MAKUHARI--At the 2007 Square Enix Party here at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center just outside of Tokyo, the company showed off the first trailer for the upcoming installment in the incredibly popular Dragon Quest series: Dragon Quest IX. While it might seem surprising that the ninth game in the best-selling series is coming to the Nintendo DS, considering the handheld's incredible popularity here in Japan, it seems only fitting.
The trailer for the game was shown in one of the main video stages at the tail end of a long line of trailers coming from Square Enix and, though it was brief, it was well worth the roughly 40-minute wait. In the trailer, four characters are introduced: a yellow-and-green-clad magic user, a turban-wearing swordsman bearing a curved blade, a woman wearing what looks to be a pink-and-purple getup straight out of I Dream of Jeannie, and a traditional warrior wearing a medieval helmet and armor and wielding a shield and sword. In one segment, we saw an inventory screen for the medieval knight, where it appears you'll be able to outfit him with various armor and weapons simply by dragging new accessories onto his body.
After a few shots of the characters running around doing their adventuring thing, we also got a quick look at the turn-based combat. Though details are few and far between, it seems as though the action of the characters will take place on the upper screen of the DS, while important information such as character hit points, magic points, and action controls for combat will be displayed on the lower screen. Longtime Dragon Quest aficionados will recognize many of the enemies shown during the combat sequences--knights, hammer-wielding chickens, and the obligatory blue slimes will all make their way into DQ IX, along with a plethora of bosses to battle as well.
As with older games in the series, one of the high points of the DQ IX trailer was the bright, hand-drawn feel to the characters, enemies, and environments. It's a fine-looking game that should appeal to longtime fans and perhaps attract some new ones, too. While it's true that the DQ series is much more popular in Japan than in the States, we're curious to see how this game progresses over the coming months; perhaps a handheld format is just what the series needs to get a stronger foothold in North America. The game is due for release later this year in Japan, and no word has yet been given on a US release.