THERE aren’t many videogames that can claim to have inspired a ballet, an opera and a chain of pubs, but Dragon Quest is one of them.

THERE aren’t many video games that can claim to have inspired a ballet, an opera and a chain of pubs, but Dragon Quest is one of them.

In Japan it’s as culturally omnipotent as the Harry Potter books, Star Wars films and Twilight movies rolled into one and, when a new game hits stores, tens of thousands of people queue through the night to get their hands on a copy.

So how come you’ve never heard of it? For a series that was recently voted “the most influential role-playing game of all time” by a panel of game critics, its developers have seemed remarkably reluctant to promote its charms abroad.

Hopefully, that’s all set to change with Dragon Quest IX. Taking on the role of a fallen angel, it’s your job to travel around the world map, lending a helping hand to some of the characters you meet. You’re also on the look out for seven lost fruits from the World Tree, as you need to collect them to regain your halo and return home. Moving from town to town, you can pick up all sorts of challenges and side-quests and you’re never more than a few minutes away from a fight or a treasure-laden dungeon.

The turn-based battles might seem archaic compared to the real-time slugfests of other games, but at least it lets you pick your commands without having to clock watch. All enemies are displayed on the world map, so you won’t get dragged into a random battle by an invisible foe, and you can actively avoid a fight if your health is low.

While previous Dragon Quest games were solo affairs, you can now team up with three friends via local wireless play, providing everyone has a copy of the game. Guests can’t advance the story or complete side-quests, but they can keep any experience points, gold or skill points they earn in battle.

Dragon Quest IX’s core quest will take you 40-plus hours to complete with plenty of additional challenges after that. It’s a little too linear at times, but it’s got that just-one-more-go appeal that’ll keep you playing for months to come.

Publisher: Nintendo

Price: �34.99

Format: Nintendo DS

Age rating: 12+

Score: 4/5 Stars