The Dragon Quest franchise, even in its more recent titles, is one of the most traditional series in gaming, so you’d be wrong to think a DS remake of the sixth game in the series would be revolutionary. A huge hit 15 years ago on the Super Famicom (aka SNES), this is the first rerelease of Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, and the first time it’s ever been officially available in English, so it’s a must buy for DQ completists. But even if you’re a DQ novice, this classic RPG has tons to offer anyone looking for a “new” portable adventure.
Dragon Quest sometimes gets knocked for its predictable stories, but the plot in Realms of Revelation is surprisingly dense and open. Beginning where most JRPGs end, a trio of heroes begins their final attack on the big bad guy of the land, and are summarily defeated, seemingly killed. The hero of that sequence then awakens from that to see it was just a dream, but a new adventure awaits him in his quiet town. Though DQVI initially follows the familiar path of slowly gaining team members and fighting a great evil, at about the ten hour mark that plotline all but disappears, and a much more complex one involving teleporting between different expansive worlds begins.
It’s a risky choice to remove the normal goal of defeating a central villain and replacing it with a very open world, but it mostly pays off. The story grows more organically, as you travel from place to place at your leisure, fixing smaller issues while at the same time seeing a larger goal materialize. At times it feels like there’s too little direction, but enough hint-giving NPCs are hanging around the periphery, so you normally aren’t lost for long. The intricacy and size of the story are really something even without considering the DQVI’s age, and the plot keeps a good pace through the (at least) 30 hours it will take you to complete.
DQVI’s gameplay is the same tried-and-true, dungeon-crawling, NPC-conversing, equipment collecting, fecth-quest completing, grind-a-thon as the previous (and future) games. It’s all backed up by the very straightforward, turn-based battle system that formed the bedrock of the JRPG formula decades ago. The main reason DQ games have stayed the same for so long is that it works so well and remains addictingly fun. By now you probably know if you’re the type of person that enjoys this type of game or not, but DQVI is one of the best in its genre, even if it doesn’t have the most style.
Not to say that it’s totally vanilla. First of all, Realms of Revelation features the return of the series’ deceptively simple job system. Though not seen in the last two remakes, it was in last year’s DQIX, and is pretty similar this time around, though somewhat simplified. On top of the characters leveling up, each battle progresses a character through classes like Mage or Martial Artist, with new moves and abilities unlocking with each new job level mastered. It’s nothing new for the series, but it’s incredibly captivating, adding extra incentive to the constant battles and could easily keep you going for dozens of hours after beating the campaign. Our only issue with the jobs system is we wish it was introduced a little earlier than the 12th hour when we could at last use the feature.
Another characteristic from older Dragon Quests included in DQVI is allowing monsters to join your party. More human characters will join your team than can be in your four-person party, but you’ll still run into the occasional random monster that will ask to join the squad. They act like their own character, mastering jobs and the like, and should you desire, you can have a whole team of monsters backing up the hero. It’s another way to appreciate the series’ amazingly deep collection of beasts you’ll be battling throughout.
Throughout DQVI you’ll find other, more superficial bells and whistles added on for this remake, including touch pad-specific minigames, a scaled down version of the Wi-Fi character trading system from DQIX, and all the casinos and board games you can handle on top of the obviously upgraded graphics from the Super Famicon original. Add a fine localization to the same impressive level of polish the last two DS remakes had, and you're left with something really special. Even if this recreation wasn’t completely new to this Hemisphere, it’s certainly not some cheap rehash.
There really isn’t anything to wrong with the game other than it feeling more old than old school on occasion. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation is a very good, if very specific type of game, but it certainly isn't fresh, and even as the DS nears the end of its life, it still has many other new games worth playing, making it tough for DQVI to stand out. If you have the free time and want a deep-yet-simple title to enjoy for ages, Dragon Quest VI is a great title to pick up, but if you aren’t into RPGs, this artifact from a simpler time won’t win you over.
Feb 15, 2011