Late last year, when Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation wasn’t announced for North America, one of my friends asked what’s the big deal about the missing sixth game. I replied (eventually), it’s kind of like the Final Fantasy V equivalent in the Dragon Quest series. The class system in Dragon Quest VI plays a big role, you travel between multiple worlds, and similar to Galuf, the heroes don’t know who they truly are.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation begins in what appears to be the end. Carver, Milly, and the you-name-him blue-haired hero enter Murdaw’s lair by riding a dragon. The evil wizard’s lair is eerily quiet without any monsters roaming around. The party presses forward into a hopeless fight where Murdaw turns the group to stone. But, all is… OK? The hero, now a level one character without any allies, wakes up from his bed in Weaver’s Peak. Tania, his sister, needs a crown and you’re sent to Haggleton to trade some mountain village crafts to purchase the ceremonial artifact. Keeping up with the trend established by other modern localized Dragon Quest games, Dragon Quest VI is loaded with puns, but perhaps not as many as previous titles.
If Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies got you into the slime slurping series, you may be surprised how chatty the characters are. Instead having a silent protagonist and story-less allies, Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation gives players a party of characters to move the story along. Carver is the first ally you’ll meet… again. He and the hero waltz into Somnia Castle hoping to become soldiers and end up wrangling a wild mustang. Milly, blessed with healing and buffing spells, runs into the duo when they are invisible. By the way, you can play some neat tricks on townsfolk while they can’t see you. The team heads off to get Dream Dew to restore visibility. Ashlynn, a fire-slinging sorceress, is found in a tower while she’s invisible. Nevan, a cleric who knows how to steer a ship, replaces Milly as the main healer and comes equipped with a staff that restores HP.
You’ll meet the cast by traveling back and forth between two worlds. The hero has a handy "Zoom" spell that lets your return to locations you’ve visited before, but you cannot warp between worlds. So, compared to other Dragon Quest titles there is a bit more backtracking. Figuring out where to go or what to do next is more abstract compared to modern RPGs. My recommendation is to talk to everyone. That’s where you’ll get hints about what you should do when, say, you need to enter Somnia Castle. The map is cleverly designed so players are walled in by water and mountains, but unless you played Dragon Quest VI before I imagine there will be parts you have to figure out through trial and error.
One of the elements that isn’t explained well enough (outside of the instruction manual) is the class changing system. About eight or nine hours into the game, after a major battle which I won’t spoil, you can visit Alltrades Abbey to add an occupation. Dragon Quest VI has a number of classes, ones you would expect like warrior, priest, mage, and thief plus odd jobs such as merchant and gadabout. Changing classes alter your character’s stats, but not what weapons or armor they can equip. Muscle man Carver can still wield an axe even if you make him a mage. He may not have as much MP as magic-gifted Milly, but you can create a tank who can fire a few spells. Another difference from the job system in Dragon Quest IX is characters retain their levels and all of their learned abilities too. When you first get to Alltrades Abbey you can turn everyone into a priest for one battle to learn heal and they’ll permanently have that spell. (Actually, that’s what I’d recommend.) Think of each hero as the freelancer class from Final Fantasy with an unlimited number of ability slots. If you want, you can rotate through all of the classes just to give your entire party a basic set of skills before moving on.
You will want to stick to mastering a few classes, though. Dragon Quest VI has advanced classes, which you can only unlock by mastering two or three basic classes. Gladiator is a souped up fighter you can switch to by mastering martial artist and warrior. Sage is available to characters who mastered mage and priest. Keeping mastering classes and you’ll eventually unlock Hero, which is one of the most powerful the ultimate classes. Leveling up occupations is quite different from other games. Classes don’t have a set amount of experience points you need to earn. You still have to fight battles to grow, but you need to fight monsters "equal" or better put around the same level to develop occupations. Visiting Alltrades Abbey as soon as possible is important because fighting the same group of blue slimes over and over won’t further your occupation unless you’re at a low level too. The class system also discourages over-leveling because if you’re too strong you won’t earn battle points for classes.
One occupation in Dragon Quest VI was changed significantly. The monster master class, as explained by an Alltrades Abbey denizen, will not let you recruit monsters in battle anymore. You still gain monster-like abilities (lots of elemental breath skills), but no wyverns for your party. The monster taming system was cut out of the Nintendo DS remake. You can, however, find slimes to join your group. A slime knight is probably the first friendly monster you’ll meet and you can recruit him through an event. Due to the class system, monsters, even in the original Super Famicom release, aren’t as useful as human characters. So, the absence of monsters didn’t change the core system too much.
The Nintendo DS remake of Dragon Quest VI is actually the first remake of the game… ever. While Square Enix created extra chapters for Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and a new bride for Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, this remake is light on new content. ArtePiazza, the developer behind the other Dragon Quest DS remakes, upgraded the game’s visuals, but the main addition is a feature unlikely to be popular in the West. Players can create dreamscapes to exchange with other players via tag mode. There’s a slime curling mini-game called Slippin’ Slime too, which has no impact on the story. The most important "new" feature is, perhaps, the English text. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation also happens to be the first time the game has been localized.
As the last Dragon Quest game from the so-called golden era of console RPGs, Dragon Quest VI was light years ahead of its time in terms of story. Enix created a scenario with a number of neat twists and turns, almost as labyrinthine as the game’s dungeons.