Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation review: Slime and Punishment

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation should not have been released after Dragon Quest IX. While it's somewhat unfair to compare the two just because the DS releases came out within a year of one another, the proximity of the subtly modernized, streamlined Dragon Quest IX makes it impossible not to notice just how much a product of its time Dragon Quest VI is.

It's not a bad game, but it's certainly not a friendly game -- something that you'd notice even if you weren't coming off of Dragon Quest IX, and something that is only exacerbated for those who are.%Gallery-116967% Originally released for the Super Famicom in 1995, Dragon Quest VI is the last of the numbered Dragon Quest games to be localized. With IV and V, it forms a "Zenithia Trilogy," loosely connected by a common castle location; however, Dragon Quest VI doesn't really have anything to do with those other games. It takes place in a new world -- two worlds, actually, one of which is a dream version of the other. Your hero and his party discover the dual nature of the world(s), and attempt to find their true selves as they fight the monster attempting to dominate both worlds.

As ever, designer Yuji Horii is able to turn what would be a bog-standard save-the-world quest into a lighthearted, upbeat romp. I honestly don't know the secret behind it -- "We might not be real people, and we're in a town where everyone lives in fear of the monster that attacks every night" shouldn't manage to be so cute. "The king just blinked out of existence! Road trip!" I always love going to a new town (traveling in my floating island, or flying bed) and finding out what its particular quirk is, what ailment I can step in and save.

Combat is, in general, uncomplicated as ever, a turn-based fight/item/magic affair against slimes and other cute, but often deadly, monsters. Each person in your four-member party has unique skills, including healing or offensive magic, special attacks, or status-changing abilities. You know the flow of this already: one character focuses on healing, while your stronger characters pelt enemies with physical attacks and spells. You can even set your party to operate automatically in a few different styles.

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So what's so unfriendly and old-school? Well, for one thing, random battles. Remember those? They're back, and ready to help you forget where you were going in dungeons. You need to seek them out anyway, because the game is really hard. In a couple of cases, I felt certain I had over-leveled for one boss, only to be defeated by normal enemies in the next area. In order to succeed, you have to take plenty of time to grind. There's a job system that doesn't even show up until around ten hours in, allowing you to assign jobs to each character and learn job-specific skills that, then, stay with the character after changing jobs. The nature of this system is barely explained, and you're just left to assign jobs to everyone without really ever knowing what's going on.

One job in particular, the Monster Master, seemed completely incomprehensible until I learned that developer Artepiazza had removed the monster recruiting mechanic from the DS version. Instead of using the Monster Master's abilities to recruit monsters from the battlefield, now you'll just ... meet some monsters in towns. This serves to make the Monster Master class more of a "guy who has some status effect spells" and to confuse the hell out of anyone who doesn't look the game up on Wikipedia before playing. That could be said of the job system in general -- it's largely a mystery without external reading.

That kind of underexplained system, and the difficulty, and the frequent, random battles are all par for the course for a game of Dragon Quest VI's vintage. And, in fact, this is a very good Super NES-era RPG. It's got the same kind of magic that characterizes the Dragon Quest series overall, the kind of storytelling prowess and (mostly) easy to understand battle system that makes it the perfect series for casual role-playing gamers. This particular game, however, is best left to those with a bit of Dragon Questing already under their belts.

This review is based on the DS version of Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation provided by Nintendo. The reviewer played the game for approximately 20 hours, but not to completion.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.