Plot Synopsis: 5/10
Same old drill. Introduced to main character. Play for a bit to get the hang of things. Tragedy happens. Main character decides they have to fix the tragedy and defeat the person responsible. Goes on an epic quest to do so, picking up other characters on the way. Gets captured. Breaks free. Eventually gets to head villain. Fight. Story ends.
The game gets points for adding a new twist here and there, as to the main character's origin. Bonus points for allowing you to create and customize every member of your party yourself. But overall, there's nothing new or exciting about the same old formula they've been using for years.
Thus, the plot gets a 5 out of 10.
Game Play: 7/10
Following a mind-set of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", Square-Enix did nothing out of the ordinary, when setting up this game. The player wanders the world map, where they may occasionally have to fight monsters. Eventually, the story leads the player to specific locations on the map, where they must fight through some manner of dungeon, at the end of which resides a boss monster or character that the player must defeat in order to proceed.
The only thing they did differently is that they borrowed something from Atlus's Lunar franchise. The monsters on the world map are visible, and thus, it is occasionally possible to avoid the "random" encounters.
Also, the game falls into the usual Square-Enix pitfall. There are occasions where the player has no choice but to spend time leveling their party up, in order to avoid getting utterly trounced by the next dungeon/boss.
There are a lot of items and side-quests that the player can only unlock once the main story has been completed. Personally, I feel that this is Square-Enix's way of trying to add replay value to a relatively weak game.
The game play gets a 7 out of 10. Kudos for adding something new to the mix. It's just too bad that this particular "new" thing isn't even a new concept. Lunar did it back on the original PlayStation.
Square-Enix seems to have found a certain amount of contentment with the quality of the graphics for this franchise on the Nintendo DS. Personally, I'm not terribly impressed. Graphics while walking the world map are essentially the same as the recent updated release of Dragon Quest IV. I realize there's only so much screen to work with, on the DS platform, but I was expecting something a little better than what appears to be 16-bit graphics.
In battle, the graphics are essentially the same as Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, which was released about two and a half years earlier. That's an eternity, when it comes to video game graphics. There are some minor improvements, but they make very little difference, ultimately. All I can hope is that it is a deliberate decision, on the part of Square-Enix, to keep the graphics style as it is, and not laziness.
I'll score the graphics a conditional 6 out of 10, this time around, hoping that Squenix isn't getting TOO lazy...
The music is well made, but ultimately forgettable. It sounds exactly like every other recent Dragon Quest game. I really don't have much to say about it. I'll give the music a 7 out of 10.
Overall Score: 6.25/10
I almost feel bad scoring this game as low as I did. I legitimately enjoyed playing the game. But, I was expecting more, and was disappointed by what was delivered. Of course, that may have been my own fault, considering DQ8 was released for the PS2, while DQ9 was moved to a handheld. There's automatically less to work with.