Those who rejoice at the altar of Dragon Quest (you know who you are) will be squealing at the advent of the ninth instalment to its RPG kingdom. Exclusive to Nintendo DS, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is an epic quest set amongst the heavens.
As with most RPGs you create a hero that you can customise like crazy. You are a ‘Celestrian’, part of a race of ethereal beings tasked with protecting the mortal realm below. Helping humans earns ‘benevolessence‘ (crystallised gratitude) so that ‘The Great World Tree‘ in the stars will bear fruit. Yep, it really does sound like a cult. Anyhoo, everything is going smashingly until disaster hits and you plummet from the sky to walk amongst common man. Now you're a fallen angel but, with or without your wings, your objective is to learn skills and spells and wipe out the monsters of the world.
So how does DQIX rack up? Online-enabled and turn-based, it’s not especially story-driven; the game’s focus lies in its multiplayer functionality. Up to four can play cooperatively; one host and three mates can join in. Again, customisation is spiffy, money can be shared and you'll work together to get monster blood (though co-op in battles is limited). In single-player mode things are far more forlorn. Though you're given a party, they're mute, lack personality, and the game is nowhere near as engaging. Still, the ability to play in both modes gets a thumbs-up for an RPG. Plus this game has addiction factor.
As for the graphics, they're awesome. Your wee hero is 3D (though NPCs are paper dolls) and the stage is detailed with depth of fi eld. The orchestral soundtrack is suitably adorable, though you'll go to bed with it reverberating in your brain.