If it's crap ... We'll tell you
(Has nothing to do with Dragon Ball Z)
The original Dragon Quest VI (Six for all you non-Romans out there) was released in 1995 on the Super Famicom in Japan. It was Japanese only, and was never released officially in the United States until now. Now we have a port of the game brought to us by ArtePiazza, the same people who ported Dragon Quest IV and V to the Nintendo DS. All three games use the same game engine and tend to look a lot alike. This is something I find to be fine, because back on the Super Famicom, a lot of the RPG’s would look a lot alike too, barely improving from one generation to the next. The reason for this was that the Super Famicom wasn’t that powerful, and because it was cheaper to release a game with the same game engine if your intention was to release a new game every year.
It looks like something exciting is happening here, I can assure you it's not.
So when I hear that a game is being upgraded and brought out on a new piece of hardware I’m always skeptical. One has to ask, “Is it just going to be the same game but working on the new hardware? Or are they going to use the new hardware to improve the game?” And while I realize there is a delicate balance to be played between keeping the purists happy and new players interested, the developer should always try and make the game better if they are going to upgrade it for new hardware. In my opinion, games can always use some improvements somewhere, not just graphically, and good games can be great games if given a little time and care.
At one point you'll be quested to find a horse, which pulls a wagon for you, and while that may sound as though it has the potential to be more awesome than tossing a hand grenade into a nest of Helghast, it turns out the wagon's usefulness doesn't involve grenades or flamethrowers. In fact, the purpose of the wagon is up in the air, it just sort of follows you around, kind of like a group of mercenary Helghast looking to kill you in your sleep, but without the killing or sleeping part.
For instance, nobody wants Electronic Arts to port the original version of Madden NFL football with no improvements year after year. If it still played like it did back in the 90’s, everyone would stop buying it.
So when a game like Dragon Quest VI comes out on the more powerful DS system, and all the developer has done is a minor graphical update, I’m often found disappointed, and with this game that is no exception.
The tree stump pictured here is background dressing, the thrill of chopping down trees isn't in this game, but the journey between the bottom of these stairs and the top of the stairs just to the bottom left is a guaranteed opportunity to get into a random monster battle. If you decide to inspect the purposeless tree stump and then head over to the stairs, you might even get to fight two random monster battles. Fun!
In the middle of last year, Square Enix released Dragon Quest IX, which was a great game because it evolved the game play to remove annoying mechanics like random monster encounters and gave gamers a more open ended story line with a graceful difficulty curve. It’s like Enix heard the game players had grown up, and their games hadn’t grown with them, so they made strides to improve their game engine and it worked. Dragon Quest IX was one of the best games to come out last year on any platform.
I know what you're thinking. This part looks fantastic, the whole castle in the sky flying bit, but you don't do anything here. It just happens and you watch and then it returns to top down wandering with random monster battles. Sort of like the developers are saying, "Look at what we get to do? Too bad you don't get to have fun like us making this game look cool. Instead, you get to fight slimes again for the four thousandth time. Enjoy this pretty picture I made, while we play fanciful music.
Dragon Quest VI, on the other hand, is just a muddy rehash of an old game that wasn’t that notable in the franchise’s history to begin with. Random monster encounters every minute, unbalanced difficulty, confusing story elements, and a lack of communication to even figure out what one has to do in the game most of the time makes for a terrible experience.
This looks awesome, like the devil dude Dhuran will raise his hands and a demon portal will crackle out of the ground and you'll battle hoards of demons while he uses the fires of hell to burn your friends and loved ones, laughing all the while. Except this is turn based and you'll spend most of it eating healing herbs rather than actually participating in any form of combat.
Often, a reviewer will say something like, “Only the hardcore JRPG fan should apply for this game” but I’m going to spare you from that remark, because I think even the hardcore fan expects there to be more if they are asked to buy a game for full price based on something that came out 15 years ago and has been ported on a game engine that was used twice before. This is a cash grab if ever there was one, and game players should be skeptical regardless of how much they like old school JRPG titles.
Spongebob? Is that you?
What’s really wrong with Dragon Quest VI is a fragmented story that makes no sense most of the time you are playing it. For instance, one part of the game involves you wandering around a city, going house to house talking to everyone you meet. Each person always says something insane or stupid because, seriously, that’s how all these games are. You’ll meet a guy and he’ll say, “Old Maggie sure makes a great pie. “ or you’ll see a kid on the street and he’ll say something like, “I want to kick Tim in the ankle.” And none of it has anything to do with anything. But if you don’t go around and talk to everyone you will miss the one single conversation you’re supposed to take away. Which is (Spoiler alert!) that a woman is making dinner for the mayor’s dog. As you talk to her, she decides to run upstairs. Then you have to leave the house you are in. As you are about to leave, another girl comes in and poisons the food, which in turn, poisons the dog. The original woman is blamed for this. You can’t do anything about it because you’re a ghost or whatever.
Notice in this shot that the characters are all level 29 and up. It'll take you about a month of playing the game killing slimes and easter bunnies to get enough experience to come close to that level for all your characters. Then you'll get the joy of fighting a bow legged blue knight and his friend plastic jewelery Madball.
Now, this whole thing only plays out randomly because you talked to the 50th person you ran across randomly. And you can’t proceed in the game until you’ve done this, though it has little to do with what you’re even trying to do, nor could you have perceived it even happening. It was random and you had no idea it was going to happen. Your mission here was to just wander around talking to people until something happened.
That sounds like a one-off moment, but it happens all the time. Another part has you in a castle impersonating a prince. You are told to talk to everyone in the castle. When you do this, nothing happens. Only when you go and talk to a specific guard a second time, for no reason what-so-ever, does the game advance.
This part looks good, because it looks like something that involves things like action and fun, and it also looks like another game, which also makes it more appealing.
So yes, you’ll be intimate with GameFaqs to get through this game. But even unlocking the bad story moments won’t help you from the unbalanced game play and endless fights with creatures that are either too easy or far too difficult for your skill set. You have to basically wander around the entire world killing things until your characters are impossibly experienced before you can conquer an average dungeon and its boss monster. You literally will need to purchase and equip the best armor and weapons available, as well as load up on healing herbs to survive. And it all feels dumb and pointless.
Here's another painting the developers put together for you while they were working on things other than how it plays.
I think developers can do a better job of innovating and elevating these games, or why re-release them? Fair enough that Dragon Quest VI never had a U.S. release, but 15 years later it should get more than a slight graphical update if it’s going to be sold as a full price title.
For its part, Dragon Quest VI is a competent old school JRPG grind. I just don’t think it’s a fun game. The selection of weapons and armor are basic and limited. Character experience is only given through combat and not solving puzzles or other actions. And combat itself is very basic, turn based stuff, that offers no innovations at all. You could argue that since it’s a port of an old game, that it should have exceptions to being judged so harshly, however because the game is priced at the same rate as a brand new title, I can only see basing this game against modern titles. If it were a $15 game, I’d say it was priced appropriately for its content, but that is not the case at the time of this writing.
Gamers should save their money and purchase Dragon Quest IX, an excellent game that is current and well balanced.