Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation has been labeled as the black sheep of the series. It’s hard to say if this is accurate. At a surface level, Dragon Quest VI doesn’t appear to do anything drastic that sets it apart from other entries: there are turn-based battles, there’s a fair amount of open-ended traveling, and there’s a world with chatty individuals. It’s a Dragon Quest through and through; what is it that gives it the so-called black sheep moniker?
It’s certainly not the presentation. If you played other entries in the Zenithia trilogy on the DS, then you know what you’re in for. Dragon Quest VI features the same gorgeous style that is eternally easy on the eyes. The sprites are colorful and expressive. Character and monster designs from Akira Toriyama move beautifully. The world consists of varying locations that take full advantage of a fully rotatable camera. When you unlock the ability to travel beneath the ocean in a bubble-wrapped ship, be sure to take some time absorb and admire your underwater surroundings. The music is enjoyable, although the tunes are easy to forget as soon as you close your DS.
Perhaps the story gives it its reputation. Dragon Quest VI takes place in two worlds: the real world and the dream world. The game begins with your named hero in an epic battle against the evil Murdaw. The battle is lost, but it ends up being a bad dream. Now in the real world, the hero is seen getting ready for the Fortune Festival in the village of Weaver’s Peak. During the celebration, a mountain sprite reveals herself and predicts darkness covering the land if the hero doesn’t embark on a journey. The set up for Dragon Quest VI’s story is both familiar and excellent. The hero must uncover the mysteries and connections between the real world and a dream world. To top it off, there’s an evil being capable of devastation in both…
Unfortunately, the story’s intro is the best part. During most of the game, little is explained about the connection between the two worlds. You’ll be more focused on other tasks that feel disjointed. Even the major reveals near the end of the game come out of left field. This makes progressing the story a difficult endeavor because there’s so much wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. Accomplishing the next objective doesn’t add much to the overarching plot, either. The two-world setup could have been so much more. The good news is that Dragon Quest VI features Party Chat. Everyone in your party will have something to say during any and every situation. A major issue I had with previous installments was that characters in your party were just there. You didn’t get to know them unless they were involved in a story event. In this installment, you’ll feel like you know the cast personally thanks to Party Chat. It was fun getting to know Carver, Milly, Ashlynn, and the rest of the crew.
The hero and his party are a fun bunch. Their personalities aren’t the only thing that differentiate them. During the first third or so of the game, it’s somewhat clear how your party will get developed. Carver and Amos will be heavy hitters. Ashlynn and Nevan will be capable magicians. As the journey continues, you eventually uncover the familiar Alltrades Abbey. Fans of the series know what this means: vocations. Dragon Quest VI features a robust job system that allows you to build your teammates as you see fit. The vocations range from the classic warrior to the questionable gadabout. Mastering the right classes will unlock new ones. The possibilities continue when you factor in a good chunk of secret characters (mostly consisting of slimes) and specialized vocations. It’s rewarding watching the party slowly but surely grow in strength and ability.
Otherwise, gameplay is standard stuff. Your party travels from location to location while battling monsters in turn-based battles. Dragon Quest VI is on the easier side. While money is still a problem, grinding for levels is rarely needed for victory. Even the last boss is on the simpler side if you keep everyone up to speed on their vocations; switching them around as needed. To break up the adventure, there’s a fair amount of side quests and mini games. The collectable Mini Medals have made a return, too. Taking the time to find said medals is worth it since the rewards are so unique. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a hefty post-game that unlocks a secret ending. Sadly, going through the trouble to see it isn’t worth the time/grind in already long game.
Dragon Quest VI took me a solid 45 hours to finish. I enjoyed most of the journey even during the moments when the story felt incoherent and empty. Having a well-developed cast of characters undertaking various vocations helped soften the blow of a narrative that couldn’t fully deliver. All told, I don’t think the “black sheep” label fits Realms of Revelation. If anything, it’s more of the same stuff we’ve seen before. That’s not a bad thing, but those that are expecting to see something 180 degrees from the usual DQ formula aren’t going to get it. It’s easy for me to recommend Dragon Quest VI to any RPG fan. Those that have enjoyed the Zenithian saga on the DS will enjoy this one about equally.
Overall, 7.5/10: Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation has an interesting start to a long journey. The plot falls flat before it begins, but the classic gameplay and cast of characters carry it to the end.