on your friends’ hit points, so you can track them down on the map (you’ll see their avatars fighting in the overworld) and join the fray. The structure reminds us a little bit of the co-op in Crackdown; players are free to do their own thing, but they can work together as the situation warrants.

In order to better accommodate the multiplayer features, some of the classic elements of Dragon Quest are missing. The story is much more episodic, focusing on smaller quests rather than a sweeping narrative. When you aren’t playing with your friends, you fill your party slots with generic characters, effectively eliminating the quirky supporting cast. Random encounters are also gone -- you can see and avoid enemies on the field, which makes dungeon crawling less perilous. For old-school purists, these sacrifices may seem like a high price to pay. For us, this was the most fun we’ve had playing a Dragon Quest game in years.


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