To put Dragon Quest IX’s incredible commercial success into perspective, it’s worth noting that the game shifted an astonishing five million units before it even launched here in the west.

Square Enix’s highly anticipated RPG was met with a rapturous reception when it was released in Japan at the end of 2009, causing the kind of mayhem usually reserved for when Steve Jobs pushes yet another shiny trinket onto the marketplace.

After what feels like a long and tortuous wait, western RPG fanatics now have the opportunity to experience this epic adventure first-hand - ironic when you consider that Square Enix has publically admitted that the game was created primarily with western players in mind.

Taking it to the old skool

Dragon Quest IX is, in many ways, stubbornly traditional. It looks very much like the recent DS remakes of Dragon Quest IV and V, employing a mixture of 3D and 2D which doesn’t always gel as well it should.

The usual gameplay mechanics apply, too. You move from one location to the next, conversing with characters, upgrading your stats, and purchasing new armour and weapons.

However, in other regards this is a revolutionary step in the RPG genre. Random battles have been abolished so players can actually avoid encounters if they so wish. You’re also able to customise practically every aspect of your character’s appearance, right down to the type of hairstyle they happen to be sporting.

You can also create your own party members, or – if you’re feeling particularly social – huddle-up with three like-minded mates and tackle Dragon Quest IX’s gargantuan challenge together.

We’re better connected

Sadly, this multiplayer element is only possible using a local wireless connection and only the person hosting the game will be able to save any progression made in the main story, but it’s still an exciting and refreshing RPG evolution.

With hours of gameplay, thousands of items to acquire and a vast array of side quests to fulfill – more of which are promised by Square Enix via download at a later date – Dragon Quest IX is arguably the format’s crowning glory, and with the 3DS around the corner it’s represents a fitting way to bid farewell to the machine.

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