Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation marks the first time this role-playing classic has reached American shores. Developer Arte Piazza has skillfully enhanced this Super Famicom giant, adding an impressive dual-screen presentation and immersive dialogue to flesh out the game's plot. A job system provides depth, while other series hallmarks--optional content and a challenging bonus dungeon--return to boost replayability. Though it hardly redefines the Dragon Quest experience, the game's extensive exploration and nostalgic atmosphere are sure to satisfy.
A surprising storyline draws you in with frequent twists. You're cast as a young warrior protecting a small mountain village from the Dread Fiend, a sinister illusionist who is summoning monsters to attack humanity. You soon embark on an epic quest to save the world, only to discover that you're living within a dream--a mirror realm created by the denizens of the real world to live out their fantasies in peace. You traverse both huge worlds in search of the Dread Fiend, unveiling secrets and recruiting allies along the way. You meet many outlandish characters on your journey--fortune tellers and invisible amnesiacs among them--and their eccentricity adds charm. Great dialogue also hooks you in, highlighting a smooth translation with colorful accents and puns.
Like its predecessors, Dragon Quest VI boasts an expansive world full of brainteasers. You encounter more than 30 unique towns, each with its own distinct scenario that enriches the story while unlocking new areas and conundrums. Most of these scripted events are highly creative. For example, in one town, you climb a cliffside dungeon to solve the mystery of a flying bed; in another, you escort mermaids across the high seas. Completing scenarios in one realm affects events in the other, and it's thrilling to travel back and forth to explore your impact. Though the game's many pathways make it a little confusing to navigate, helpful maps and party dialogue usually keep you on track. The wagon also returns to make travel easier; this series staple lets you exchange party members midcombat whenever you're on the world map, and it shares experience points so that even your benched characters advance.
The game's combat system is similar to Dragon Quest V's, with job classes and greater skill variety enriching the experience. The random, turn-based battles present character information on the top screen to reduce clutter, while enemies and colorful battlefields are relegated to the bottom. Full tactical controls let you issue commands individually or across the board, which speeds up battles while the AI focuses on healing or aggressive skills. The job system introduced in Dragon Quest III finally returns, featuring 18 jobs--including two unlockables--and a bevy of skills to unleash. Multiple hybrid jobs keep combat enticing by blending skill sets, so you can craft a stalwart warrior wielding recovery magic or an advanced mage that uses both healing and offensive spells. Characters retain their unlocked skills even as they change jobs, which motivates you to master multiple jobs to create the ultimate personalized team.
Good enemy selection and wide attack variety keep combat lively. Enemy types vary by region and terrain, prompting you to adjust your strategy as you travel from one continent to the next. Updated attack animations increase excitement by achieving a striking 3D effect, which is enhanced by camera movements whenever enemies lurch forward. Foes challenge you by wielding the same powerful spells you have, including sizzling fireballs and swirling icicles that attack the entire party. Monsters also resurrect allies in the midst of combat and often interrupt your battle tactics by casting sleep spells or tricking you into a disco fever.
There are only a few minor design issues in Dragon Quest VI. Talkative priests still force you to swim through pages of dialogue to save your game, while the franchise's addictive monster-taming system has been toned down, leaving you with only a giant lizard and a handful of slimes to recruit. The game's most disappointing element is its multicard wireless feature, which lets you exchange player data with friends for a crummy reward. Its lack of Wi-Fi support also stings, making it unlikely that you'll use the feature at all.
The attractive dual-screen presentation really catches the eye, highlighting the game's 3D environments with vibrant colors. Soft light filters down upon charming towns and bustling castles, while birds soar overhead through swirling clouds. Maneuvering the camera lets you appreciate a town's detailed architecture from every angle, and colorful sprites clutter the streets. A powerful orchestral soundtrack sets a nostalgic tone for series fans, which provides cheerful town music and boisterous battle tunes that intensify key moments. Sound effects receive the same attention to detail, increasing immersion with clear sword swipes and the crack of ferocious spells.
Optional content keeps this lengthy adventure exciting. You might spend 50 hours completing the main quest line alone, and exploring the game's two vast worlds really boosts that amount of time. Mini-medals return, which item collectors can trade for fantastic gear. Enthusiastic explorers will enjoy scouring the ocean bottom for hidden treasure, while battle veterans may delve into an intense bonus dungeon to face a secret foe. Fun minigames also abound, including a fashion show and an adorable slime coliseum, where the lively blobs battle for prizes. You can find high-stakes casinos and a curling minigame with multiple stages as well. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation feels much like its predecessors, but that's because it focuses on what the series does best: blending absorbing gameplay with an ambitious plot. Though it might not revolutionize the franchise, this massive adventure is well worth its 16-year wait.