Mar 22, 2011

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Review: Dragon Quest VI

Review: Dragon Quest VI

I could easily see that if Dragon Quest VI had been localized fifteen years ago (shortly after its original Super Famicom debut), it would have seemed jaw-dropping.  It’s visuals were truly remarkable at the time, and its epic story spanning two parallel, linked worlds was definitely unique.  However, in 2011, only six months after the release of the ground-breaking Dragon Quest IX, does the game still captivate?  The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem.

The one thing you will soon realize upon playing Dragon Quest VI is that it is very traditional.  While the graphics may have gotten a bit of polish for the DS, the game has been left relatively untouched from the original.  This isn’t entirely a bad thing, since most English-speaking players have never had the opportunity (unless it was through a fan translation) to play this game until now.  However, this also means that it is very traditional, and newer players (or older players used to modern RPGs), may find the game a bit frustrating and difficult; you may find yourself missing certain elements you’ve become used to (such as dungeon maps or a lack of random battles), so while the game has a lot going for it, it can also be a tough pill to swallow in a lot of ways.

The basic structure of the game is very traditional, with frequent random, turn-based battles and a decently steep difficulty (although it was presumably toned down from the original), that will find you grinding quite a bit throughout the story.  I personally don’t mind random battles, I prefer turn-based ones, and I don’t mind a bit of grinding.  However, DQVI does seem to have battles a bit more frequently at times than I would like, but more annoying is the amount of grinding – you will find yourself doing this a lot throughout the story, and while it can be fun at first as you explore new areas, it does get old.  In fact, it was one of the main reasons I didn’t enjoy this game as much as the other Dragon Quest games I’ve played, and it is definitely something to keep in mind before you decide to jump in.

What will draw people into the world of Realms of Revelation is the fact that there is so much to explore.  The principle story has you discovering early on that there is this mysterious, parallel world, similar to the one in which you come from, yet different also.  Even more disturbing, when you first arrive in this new world, you are completely invisible to those who live there – that is until a good witch directs you to a special potion that will make you visible.  Part of the fun of the early game is in discovering who you are and what is the connection between the two worlds.  Soon, you will also uncover the ability to explore beneath the sea, as well as the typical Dragon Quest dark realm, giving you four or five different worlds to explore in total.  And, unlike many other games like this, which may have large (but rather disappointingly empty) worlds, the various realms of DQVI are filled with villages, towns, shrines, and other mysteries to uncover along your journey.  So if one of the reasons you enjoy games of this type is the exploration/discovery aspect, you won’t be disappointed.

Another aspect of the game that is slightly different is that the general gameplay formula diverges from the norm a little.  Usually these games begin with you knowing about some major threat to the world, and you have to do something (i.e., build up your strength, find a magic sword, etc.) in order to defeat him.  Realms of Revelation does things a little differently – several times in the story you will think you are defeating the head bad guy, only to discover that was actually just one of his underlings.  Rather than be frustrating (as I know this could sound), it keeps things a bit interesting, as the general flow of the game is slightly different than what you may be used to.

For example, rather than the typical formula of town-dungeon-town, with a boss at the end of each dungeon, the game will keep you on your toes.  Some dungeons don’t have a final boss, whereas other times when you don’t expect one, it will appear.  This keeps the game a bit fresher than it would otherwise be, and while some may find the departure from the formula annoying, I found it to be a bit refreshing, because you weren’t entirely sure what to expect.

Another element of the game that helped make it enjoyable is the job system, which those who have played Dragon Quest IX will find a welcome surprise (the job system, for you trivia geeks, was available in Dragon Quest III, but didn’t reappear until Dragon Quest VI).  The game has several jobs (including some strange ones), like priest, warrior, martial artist, merchant, etc., which you and everyone in your party can take on.  In addition to these basic jobs, you have second-tier jobs that only open up after you have mastered two or more first-tier ones (for example, sage is unlocked after mastering the priest and mage jobs).  Hero is the one and only third-tier job, which, in the original game, was made available to the protagonist after mastering one job, whereas everyone else had to master all second-tier jobs (basically meaning mastering all jobs) in order to access it. However, it seems as if one of the changes to the DS version of the game is that even the main character cannot become a hero without mastering all jobs, which pretty much means unless you spend 100s of hours with this game, you’ll never be able to take on that job, which is a huge disappointment.

The game also has two other, hidden jobs, which can only be taken on by someone who holds a special scroll for that job.  One of these will unlock towards the end of the game, the other is not available until after you’ve defeated the final boss and restarted from your completed save.  The concept of hidden jobs is fun, but I found it also disappointing that finding the scroll didn’t completely unlock the job for everyone, really limiting what you can do with those jobs.  I also wished the ability to take on jobs was available a little earlier in the story to give you more time to learn skills and master jobs, since you spend several hours in the end of the beginning leveling up without learning any skills.  One really neat thing about the job system in DQVI, however, is the fact that you get to keep all your skills and spells from previous jobs when you change jobs, and you also don’t loose your level as you do in Dragon Quest IX, so you have no penalty for taking on as many jobs as you have the patience for.