[Over the next few weeks the staff here at Gamer Limit will be sharing their personal favorite game of the past year with the community in build up to Gamer Limit’s Game of the Year Awards for 2010.]
About a month prior to the release of Dragon Quest IX, I had never played a DS game aside from a minute here and there on other people’s systems. I didn’t own a DS and didn’t really have any intention to buy one, especially since the 3DS had been announced already.
Then, through a fortunate series of events, I ended up with both a DS Lite and a copy of Dragon Quest IX. Just a few months later, I experienced something I never thought I’d experience again: I watched as the playtime counter passed the 200-hour mark.
All because of a little Japanese RPG on a portable system. Yeah, it surprised me too.
Dragon Quest IX takes the typical formula of the series and adds a couple of major changes that make the game feel quite a bit different from previous entries. For one, the game doesn’t have typical party members, but instead allows you to create all of the game’s characters or venture online to find other members for your entourage. Typically, you’ll create a set of characters and stick with them throughout the story, but you also have the option to create a whole bunch of characters and switch it up.
What’s really impressive about DQIX, however, is not how much it does well, but how incredible it manages to be in spite of what it doesn’t do differently. The battle system is extremely standard, the story isn’t entirely original, and the quests are going to be familiar to nearly everyone who has played an RPG.
But it all really is incredible. The battle system allows for a remarkable amount of variety, as the new job system lets you develop your characters in any number of ways, gaining a wide variety of skills to use in battles. The story is told with love and a great deal of genuine themes that can be anywhere from random and silly to heartfelt and emotional. The side quests are so numerous — and some so crazy — that it’s hard to resist checking each week to see what new quests have been delivered to you.
With the number of JRPGs going down significantly in recent years, it’s fortunate that we were able to experience a game like Dragon Quest IX in 2010. I never thought I would play a game for 200 hours again, and I may never do so after 2010. For that reason, Dragon Quest IX is always going to be special to me, and I’m glad to say it’s my favorite game this year.