You dream of becoming a fisherman like your father, but when the mischievious Prince Kiefer, the feisty Maribel and you discover the world had so much more than a single island, you must uncover the puzzle pieces to travel back in time and discover lost continents.
Once you're in the past, you must solve the long-forgotten mysteries to make the continents exist in your present. Succeed, and the world will once again be complete. Fail, and the lost islands will be doomed for extinction. What power erased so much of the world in the first place? And what do these hints about a past war between good and evil mean? Your quest begins on Estard Island.
You start in the small village of Fishbel, where the hero, the young son of a fisherman, has decided to go exploring with two friends, Maribel and Kiefer. Maribel is the hero's curious and single-minded love interest, while Kiefer is the adventurous prince of Estard Island, the only island in a world of infinite ocean. Upon discovering three pieces of a map in the ruins they'd found, the trio is magically transported back in time, where they find themselves on a mysterious and unfamiliar island. From there, the real journey begins as they travel through time and piece together the events of the past, all of which hint at an epic battle between good and evil. Along the way, our heroes will receive help from many other characters, including Borkano, the hero's father; Melvin, an elderly war hero; Aira, a travelling female warrior, and Gabo, a wolf who was turned human.
While the traditional battle system is still intact, Enix has made various small improvements and additions to liven up the feel of fighting. The basics of the battle system are retained from the traditional Dragon Quest format: unseen party members face a row of enemies head-on. Characters all share basic commands like attacking and magic, the latter of which players can choose Attack, Healing, and Status-changing types. To liven things up a little, each character now has their own special ability, like Gabo's ability to call on wolves to aid the party. Also, the hero can now talk to the other party members, allowing you to hear how they're feeling, what they want, or even their prospective battle plans. Additionally, battles now run at a much faster pace, allowing for more enjoyable combat than in previous Dragon Quest titles, where battles sometimes seemed dragged out. While the graphics themselves are nothing to write home about, the animation is very well done. The enemies have also gained the ability to arrange themselves into unique formations (with stronger attackers in the front and magic-users in the back). However, even with these changes, the age-old Dragon Quest battle feel remains in place, with solid-traditional turn-based gameplay at the helm.
Another centerpiece of the series, its job system, also returns. Ten base jobs are available: Fighter, Mage, Priest, Monk, Mariner, Thief, Bard, Dancer, Shepherd, and Jester. Each job has eight levels before you master them, and as you work your way through them, you'll gain abilities unique to that job. Additional jobs become available once you've Mastered enough base classes - for example, mastering the Martial Artist and Priest jobs opens up Paladin. Those who Master enough advanced jobs will have the ability to use very powerful jobs, though they will take the most time to master. Jobs are assigned by visiting the famous Dharma Temple (as seen in DQIII and VI); as usual, gaining experience with a specific job nets you new abilities and spells. All these abilties are retained even when you switch jobs, so accumulating many different abilities from the various jobs available to you is an indispitable advantage to your party.
Past Dragon Quest games -- V and VI, specifically -- also gave the party the ability to recruit monsters into its ranks. Monsters can't be sweet-talked into joining you this time around; instead, you'll need to take a significantly more violent route: kill the monster and take the monster heart, which is occasionally dropped by the monsters upon defeat. Once players obtain a monster heart, they can choose to master the Monster Job by equipping the heart. As with the Jobs, gained experience helps boost your ranking in that Monster Job. Once you master a certain Monster Job, your character will gain full command over that monster's special attacks and spells, as well as special elemental strengths or weaknesses. Like the Job system, there are various advanced levels in the Monster Job system, though it is possible to skip to an advanced type by obtaining that monster's heart rather than Mastering the lower ranked monsters to advance.
While monster can't be charmed into fighting alongside you, they can be sent off to the Monster Park, which functions on the same basic premise as the Immigrant Town. Charmed monsters can be sent to the Park where a man will begin construction of environments for them to live in based on the type of monster it is. Once the Park starts to grow, players will gain access to Monter Houses that can be used to store extra monsters they catch.
Perhaps the most interesting sidequest in the game is the Immigrant Town, where you help a man establish a thriving town. On your travels, you'll sometimes encounter people that are looking for a new plce to live. Your choices on who to allow to move to your Immigrant Town will affect the town's development. For example, if you send lots of merchants to the town, it will fill up with many stores. On the other hand, allowing many priests and nuns to live there will establish a religious town with lots churches. As your town grows, you will gain the ability to kick people out or trade them with another Save File on the Memory Card. Other sidequests include the collection of over 100 medals which can later be exchanged for rare items, competing against computer-controlled characters for the best vital stats, and visting the game's Casinos, which feature many games, like poker and slots.