The Dragon Quest series is nothing if not traditional. While its genre contemporaries dabble in all manner of ridiculous systems, ennui and flamboyantly-dressed ladyboys, Dragon Quest has been content to deliver a solid, lighthearted adventure time and time again. Its steadfast adherence to old-school game design has often been a criticism, but it is also the reason the series feels like the JRPG equivalent of comfort food.
This particular entry tells the tale of a lone Celestrian (read: angel), charged with making the world a better place for the small town you’re charged with protecting. Naturally, something goes horribly wrong in the Celetrian Observatory (think Heaven mashed up with the old Norse standby, Yggdrassil), you’re ejected from the heavens and somehow stripped of your wings, halo and some of your magical ability. Needless to say, you’re going to need to do a lot of good deeds (and retrieve a lot of fruit) to set things right.
When Level-5 originally announced DQIX, it was billed as a cooperative action-RPG, eschewing the traditional turn-based control scheme for something more modern and in-vogue. In the years since that announcement, the familiar battle system has been bolted back into place, but rather than feel dated, this allows the game to be vastly different in other areas.
For instance, there are (almost) no random encounters in this game. Monsters appear on game field, and can be avoided if you’re not feeling particularly spunky. Some will chase you down if you get near and others will cower and flee before your might, but you can always see what lies ahead and plan accordingly. Hell, even most of the boss fights give you a chance to heal up before taking them on.
Rather than provide your main character with a cast of colorful sidekicks as the previous game did, all characters in DQIX are created by the player. Using the same customization process as generating the main character, you can create a litany of sidekicks for your hero, choosing from whatever character classes you choose.
In another nice touch, and a relative JRPG rarity, all of the equipment your characters carry is reflected on their character models. This, in conjunction with the decently large number of character design possibilities allows you to engage in a bit of a meta-game, wherein you cosplay your teammates as other characters. For instance, a friend of mine and I have had a great deal of fun recreating the cast of Slayers in our respective games.