Handheld gaming is more than a compromise of power and portability. Whether it’s the ability to play anywhere, multitask or hold an entire console in your hands, it’s a special experience consoles have never replicated. In a world where high resolutions and teraflops reign supreme, we take a look at a portable relic every month and reflect on what makes it memorable. Be warned, spoilers may occasionally populate these articles.
Dragon Quest is a ridiculously popular series of fantasy JRPGs or at least that is in the case in Japan. While far from being unheard, Dragon Quest isn’t as widely celebrated by the masses in the States. The first four titles were rebranded as Dragon Warrior and released on the NES a couple years after their respective Japanese counterparts. Dragon Warrior IV being released in 1992 as the final main series Dragon Quest game to come out over here until Dragon Warrior I & II were re-released for Game Boy Color and 2001 saw Dragon Warrior VII on the original PlayStation. Dragon Quest VI was originally released in 1995 for the Super Famicon but it wasn’t given a proper American localization until 2011 for the Nintedo DS as Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation.
Dragon Quest VI begins in what appears to be near the end of the game. Our hero and two companions are traveling through an ominous castle to slay the archfiend Murdaw. Things are going smoothly until the encounter with Murdaw actually occurs and the opposite of slaying Murdaw and ridding the world of archfiend is what happens. Our hero wakes up from the disturbing dream and is immediately tasked with going to the mayor’s residence who subsequently sends him to Haggleton with some random crafts to trade for a spirit crown for the upcoming Fortune Festival. This also does not go as planned and our hero finds himself in a real life version of a good deed gone wrong and finds himself in a new world called Wellshire which seems fairly normal aside from the fact no one is aware of his presence, save for the occasional barking. Thinking our hero might actually be dead and wandering aimlessly as a ghost, he eventually is able to use a well to return to the real world.
And thus we have the typical start of a Dragon Quest adventure where the hero fits into one of two categories, either someone who is known to be destined for greatness and ridding the world of a powerful evil, such as the descendant of Erdrick (Loto) or the Zenithian hero, or someone who just seems like a regular nobody who is destined for greatness and ridding the world of a powerful evil. The hero in Dragon Quest VI seems to fit into the latter category but it doesn’t take long for the mayor to suspect there may be more to him and sends him out into the world, more specifically to Somnia Castle. After completing the trial, our hero joins the army and gains his first party member, Carver, who looks suspiciously like the man during the introductory dream sequence.
Carver is the first of several characters our hero joins up during his adventure, which include the spellcasters Milly and Ashlynn, religious zealot Nevan, and Link cosplayer Terry, along with some other optional slimy party members. Carver and the hero end up being tasked by the King of Somnia to go on elite missions after they demonstrated teamwork by acquiring the wagon that allows players to swap out party members mid battle that was introduced in Dragon Quest IV. The party returns to the phantom world later on and sheds some light on the mystery of where the hero went when procuring the spirit crown went wrong.
Like some of the other Dragon Quest titles there is a place known as the Alltrades Abbey, where players can assign specialized jobs to their characters. Each job is a trade off between strengths and weaknesses and does alter the character’s attributes, so even though any character can take on any basic class selecting a class whose attributes are comparable to the character makes the most sense, though it would be kind of funny to see a beefy behemoth of a man like Carver reduced to a mage. In the original Super Famicon version there was a Monster Master class that could recruit monsters after battle, similar to Dragon Quest V but this feature was removed from the DS remake. Some slimes can join your party after a certain point in the game so this aspect wasn’t completely eliminated.
Moving beyond the standard classes there are hybrid classes. These classes have the pros and con scales tipped more in the favor of the pros side but in order to unlock these a character needs to reach level eight in two specific classes. This requires the player to think ahead about what the end game is for the desired class for each character and choose which classes to level. A Sage for example requires a player to reach maximum level with a Mage and Priest where a Gladiator requires Warrior and Martial Artist. Class level is independent from the character’s level, so even though starting a new class will weaken a character until their class level rises, it won’t be as a dramatic of a change as in Dragon Quest III when the changing of a class resets the character back to level one. Lastly, there are two restricted that require special items, one of which can only be found after completing the main game. These two classes are Dragon and Liquid Metal Slime which as a long time Dragon Quest fan sound like they would be the most fun to play.
Nintendo has always been in favor of playing games as a social activity but have often avoided traditional online interaction and offered some unique alternative instead. Dragon Quest games are generally single player affairs (Dragon Quest Heroes II being a notable exception, though couch co-op would have been amazing) but Dragon Quest VI did add a way to interact with other players in the DS remake and that is Dreamsharing. Dreamsharing can be done on southwestern continent at a place called Suite Dreams (puns are nothing new to Dragon Quest). This allows players to create a dreamscape to share with other players using the street pass feature of the DS. This feature isn’t anything major, but it probably was cool back when more people were using the street pass feature at crowded events to see what sort of things random people would create.
Dragon Quest VI is a fitting send off to the Zenithian Trilogy that began in Dragon Quest IV. While shorter than some of the newer Dragon Quest entries, the main story will take about forty hours which completionists stretch out even longer. Some of the modern changes that appeared in Dragon Quest IX and were added to 3DS remakes of Dragon Quest VII and VIII such as visible monsters on the world map are not present in this title. This is strictly old school turn-based, random encounter JRPG battles, and for an old school JRPG fix, Dragon Quest VI is a great option.
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