Having only been released on the Super Famicom in Japan in 1995, Dragon Quest VI was recently released on the Nintendo DS, finally completing the time-line for those in the west who've been following since the first Dragon Quest came to be.
Dragon Quest VI leaves no doubt that it is related to every other game in the series as it has hardly evolved compared to the others. Those who've already played Dragon Quest IV or V on the DS will already have a good idea what to expect with the sixth instalment, though it doesn't quite compare to its predecessors. Things like sound effects, and how every person you meet is perpetually running in-place, are dead giveaways of how old this game is.
As per usual the game's hero and his party members who are recruited throughout the adventure must rid evil from the world, though in this game's case, from two worlds. Dragon Quest VI takes you across parallel universes, of which you travel between often, keeping the level grinding you will need to accomplish, as well as general game play, a bit fresher with the constant change of scenery.
While traversing maps and areas, you succumb to random encounters and are then thrown into a first-person turn-based fights as per usual Dragon Quest style. If there are several of the same 'type' of enemy, you cannot select a particular one to attack for each party member, rather, you choose the enemy grouping itself and hope your party's AI is clever enough to attack accordingly. This makes tactical fighting almost non-existent. When you're in a fight and the enemy attacks, you see the enemy reach toward your screen as though they really are attacking you instead of just your character, which is a great way to get you into the fight. Items in your bag cannot be used during combat, only the items your party members have on their person can be used, so you need to make sure you spread your items accordingly.
Navigating your task screen is awkward as all your options aren't available on the 'main screen,' and you must go into a 'misc' section in order to find several options including equipping your party members. The equip screen requires you to pick one character, and then choose one item of each category, such as head and weapon, and one-screen-by-one-screen pick each item they equip. Items are stored per party member with a maximum of 2-pages-worth each, with your actual item bag seemingly having no limit whatsoever. Transferring items between party members and the bag requires you to choose each item one-at-a-time, and each time you do you are rewarded with the game stating 'so-and-so has transferred [item] to [wherever you chose to put it]'. Needless to say, preparing your party for their adventure gets tedious when you have to continuously click page-by-page to accomplish what you want to do.
The music is okay by today's standards, though it leaves you wanting to unplug your earphones more often than not. During a tune-less play-through I learned this can cause the game to seem to lag or even freeze at times, for it tends to play a melody for victory when your level goes up or when you acquire a new treasure, and you have to let it play through before you can proceed. I found myself wondering if the game had frozen on more than one occasion before realizing I'd probably simply gone up a level.
You will be talking to a lot of people throughout the game, and whether it's the first or umpteenth time you speak to a particular person there's no way to fast-forward or 'skip' the tale, making talking to people a bit tedious at times. There's no way to avoid villager chatter, however, as at several points in the game you cannot proceed until you've heard a particular story or speak to the right person or people.
To save your game, you must visit a church and endure long dialogue before you have the choice to save. You must do this every time, which, inevitably, gets frustrating.
One of the good points to this game is the class system, where gamers can assign classes to each of their characters, completely customizing them to their content. Whether you wish for one to be an accomplished Sage, or simply want a more hands-on character who specializes with attacks using their physical strength, the choice is yours to make. Travelling to the All Trades Abbey will give you the freedom to choose classes for your characters, which adds a bit of depth and fun while you explore the possibilities.
It's evident that both the storyline and characters aren't a big focus in the game, so much so you may feel your head pounding from it. Yet even with that said, the game manages to take dozens of hours to complete. When you consider this game is over 15 years old and it was originally on the Famicom, it isn't really all that bad, though by today's standards it isn't all that great either. In the end, if you like this kind of game, complete with turn-based fights and random encounters, then you'll have next to nothing to complain about, but for those who find this isn't their cup of tea, they'll be hard-pressed to find many things they like. Dragon Quest VI is already available in stores for the Nintendo DS.