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Malik (7/19/10)

I found my first real complaint for Dragon Quest IX. I don't mind the lack of character development, although a little for the protagonist (who is a permanent player) is a bit sad. However, I can forgive that, some of the annoying fetch quests (they are optional, so they are forgiven), or the attempt to force multiplayer in lieu of quality storytelling in some respects.

I have trouble understanding the job system after what was done so well in DQ7. In DQ9, the job system is the same as your character level. In other words, if you are at level 20 and you decide to take a new class, you are now level 1 in the new class. You don't keep the stats you've built up (so you're now a level 1 character with too few HP, strength, MP, or magic ability to deal damage to current enemies), spells, or much of anything. The only thing you keep is your unlocked abilities, which are different than spells. So, if you've unlocked some cool sword abilities with skill points, you can carry them over...assuming your new class can use swords. You also can always use class specialized abilities.

While this means you can get some permanent stat boosts from leveling your classes special field (which usually includes a few stat boosts), you are almost a useless character after class changes. The only advantage to this system is if you want to grind a few quick levels for some bonus skill points and then take a few low level permanent skills and talents. However, since getting from level 1-10 is not bad, while going further is slow as molasses, you are then left with a problem; if you like the new class and it's spells, you will then have a ton of grinding to do in order to be strong enough to continue your quest.

While a few bonus skill points from the levels 1-10 grind are nice, and getting a couple low level permanent boosts are good, the system just feels neglected. In fact, I've yet to see a single reason to ever change classes in this game. From what I've played, so far, there is no reason for me to ever change out from my first class and to change the first three characters I made to join my party. As long as you picked your party wisely (read: you didn't make three clerics or three mages, did you?), you can ride that party the entire game.

This is such a sad change from DQ7, which rewarded you for taking on numerous classes. For one thing, you have a class level and a character level. So, if you change classes, you don't have to be level one with nothing to your talent pool. Instead you'd keep your spells, a bulk of your stats, and you'd instead keep adding to your spells and abilities while receiving a tweaked stat set appropriate to a of your current level. In this system, you could have a healer who just happens to have a cool offensive spell to help when healing is not needed, or a fighter who could heal when the shit hits the fan. You can also make a party that is total garbage, if you're not paying attention. Instead, with this system from DQ9, you never can really fail or thrive. You just keep going forward without any real thought involved.

I know...some DQ9 elitist types could argue that you can make a super party with the right job path. However, when you can succeed fine without a super party, why waste the time to make one? I'm all for some strategy, but I'll take the easy (thoughtless) path when strategy is just not needed. I mean you could make some awesome strategies on FF: Mystic Quest, but you sure as hell don't need to know anything beyond mashing the A button, so why bother?

Anyway, the game is fun...but this is one of the few things that takes DQ9 from being a damned near perfect game, and making it a really good game.


Malik (7/20/10)

There are many ways to attract casual gamers to a hardcore console. They can be simple ideas, like offering puzzle and "casual" games, much like the 360 has always tried to do with the Live Arcade games. There's also more sophisticated of ways, like offering a console based entirely around a lower price with a more intuitive control idea, like Nintendo did with the Wii. There can even be blended ideas, like the PS3 Sixaxis controller, which offers both standard ideas like buttons and control sticks, but can also offer more simplified of actions like the movement that is used with Flower.

The one idea, however, that will always be needed for casual gamers is to make things simple, while also keeping the price simple (read: low). So, while the 360 and PS3 turned off casual gamers for quite some time by looking pricey compared to the Wii (at least the 360 overcame this with time, and the PS3 isn't looking as bad anymore), the price was at least not 100% beyond reason. This is changing with stupidity.

It is now announced that Kinect will run $150. That's $150 on top of about $200 for the console. Then there's another dose of money if you want games. Then there's the fact that Kinect (and Move, for that matter) seem to be lacking in games to get hyped for. Combine all of this, and you have something that's a complete puzzle to my mind.

I cannot see the hardcore crowd getting into Kinect ("pointing your finger like a gun", to paraphrase the Sony E3 press conference), or waving a glowing ice cream cone (Move) while playing anything that's not "casual". It just doesn't make sense to look like an idiot, while dealing with what will most likely be a poor simulation of motion capture, when you know and love your 360 or PS3 standard issue controllers. Then you have to think the Move and Kinect are aimed at casual types...but with that type of price for motion controller and console, you don't have even close to a casual price point. You cannot attract someone who is "less than fully invested or obsessed" (how I read "casual") with a price that hurts one's wallet...especially during an economic disaster like we're all facing around the globe right now.

So, to put it simple, after hearing the price point set by Microsoft (and rumors of supposed prices for Move, Eye Toy, and all the other parts that make the PS3 Move experience complete), I just don't understand. It's like making the worlds most elaborate action figure, putting it on a shelf next to your assortment of G.I. Joe, Transformers, and the like, and then charging $100 for it. A child's toy is meant to be affordable to them, and a "casual" gaming experience is meant to be affordable to what a "casual" person is willing to spend. The only way I can see this experiment really coming to full on success is for Microsoft to offer yet another model or SKU of the 360; one with Kinect built in for only a fraction of the 360+Kinect price.

Also, the $300 360 with Kinect bundle doesn't cut it.  The $50 "saved" is not enough of a price break when you're still looking at mainly old technology that Nintendo offered in the $250 range...several years ago.  Plus, the difference between $300 and $350 (for buying it separately) still keeps it in the "hard to swallow" $300 range.  With consumers, and especially "casual" consumers, $300+ is one hell of a pill to swallow for something that is not deemed necessary.

Then again, people will shell out ridiculous amounts of money for an iPad to go with their iPhone, and the iPhone goes with their iPod...all the while, the iPhone does all of the same features as the other two. Some sectors of the economy seem immune to economic problems...and obsessed fanboys definitely can have a strong trend in reversing logic.


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