After having spent way over a hundred hours of game play in Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies it is safe to say that it truly is one, if not the best RPG the DS has to offer. It basically takes everything, well mostly everything, that we love about the Dragon Quest series and makes it better. The game is enormous in scale even compared to other games in the same franchise, and it includes a multi-player component that works amazingly well. Somehow the developers have managed to make this game into a deeper and more addictive experience than most of the other DQ games.

Dragon Quest has never looked better on this system. As opposed to the look of the remakes of the Zenithian trilogy (IV, V, and VI), where the world has a vibrant 2D with some 3D environments and buildings, everything in IX is in 3D, and they take advantage of all of the DS' horsepower. Don't worry though, traditionalist fans, it still looks and feels like a game of its series. Especially for its, once again, great and fitting soundtrack. For those that have played DQ: Journey of the Cursed King, you know what I mean.

In terms of story, DQIX was disappointing. Granted, progression through the different areas is still exciting because of the new enemies encountered, more opportunities for character progression, and the different looks of said areas. Nonetheless, I never once cared what happened to any character.

At the beginning of the game your character is a Celestian, which is basically a Guardian Angel, but besides your master you had no friends or anybody that is important to you. Not only that, but you never find anybody that becomes your constant companion afterwards, except for an energetic fairy, unlike all the other games in the series. The reason for that is that they have added multiplayer (which I will go into later). This game was evidently designed to have people to play with you because if you do not then your partners are soulless characters that, very much like your own character, never speak and have no backstory whatsoever.

Even with these issues though, it is hard to dislike the game. Every new town has a creative backstory to tell with creative characters and villains, so in the end I did care if I saved the world or not. Also, about that multiplayer, it is amazingly well thought out. Your friends and you can connect and go about your quest together. For a game with a combat style such as Dragon Quest, which hasn't changed in this one either, I can see why some people were sceptical about this, but the reason it works well is because of all the support moves that every character class has, be it warrior or priest. If you want to survive a particularly strong boss you will need to work together to overcome it. The only complaint I have with the multiplayer is that if you do a mission in your friend's game it does not move your story forward. You cannot use alchemy (more on this later) while on other people's games either.

Gameplay-wise, I already said that this game is enormous in scale, and that its combat, exploration, and progression have remained true to the series, or the same even, but there are still plenty of welcome additions. First off, there are a large number of classes, which you can change into anytime you want to. The progress that you made with your last class would be kept if you ever wish to change back, but you would have to start over from level one in your new class. There are new classes to unlock and find, and trying them all out is pretty fun.

After you beat the main story there are hundreds of side quests and secrets to find. Many are boring and time consuming, but some like the hidden grottos have you fighting incredibly challenging bosses. Speaking of time consuming, this game has a mechanic borrowed directly from Monster Hunter. That's right you can combine items, pieces of equipment, weapons, armour, and whatever else you find to create better items, pieces of equipment, etc. Out of the hundreds of hours that I played I have to say that half were probably spent looking for items for specific recipes that would make me look like a powerful priest.

My major concern with this game is the grinding. Like in most games of the series you are forced to do this. Although this does not usually bother me it becomes too much at times, mostly when you start doing the side quests which require you to kill x amount of creatures or obtain x amount of materials that you can only get by stealing it from certain creatures.

Despite its shortcomings, any fan of Dragon Quest or RPG's cannot miss out in this game. Probably the best RPG in the DS; it has an incredible amount of content, great music, great multiplayer component, gameplay, graphics, etc.