Dragon Quest IX's story is all about helping other people, and you have to do so in order to complete the game. Playing as the guardian of a village, you're responsible for protecting your citizens you'll need to sort out all manner of problems to harvest the benevolessence the people emit when happy - you'll need it to return home. Essentially a role-playing game, you and your teammates embark on a gigantic quest across the land, battling the bad guys you encounter on your journey. Battles are a turn-based affair, with each person in your party having a chance to attack, cast magic or use items, so there's no hurry - and every monster you beat earns you experience points in the process, making your character more powerful as time goes on.
Probably the only real stumbling block is likely to be the reams and reams of text you'll need to wade through during the course of your adventure - being able to read confidently is a must. It'll be very hard to fumble your way through without too, as quite often the dialogue explains where to go and what to do next.
One funky feature that'll most likely be a hit with families who all like games is the four player co-operative mode - providing everyone has their own copy of the game, you can all join up and adventure together.
All in all, Dragon Quest IX is a thoroughly awesome game that everyone should be able to enjoy - providing you don't mind a bit of reading, anyway.
Although Dragon Quest is a role playing game that features battles and a fair amount of swordplay, there's very little for parents to be concerned about here. With nothing in the way of sex or swearing ("hell" is about as bad as it gets), the game also only features very, very mild violence, as even during battles, when you order your characters to attack, physical contact is almost non-existent - there's no gore when you strike enemies, and no cuts or bruises become visible. While some characters do have odd splotches of blood on their costumes, there's really nothing else in the way of gore - and with plenty of bright, cartoony colours, everything is suitably non-realistic too.