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    What is alchemy?

    While you won't be turning base metals into gold, alchemy in the world of Dragon Quest IX is a rather spiffy system that allows you to combine items together to make something even more powerful. Using alchemy you can cook up highly effective medicines from a bunch of fairly useless leaves, create clothing that gives you brilliant bonuses or augment your average armaments so they become superb slicers.

    There's got to be a catch, right?

    There's no catch! Through the art of alchemy you can make new items which are often far better than those in the shops. What's more, there's some (pretty stupendous) equipment that you can only obtain via the art of alchemy. The best thing about it? There's none of this 'percentage chance for failure of the process' twaddle: if you put in the right selection of ingredients success is guaranteed!

    Where can I do it?

    The Quester's Rest inn at Stornway's the place to be for alchemy! Fairly early on in the story you'll be introduced to a charmingly dapper little chap called Krak Pot who will see to all your alchemical needs. To indulge in some alchemy just talk to Krak Pot – he's the tubby little toff sitting on the Inn counter between Erinn (in the orange hat) and Sellma (the lady in green).

    So I just shove a bunch of stuff in a pot and get something great?

    Sort of - there are two ways to go about the business of alchemy and they're both easy peasy. If you have a chat with Krak Pot and agree to get cracking he'll bring you to a screen where you have the options to 'Use A Recipe', 'Try Your Luck' or 'Cancel' to exit.

    'Try Your Luck' allows you to give Krak Pot a mix of ingredients and see if they happen to make anything. If they do then that recipe is unlocked in the Alchenomicon: the big alchemy recipe book.

    Choosing 'Use A Recipe' means you can cook up a specific item from the Alchenomicon providing you have collected/discovered the recipe already. Handily enough, within the Alchenomicon you can view all the recipes in one big list or choose the type (e.g. Weapons, Armour) followed by the specific sub-type (e.g. Claws, Torso) of equipment.

    On your chosen list you'll see that all the recipes you know are listed with their names in white text, whereas all those that are still a mystery will simply show '???' in grey. When you select a recipe the list of ingredients needed for it are shown on the top screen: if you have all the ingredients required they'll be listed in white; anything you're missing (or don't have enough of) will be greyed out. Once you have everything you need, press the A Button to confirm, tell Krak Pot how many to make and bam - new item!

    What ingredients can be used for alchemy?

    Anything and everything: shields, weapons, armour, accessories, medicines, flowers, bits of rock, lumps of ore, jars of oil and unguent, fabric, clothing, potions... Virtually every single item in your menu could feasibly be used to cook up brilliant new kit, assuming you're willing to part with it.

    Which is why if you're planning on making use of alchemy you'd do well to hoard everything you can lay your hands on. Sure, you could sell your old equipment for gold at a shop, but take it from us, you'll be better off alchemising it. Wherever you see a sparkle on the ground as you're questing, forage! Sparkly finds are inevitably items that can be alchemised together to make something wonderful. And don't scoff at picking up cowpats or horse manure either - or you could be sorry later...

    I don't know any recipes. What do I do?

    It's amazing the things you can discover just by investigating your surroundings thoroughly.

    You'll find recipes in books, and books live in bookshelves, which live in houses all over the world. It doesn't matter if it's your world or someone else's, just make a habit of delving into other people's literature whenever you get the chance. Don't be daunted by how long the Alchenomicon seems at first, it'll soon fill up: each time you find a recipe book you'll learn a handful of recipes.

    You can also get useful alchemy instructions from Side Quests, so talk to anyone with a blue speech bubble above their heads – they may be thirsting for a certain item and even have an idea how to make it, if only there were a brave hero who could alchemise it for them. For instance, make sure you talk to the people of Stornway once you've got Krak Pot; say perhaps the old man next to the house behind the Inn. Just what is that man with the glasses doing loitering at the centre of town?

    If recipes are so good, why bother with 'Try Your Luck'?

    Because it's possible to discover new recipes – if you put together ingredients in the right amounts to match an existing recipe you'll make the item and 'unlock' the recipe in the Alchenomicon. Often the more powerful incarnations of items will use the less powerful versions of the same thing in their recipe, so you might be able to spot trends and cascades to discover better stuff.

    Moreover, you lose nothing by trying; if what you want to put together doesn't match a valid recipe the items aren't used up. Instead, they stay in your inventory and you can just try again with a slightly different set of ingredients.

    I've got a recipe but all it gives me are the ingredient list and the name. How do I know if the item will be any good?

    That's right, you only get to see the picture and the description for each item once you've made it – but you can check some of the item's effects by pressing the L or R Button to hide the recipe. And you'd do well to check the list of icons to the recipe's right to see if your party members can make use of the item you're about to alchemise...

    How do I find a specific alchemy ingredient?

    Some items for alchemy can be bought outright from shops: for flowers head to Bloomingdale, for weapons and armour take a Zoom tour round the world. Others are found on the ground (where they will respawn over time) or dropped by baddies (if you're lucky). If you need a reminder of where to find a certain ingredient check the Item List (within Battle Records in the menu) which will tell you the area that you originally foraged the item from or the baddies who habitually drop it. If there's nothing on the Item List then keep playing - you'll find it sooner or later.

    Any other tips?

    • Hoard everything you find, if you're thinking of selling your old stuff why not go kill some monsters instead? You'll soon have a big chunk o' change and more experience to boot. You already knew that the Gold Golems in the valley south of Gleeba yield 500 gold coins a pop, right?
    • Check your Alchenomicon regularly to see if there's anything new you can make – keep on top of recipes you want to try and ingredients you're on the lookout for.
    • Before you alchemise away your hard won ingredients make sure you check your inventory. If you're in it for the upgrades there's no point in duplicating kit you already have enough of or making stuff that's clearly less powerful than what you already have.
    • Hold off from trying to complete your Alchenomicon early in the game; ingredients which seem rare at first will become less of a challenge to get hold of as the story progresses, making this much easier if you wait a bit.
    • Use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to check the DQVC: this is a super shop accessed by talking to Sellma, the lady in green behind the counter at the Quester's Rest Inn at Stornway. The stock changes every day and there are often rare alchemy ingredients for sale.
    • You can't alchemise anything that you have equipped so head to the Equip screen to take off things before you fuse them using Krak Pot.
    • Don't forget that you can check your Alchenomicon at all times by pressing "SELECT" and selecting the option from the menu. This can be useful if you've found a faraway shop and are wondering if you could use a Valkyrie Sword or would be better off splashing out on a Spangled Dress...
    • A Thief in your party who learned the Half-Inch ability can use this move in battle to try and nick an item off one of your opponents. It's a risky move because it often fails, but it might pay off!
    • Buy or forage a massive pile of Medicinal Herbs and alchemise them in pairs to get Strong Medicines, then alchemise Strong Medicines two by two into Special Medicines. Cheap, quick and clever!
    • Slime-based kit is well worth making, especially in the early to mid stages of the story where the ingredients aren't too hard to come by. Not only do you look super cool, but the bonuses to your guys are considerable.

    Remember, hoard those items, look everywhere and check your Alchenomicon regularly. Have fun!