IGN Review of Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
Dragon Quest VI has a considerable mystique surrounding it. Released only in Japan on the Super Famicom way back in 1995, Dragon Quest VI, like V before it, was never localized for a western release. As a result, VI was one of two dark spots on the western chronology of Dragon Quest games. Last year, half of this problem was rectified when Dragon Quest V found its way to the Nintendo DS. Now, Dragon Quest VI has also been released on Nintendo's handheld.
At its core, Dragon Quest VI is similar to every other game in the primary series. As a franchise, Dragon Quest is older than even Final Fantasy and has evolved very little, but this is precisely how the most ardent fans of the series like it. Dragon Quest's staples like turn-based combat, random encounters and grind-heavy mechanics are in full effect in Dragon Quest VI. Your enjoyment of the game is therefore contingent on whether those features are your cup of tea or not. Dragon Quest is one of my favorite JRPG series, and I was extremely excited to finally get my hands on Dragon Quest VI after such a long wait. But the game is merely good, and that's somewhat of a letdown for a game from a series with such a storied history.
If you've played Dragon Quest IV or V on the Nintendo DS, then you'll know just what to expect with Dragon Quest VI. Sharing architecture between the games has allowed developer ArtePiazza to seamlessly remake these classic Dragon Quest titles quickly. But since Dragon Quest games are more about gameplay than storyline or characters, it makes them blur together. After Dragon Quest IV and V on DS, I found Dragon Quest VI to simply be less interesting. I wasn't drawn to it like I have been to other iterations in the series. And this surprised me, since I've been eagerly waiting to play this game since I was a young JRPG fiend back in the 90's.
Dragon Quest VI's storyline borders on laughably bad, but meaningful plots have never been the hallmark of the franchise. The game's hero and the party members you recruit throughout your adventure are tasked with ridding the world of evil. Well, two worlds, since Dragon Quest VI takes place across parallel universes. Throughout your adventure, which you can expect to take at least forty hours, you can expect to travel back and forth between the real and the dream worlds often. It's a nice (if occasionally muddled and convoluted) system. Still, it's more novel than staying in the same, stagnant world. And moreover, it successfully freshens up the incessant (but necessary) level-grinding that Dragon Quest games require. Grinding is certainly less of a chore in Dragon Quest VI than in other iterations in the series for this very reason, and that's a welcome addition.
For me, the class system in Dragon Quest VI was one of the game's biggest draws. By traveling to the All Trades Abbey, gamers can completely customize their characters, assigning classes to each. So if you want to develop a magic user, you might want to master the Priest and Mage classes, which will unlock the Sage class, allowing your character to maximize his arcane strength. Meanwhile, characters who want to use brute force are better off focusing on classes like Warrior and Martial Artist. This system is dynamic and fun to explore, and adds a bit of depth to the game.
Of course, you've seen and played this type of game before. In fact, if you're a Dragon Quest fan like I am, you've probably seen and played this type of game up to eight times. Dragon Quest is a fun series, but it's stagnant. Dragon Quest VI suffers most from the new bar set in RPGs since its initial release, and this could perhaps be its biggest downfall. Expectations are different from when Dragon Quest VI was first released, and in any respect, it's just not as good as Dragon Quest IV and V are.
That's not to say that Dragon Quest VI won't appeal to Dragon Quest and JRPG fans alike, because it almost certainly will. But there are better choices out there, especially if you're looking for throwbacks. Dragon Quest VI doesn't stand up to some of the other games in the Dragon Quest series, nor its contemporaries (like Final Fantasy IV and VI, Tales of Destiny or Wild ARMs). For a game that requires dozens of hours at minimum to complete, Dragon Quest VI needed more of a hook. A coherent, enjoyable story would have been a good place to start. This would have turned a good game into a great game, and made the time necessary to spend getting through it more palatable.