December 11, 2006 - Square Enix held a press conference in Tokyo today to announce the next entry in the main Dragon Quest series. In a surprise move, Japan's most popular series will continue not on the PS3 or the Wii, as many had expected. Instead, Square Enix will be bringing the game to the DS.

The full name of Dragon Quest 9 is Dragon Quest 9: Hoshizora no Mamoribito. The surname can be translated to "Protectors of the sky."

Level 5 will be handling development on the game. The hot-shot development studio headed up development on Dragon Quest 8, before turning to a couple of projects for Sony. On the DS, the studio is currently working on Professor Layton and the Mysterious Village, to be self-published early next year.

Development staff on Level 5's end is the same as from Dragon Quest 8, right down to company president Akihiro Hino, who's serving as producer. Other staff members should come as no surprise. Series father Yuji Horii, heading up the project once again, was in attendance at the press conference, and said, "The DS version is not a side-story, but a true part of the series." Kouichi Sugiyama will be lending his talents to the game's soundtrack. And all future Dragon Quest soundtracks, it seems, as he took the stage today to say "I will continue making Dragon Quest music until I die."

Development seems to be quite far along. The online arms of magazines Famitsu and Gemaga, report that a demo was held at the press conference, with Horii and other guests playing the game live. Dragon Quest 9 features an action-oriented battle system playable cooperatively by up to four players via Wi-Fi. This is the first network-based Dragon Quest, Horii noted. The DS's dual screen setup is also put to use, with the top screen showing a map and the bottom screen housing all the action.

Horii is aiming for a Japanese release some time in 2007. With Dragon Quest 8 pulling in favorable sales internationally, expect a release outside of Japan to follow.

We've uploaded the first two screens of the game, which come our way via Gemaga.