And so we did it. For a few months it was feared that Nintendo did not want to release the latest remake of Dragon Quest for Nintendo DS in the West, then like a bolt from the blue the beginning of 2011 brought the news that many fans were waiting for: Dragon Quest VI it would also arrive in Europe and America, for the first time ever. The original version for SNES dates back to 1995 and has never enjoyed any official adaptation: for fifteen years western gamers had to do without a real milestone of its kind, until Square Enix started, now different years ago, the revised and corrected versions of the central "trilogy" in the saga. Thanks to this operation, we Europeans were also able to enjoy the remakes of Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest V and with this last chapter the circle started on the Nintendo DS closes: the main saga says goodbye to the Nintendo handheld, which also hosted the most recent episode, Dragon Quest IX: The Sentinels of the Sky, with a crucial chapter that has heavily influenced the JRPG production of the last three decades. But will this sixth Dragon Quest age well?
I dream or I am awake
Despite the numeric suffix, Dragon Quest VI: Into the Realm of Dreams it is effectively a prequel to the entire trilogy also comprised of Dragon Quest IV: Chronicles of the Chosen and Dragon Quest V: The Bride of Destiny. For those who have played the previous episodes the reason will appear more and more obvious as we get closer to the final stages, in order not to ruin the surprise for newbies it is enough to say that the new protagonist is not destined to remain a simple lumberjack forever and that the 'awaits a truly legendary fate.
Already in the first minutes of the game we are introduced to his epic mission: to seek the means necessary to destroy the evil witch-demon Lacertow. To do this, the Hero of this Dragon Quest will have to travel between two parallel worlds, gathering a group of valiant companions. Unlike the other episodes of the saga, often characterized by supporting characters sketched only superficially, Dragon Quest VI: Into the Realm of Dreams proposes a much more incisive and captivating cast. We are still far from the multifaceted and sometimes exasperated storytelling of the most modern JRPGs, however the characters who will accompany the Hero are multifaceted and motivated by personal problems that enrich the plot. The latter is proposed in the perfect style of Dragon Quest, it is an adventure of distinctly fantasy themes and settings that develops among castles, caves and lost ruins. Unlike the previous Dragon Quest, this sixth episode has a greater goliardic vein that lightens a decidedly epic general atmosphere that sometimes manages to take itself too seriously. In general you have the feeling of playing a much more modern JRPG than the two prequels / sequels of the so-called "Zenith trilogy", however the story suffers from the idea of parallel worlds, perhaps not really developed properly. This concept would have been taken up and elaborated later by games like Chrono Trigger but here it appears instead a little sketchy and less incisive, with a plot that connects the two worlds through episodic adventures unrelated to each other. The feeling you get is that of a somewhat banal story that tends to go too far, relying on the excellent cast and some really brilliant dialogues.
The translation of the texts in an RPG is a very delicate matter and in this case it deserves a separate discussion: the original Japanese script of the game is full of puns and dialogues that are difficult to adapt to our language without losing meaning. For this reason, the translators have opted for an adaptation that is reminiscent of Final Fantasy IX and the more recent Dragon Quest IX, but even more courageous. Therefore, in the villages we speak in various dialects of our peninsula and there is no lack of references to pop culture, from soaps to VIPs, passing through characters who speak like Yoda. The result can leave purists a little perplexed but for those who don't chew English it is certainly an enjoyable translation that tears more than a smile.
Dragon Quest VI had the considerable merit, in 1995, of projecting the Enix saga into the modern era of the JRPG, shaking off some decidedly outdated mechanics and limitations that already plagued the series at that time and that nowadays would be more annoying than traditional. In its incarnation for the Nintendo DS, the developers of ArtePiazza have further refined the interface to modernize it just enough to make the game more user-friendly without distorting its fundamental classicism. The common bag with unlimited capacity, represented by a horse pulling a cart, is just one example of these improvements that make the experience more enjoyable than in the past.
The dual screen of the Nintendo DS also allows you to constantly view the map of the world in which you are or of the cities you are visiting, a very convenient feature that makes the exploration of the most intricate locations much less frustrating, especially if we consider the presence of traditional casual fights. The entire menu structure now appears more convenient despite its extreme simplicity. Dragon Quest VI: Into the Realm of Dreams it does not stray particularly from the structure of the previous episodes, proposing the canonical first-person battles that show only the spectacular and well-kept animations of the enemies but never the sprites of our party. It is a stylistic choice with which you will have to deal up to Dragon Quest VIII (PlayStation 2) but in the context it works well and the clashes appear much faster than in the previous Dragon Quest V. The real step forward however lies in the system of Vocations that returns for the first time after Dragon Quest III, mimicking the one developed by Square for Final Fantasy V. Once again, past and present mix, but in this case we are faced with a system that resembles that of Dragon Quest IX, but a little more raw. The Mutationis Abbey allows you to change the vocation of our characters, allowing them to learn new spells and abilities, improving different statistics. By fighting a certain number of battles it is possible to upgrade each class and some combinations unlock more powerful advanced vocations. The system allows a good personalization of the party but the feeling is that of a prototype: it is impossible to evolve and know all the vocations without fighting literally thousands of battles for their own sake. Considering that it is not necessary to undertake every vocation with every character anyway (making the strong Carver a wizard is at least a questionable choice!) To complete the game in its entirety, these limitations leave a bitter taste in the mouth helping to underline the conflict between past and present that is this episode of Dragon Quest.
Dragon Quest VI: Into the Realm of Dreams is one of the best exponents of the award-winning Enix saga but it is impossible not to notice the ingenuity of some features that would have been seen and revised over fifteen years and that we were able to try in their most current form already last year with Dragon Quest IX : The Sentinels of Heaven. However, it must be borne in mind that this sixth episode has been a source of inspiration for many more recent adventures and therefore occupies a considerable position in the history of the JRPG genre. Taking note of these age problems, Dragon Quest VI: Into the Realm of Dreams remains one of the best expressions of the franchise as gameplay and characters, enriched by the excellent cosmetics developed by ArtePiazza, and an unmissable event for lovers of the genre or the series.
- Excellent graphic and sound remake
- The best cast of supporting actors in the saga
- Numerous gameplay improvements
- However, it remains a somewhat antiquated product
- The main plot is a bit dull at times
- The Vocation system is less accessible than it seems