Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies Hands-On

We team up with some friends to take down all the bizarre and wonderful creatures in the latest Dragon Quest installment.

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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies has been out for almost a year now in Japan, and it has been selling like hotcakes. Developed by Level-5, the game is meant to target a wider audience with its intuitive stylus controls, four-player multiplayer, and character customization. The game looks very much like the previous Nintendo DS Dragon Quest remakes because of Akira Toriyama's distinct art style, but some tweaks have been made to exploration and combat. You can now create your own party of four from scratch and dress up them up in a variety of interesting outfits. We recently went to Nintendo's office to create our own unique character and check out how multiplayer works in this turn-based role-playing epic on a handheld.

Help your friends level their character or work with them to find new items.
Help your friends level their character or work with them to find new items.

In DQIX you play as a customizable hero or heroine who is an angel that has fallen to Earth and now must find his or her way home. There's a magical fruit that is said to grant wishes, known as the Goddess Fruit, which is what you're after for the better part of your journey. How the other members of your party tie in to the story we don't know, but we do know that you can customize each individual in your party by selecting the gender, hairstyle, hair/eye color, body type, skin tone, and job. With more than 1,000 items available in the game, you can come up with some goofy and not-so-practical fighting clothes or deck your character out in a spiffy suit of armor. It's up to you how you want to play. Armor and weapons have their own unique stats, so you can build up your character with particular items or just dress up your character purely for looks.

You begin the game as a minstrel, but once you reach a certain point, five more job types will open up to you. They include warrior, thief, priest, mage, and martial artist. As you progress and complete specific quests in the game, another six job types will become available. You have to level each job at a time, but the special skills you learn as a thief, such as steal, will stay with you if you decide to switch jobs. Spells, however, are job-specific and won't carry over. As you level, you'll gain skill points, which you can spend as you see fit. This gives you a lot more freedom to build up your character the way you want, as well as the other members of your party.

Battles are no longer random, so you'll see the colorful Dragon Quest creatures bumbling along as you wander the fields in third-person. Using the stylus or the D pad, you run headfirst into the enemy to initiate a battle, and your commands are all available on the touch-screen menu. Monsters can be avoided, but depending on your level, they may run away from you if you're at a higher level than they are or run toward you if you've wandered into an area that is above your range. Instead of fighting in a first-person perspective, you can admire your customizable attire and battle prowess as the camera pans around your characters when they attack.

We were told that the main story should take 50 hours or so to complete, but there are plenty of side quests and things to do to occupy your time. With all the random items that you'll collect on your journey, a Krak Pot is available for you to craft new goodies to add to your inventory. We came across a slime hat and shield, for example, and we were told that more exotic outfits would be available too, like Speedos and French maid outfits.

Customize your character's outfit and job class to fit your style of play.
Customize your character's outfit and job class to fit your style of play.

Jumping into a local wireless session is easy and is a great way to build up your character if you have friends that are a higher level than you are. A host can invite up to three players that can drop in and out at any time. Your friends are all free to do whatever they want, and you'll have to fight together only if you stay close. If you're too far away and need help, you can call your friends over from the menu, and if they accept, they'll be teleported instantly to your side. The nice thing is that everyone gets the items that the monsters drop, but there are limitations if you wander into an area that you've never been to before in your own game. You have full control of your character, so you're not at anyone's mercy as you explore the world.

We didn't get too many details on Tag mode, but essentially if you leave your game in this mode, you can swap information with anyone else who has their DS with them on this mode. You'll be able to exchange battle records and see the other person's game data, customized message, and character. It looks like there will be plenty of reasons to take DQIX with you on the go, and having a friend or two accompany you on this long adventure won't hurt either. We'll be sure to find out what other features will be included as well as get some more hands-on time during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is currently set to be released July 11.

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