Many gamers speak of addiction, common in this day and age of MMORPGs and Facebook games (the latter of which I will be bashing talking about next week). Just last week, Rabbid Ferret talked about a game which has millions of players by the balls, World of Warcraft. Once it gets you in its claws, Blizzard/Activision will have your $15 a month (give or take) for a LONG time. While I used to play, I thankfully never got so drawn into the world of Azeroth that I was forced to prostitute myself for the $30 pre-paid 2-month time cards I used. I haven’t played in about 2 years, which is actually a feat I am very proud of.
But that is not to say that I haven’t fallen prey to video game addiction, by any means. I am guilty thanks mostly to my Nintendo DS and some of the fantastic games which have graced its Slot 1. In general, games with a ton of content are what usually get me addicted, such as Advance Wars or Bangai-O Spirits!! But today, I’ll be talking about the DS game with probably the most amount of content the system has ever seen, which has taken me and a bunch of my friends for many, MANY hours of adventuring: Dragon Quest IX.
Dragon Quest IX is a jRPG for the Nintendo DS, released on July 11th, 2010. I bought this game day 1 and proceeded to beast through the main story. It combines both the old school jRPG feel that Dragon Quest is known and famous for, while adding a few new ideas, such as multiplayer gameplay and fully modeled equipment, similar to that found in an MMORPG. The main story lasts anywhere between 40-50 hours, which is more or less the standard for modern jRPGs, and quite impressive for a DS release. So, why have so many people sunk so many hours into this game if the story only takes 50 hours? Well, the main story is really nothing but a tutorial for what is to come. That’s not to say the main story isn’t fun. The story, while pretty cliched and done in a standard monster-of-the-week format, is fun enough to run your way through, with tons of interesting characters and funny puns. Once you beat the final boss of the story though, you are given free reign.
After a couple post-game quests, you gain access to a fucking flying train. This allows you to access areas which were previously unreachable, which contain monsters you have yet to fight and new dungeons. From here, you’re given a choice of what to do: You can finish up all of the quests you might have passed up before, do quests which are now available post-game, run randomly-generated grottoes (which are found with the use of treasure maps and act as roguelike-ish dungeon crawls) to level up, find awesome treasure and fight very difficult bosses, and more. Not to mention new quests are released every week as DLC for a full year. Talk about longevity; now you can see why I’ve pumped so much time into this game.
Speaking of which, just how much time have I spent on this DS game? Well, at the time of writing, my save data shows that I’ve played for 74:22:05, not including times where I wasn’t able to save, probably making it more like 76/77 hours. And mind you, once I get on the train to return home from campus later today, that number is only going to rise. Of course, I pale in comparison to my brother, who has logged more than 120 in-game hours on this beast. Oh yeah.
So, what would possess a man to spend so much time on a non-MMO DS game? Well, for a DS game, Dragon Quest IX is about as close to an MMO as you’re going to get. It does share some similarities with its massive brethren, such as character creation. When you first start up the game, you’re asked to personalize the main character however you wish. You’re given a bunch of options for hair, face, skin color, etc. It’s more similar to an MMO character creation tool than, say, the character creator in Mass Effect. You can also personalize your other party members once you’ve reached a certain point in the story.* Another similarity, which I mentioned before, is that your equipment isn’t just a name in a slot, but fully rendered objects which your characters wear and carry in their hands. It’s a small touch, but one I find very satisfying. Mind you, the results could be the ugliest, yet most efficient mash up of armor pieces ever. But, on the other hand, if you get a full set of matching armor equipped, it looks so awesome. I’ve even sacrificed a few stat points here or there just so my character could look cooler.
Of course, all these features would draw an MMO player. But what keeps them there past the initial story? Well, there are more story quests which are released every week, plus more side quests as DLC on Nintendo WiFi. These quests range from fetch quests to “Kill X number of Monster Y with Method Z,” but are varied enough to be fun. Some of them challenge you to use weapons or methods you don’t normally use over the course of the main game, encouraging you to explore other options and strategies in battle. Then there are the treasure maps. The Infinity Plus One gear is only attainable in high level grotto dungeons, which can only be found using treasure maps generated based on a number of factors including your character’s level, meaning if you want better dungeons, you better get grinding. Even when you get these treasure maps, the gear has an absurdly small chance* of being found, ensuring that you’ll be replaying specific dungeons once you’ve found them. Now, this sounds like a lot of grinding. And it is. But the game somehow takes this usually boring task and presents it in such a fashion that you really don’t mind it at all.
It also helps that characters have customizable job classes, each with their own level, meaning you can switch the configuration of your party for a completely different feel and then level it up as if it were a new party. While any spells your character may have learned in one class might not carry over, the skills they learned in another class do. This is one of the most important parts in managing your party, as mastering a skill tree usually means your character will be that much more powerful down the road. In fact, it’s basically required that all 4 of your characters master some of the class-specific skill trees in order to even stand a chance against the Legacy bosses from the old Dragon Quest games, even in their weakest states. It’s that hardcore.
The developers of the game mentioned before the game’s release that they wanted to make the hardest Dragon Quest game ever. And since it’s so easy to look information up on the internet these days, the challenge had to be raised to compensate for GameFAQs. In order to do this, they jacked the power of the post-game bosses found at the end of grottoes and added in the special Legacy bosses who are even stronger than the grotto bosses, as I just mentioned. What’s awesome about them is that you can make the Legacy bosses EVEN STRONGER by forfeiting the EXP you get by beating them and leveling them up. This allows them to drop nicer stuff and give more gold and EXP as they become stronger. It’s an interesting idea, and one that guarantees that you’ll be fighting harder and harder bosses no matter what.
This is all just the single player stuff that will have you hooked. The multiplayer is pretty fun too, although it’s rather unlikely that you’ll find 3 other people with DS systems, copies of the game, and same-level characters. Obviously, if you can align these mystical factors, you will get the maximum enjoyment possible. But even if your levels are mismatched, you can still have a lot of fun: you can each roam around wherever you wish and fight battles individually. If you’re in trouble, you can call the rest of the party for help, and they’ll warp right by you. If you pass by someone fighting a battle already in progress, you can jump in without their asking for help. It makes it very MMO-ish, except it’s only for up to 4 players at a once. It’s still a very good time though, but only likely if you and your friends all have Dragon Quest IX. If you do, it’s another reason all of you will have your DS glued into your hands for hours and hours on end.
Now, obviously even 75 hours into this game (I played more since I wrote that above paragraph which stated my game time) I’ve barely scratched the surface of the things I can do and the dungeons I can explore. This is my definition of video game addiction. What’s your gaming addiction? Let us know, even if it’s as embarrassing as FarmVille. In fact, especially if it’s a Facebook game. If you are indeed addicted to a Facebook game of some sort and you talk about it in the comments below, you might just get a reference/shout out in the next article I write. Not a great prize, I know, but I don’t have stuff to give away.
*This means that your party members have no story significance whatsoever as you aren’t even required to have any and can go through the whole game solo, which is not recommended, but it’s the only way to play if you’re not a pussy.
**This doesn’t include manipulating the game’s random number generator to make an item drop 100% of the time.