Posted by Pip
Oh man, you thought stuff was going down before, but burning down buildings was only the beginning! Of the stuff. The stuff that's going down. I talk more about the flowers in the next podcast, which should be ready to post Monday, so I won't double up on it, but they've been showing up for a bit now. Murdoch pointed out in his game that they're corrupt and a bad sign, so if you ever go back through the archives, keep an eye out for them!
Greed is surprisingly dismissive of Legion of Doom technology...
Long, Harry Potter references don't make you modern Review: Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies- Dragon Quest has become a series that's nostalgic in the worst ways. Rather than paying tribute to older games and bringing forward what made them fun, DQ has a stubborn adherence to ideas and mechanics that have been improved on in the mean time. It's not any one specific thing that's outdated, but the package as a whole has the feeling of some lost not-so-classic game that a company forgot to release ages ago and then put out with some graphical upgrades. One thing that is different about 9 is that it feels rather overtly Christian. The previous Dragon Warrior/Quest games I played always just seemed generically religious in how they approached the churches and religion. Here, religion is in your face and the driving force of the game and some of the world's backstory you get early on is that DQ-Jesus wants DQ-Old Testament God to chill out a bit. It makes the whole tone from the start very odd and clashes with my memories of the franchise.
The main character is basically a hollow shell of a creature that never says or does anything on its own and your teammates never say anything or factor into the story in any way, so the main character is some fairy. Now, I beat Ocarina of Time and Navi never bugged me. The fairy in this game? If she was a real person, your natural reaction would be to sock her every time she opened her mouth and nobody would blame you for doing so. Almost every line of her dialogue and her actions and animations all seem to be specially tuned to make you despise her. Because your characters are so trivial, the story is really bare bones. There's no character development, nobody grows or changes, and nothing much changes beyond the beginning's “Hey, why don't you go out there and do good stuff. You know, because.” theme.
DQ 9's gameplay is fairly by the books and doesn't do anything new or interesting even with the old tropes. It has a quest system but they're either grinding, boring or random tasks, or fetch quests and hunts for random items. Your character's appearance changes with the equipment it wears, which is a great addition, but all the fun looking items are weak and useless so you're stuck with the boring generic armor because it has good stats. Oddly though, there's a chunk of the game where your healer's strongest armor is a white t-shirt and no pants. This isn't the beginning of the game, this is a few bosses in. Everybody else is decked out in armor and the priest previously got some, but no, that blue underwear is apparently mightier than pants or metal. The sole “modern” addition to the gameplay is the unnecessary alchemy system. I despise alchemy and crafting in games. All it means is that you get an inventory crammed full of junk, you have to hunt down oodles of otherwise useless items, or you have to grind enemies for hours hoping for one to drop some rare ingredient. The game doesn't even tell you an item's stats until after you make it, so unless you're checking an FAQ, you could spend hours trying to craft a new sword that turns out to be weaker than the one you already bought in a shop.
Even more so than previous Dragon Warrior/Quest games, you're very slow to level up here. As you advance in the game, enemies get harder and stronger but they don't offer that much more money or experience. Enemies at the end of the game actually give you LESS money than enemies several hours earlier. The whole game is artificially slow. Equipment costs far too much, the miss frequency in battle is too high, your mage does literally 0 damage to enemies if you don't cast a spell (ruining combos and preventing it from regaining magic power), and even though you can steamroll over enemies, the bosses are ridiculously overpowered so they require level grinding for a few hours to beat a dungeon that's only fifteen minutes long. Changing your class (and the game auto-assigns your hero to a specific class at the start) even resets your level back to 1 and since enemies at the end of the game aren't worth that much more, there's no way to quickly get back to where you were before you changed.
On a picky note, the naming in the game screwed me up a bit. I gave my characters my usual video game names and in the beginning of the game you start as a divine being with your chosen name, stuff happens in the intro, and you wind up human with that same name while everybody still also refers to the divine version of you with that name so there are basically two "yous" people can refer to. Then later in the game I was told that one character went off to speak with me, but I didn't know if she went off to speak with the angel statue me, which would entail backtracking all the way to the beginning of the game, or the town that everybody thinks human me came from, which would just be a bit of backtracking. Then it just turned out that there was another NPC on the other side of town that had the same name as the one I used for my character and that was who I had to speak to. That shouldn't happen. If you wind up accidentally choosing the same name as a character important to the story, the game should swap their name out for something else.
Truth be told, I didn't finish the game. Oh my character was in the final dungeon and after checking an FAQ, I only had to beat one more mini-boss and then I could start the final battle, so I'm maybe ten minutes away from the end of the game. But I couldn't do it. I stopped playing for the night, looked at my DS, and accepted that I had absolutely no desire to ever play that game again. I don't want to spend several hours fighting weak enemies to grind out enough money to afford the final gear from the shops. I don't want to spend several hours fighting overpowered enemies to grind out enough experience to level up some more. I don't want to go through the same dialogue options over and over to teleport back to the final dungeon and then walk through those corridors again and again. I couldn't care less about the characters and I'm pretty sure I can guess that the power of love will overcome the final boss's blackened evil heart and everything will wind up okay because JRPGs have been pumping out that same plot for a few decades now and Dragon Quest all but refuses to accept that time has advanced and that it's possible to make games better today than they were 20 years ago.
Sins Committed: Grinding, Overpowered Bosses, Bad characters, Bad story, Bad writing
Virtues Acted: Your character changes appearance with the equipment it wears, Some okay DW music remixes
Not that I'm a fan of IAP, but RPGs are one of the few game types where I'd openly accept consumable purchases for experience or money. I got DQ 9 on sale for $10, so I would gladly pay an extra $5 for DLC that made characters level 99 or just gave me the best gear in the game so I didn't have to grind for levels or money. I would get to focus on what interests me in the game and skip all the boring junk that led to me ultimately disliking it. Companies make more money and get better reviews and I get to save time and actually enjoy the game I played. Win-win!