Friday, August 11, 2023

Dragon Quest VI (Super Famicom, 1995)


Going to keep this one a little briefer since I'm going to go a lot more in-depth on the remake version. Here it is, the sixth game in the series. Took me a while to get here. I've never been that crazy about this game and definitely put it in the bottom half of the series quality-wise. I've only played the SFC version once before, in 2001, so it'll be interesting to revisit it after all this time.

This version never got an official US translation (all of the US releases were based on the remake) so I'm playing it on the same fan-translation from 2001. Also, it is very, very hard, at least early in the game, which is probably one of the reasons it didn't get an American release. I mean, FFIV got severely dumbed-down for us and we got beginner-friendly Final Fantasy Mystic Quest instead of the "complicated" FFV so this kind of underestimating American players was nothing new.

This is from the Chrono Trigger era, so unsurprisingly it bears quite a resemblance to that game. Especially the fully-Toriyama'd main character.

Had some trouble thinking of a name for this one, but I just finished a brief rewatch of the Kenshin Kyoto Arc, so I went with Hiko.

This game starts you right out in the thick of things, going after the bad guy in his lair during the intro.

This is actually a flash-forward of later events in the game. Chrono Cross would later open the exact same way.

Behold, the dark palace of Maou Mudo, the nefarious lord of evil. This game occupies that upper-middle 1994-into-95 SNES era of graphical capabilities where you can almost see the system reaching its full power, but not all the time, and in some scenes it still has some of that "early SNES look" of 91-93.

Our heroes suspect that this is a trap. The nefarious Mudo is known to be crafty.

We don't even get a fight here because Mudo just cutscene-defeats everybody before we jump back to an earlier point in time. ...yeah, exactly like Chrono Cross.

Turns out that was a bad dream (even though it's a flash-forward) and our hero wakes up in his normal village (Also like Chrono Cross). Here's his hot sister, Tania. Would have been cool if the game gave you a character choice at the beginning between these two, so you could play as Tania and have the current lead be the sibling.

But wait! It isn't like Chrono Cross: That had a seaside town, this has a mountain town. Completely different!

People in town are talking about this Mudo fellow. No wonder the hero is having bad dreams about him, people won't shut up about it.

As is tradition, the best weapon in the first shop is the Copper Sword and it's way out of my price range. No problem, time to go GRIND ENEMIES.

The first slimes you fight are these weirdoes. They all have black eyes so it's safe to say they've already gotten beaten up by other level 1 adventurers. TBH it would have been a lot cooler to fight regular slimes here. They got too cute with this, much like the rest of this game. Sometimes simple is better.

The first spell the hero a dud. Memorize speech? Where's like, Heal or Blaze?

First thing that jumps out: This game is very hard at the beginning. Have to hit the inn after every fight or two, or run the risk of getting killed on the next one. The enemies hit hard for newbie-zone enemies.

Also they tend to attack in giant groups. I've got no chance against this one, even at level 3. Good luck getting Run to work.

ASSSS! Every time this happened I lost half my gold, so it was hard to actually build up any gold until I got to level 5 or so and could reliably win fights. Given that most of these enemies give 1 gold, this whole thing took a while. You might be better off booking it to the second town and fighting around there instead just to get slightly-decent gold, since the enemies go from giving 1 gold to giving like 3.

The second town has the Thief's Key. Super early to be getting one of the game's major keys. After you sell the goods from your hometown you generally have enough (or almost enough) money to get said key. But I also need equipment. Suffice to say, a lot of grinding is needed. Selling the imported goods from your hometown is your one big cash infusion (about 440 G), and if you do that without buying anything and then go die, you're down like 220 G. At that point it's probably worthwhile to just start the game over.

There's a bustling marketplace here, but most of the shops don't have anything good. They also tend to be wildly overpriced in some cases. So yeah, I need the Thief's Key, but I also need the Copper Sword, and since I have to go fight enemies to make up the difference to get one of them, might as well get the sword first? We'll see.

Searching pots, barrels, and shelves pays off in this game. I mean it's always a good idea in this series, but oftentimes you just get inundated with Small Medals. Here, you get a lot of useful stuff. Especially money, at this stage of the game. 250 is HUGE, and nearly pays for that Copper Sword I still don't have.

Another big upgrade. It's better than the shield you can buy at this point AND it's free. Yep, searching everything is officially very lucrative.

Next, Hiko battles the menace that is... Lipps.


This is about as good as the inventory can look at this point. Got the best equipment, got a bunch of herbs (since Heal takes a bit to get), got the key. Now it feels more like a regular DQ game where I'm  beating up low-level foes effectively.

And speaking of regular DQ games, normal slimes start appearing. Yeah, after a rough first two hours or so the game is feeling much more player-friendly at this point.

Back at the first village (which annoyingly requires backtracking over the first "dungeon", the mountain pass), we have a celebration/ritual where the Earth Spirit tells Hiko that he's bound for big things. Alright great thanks, vague spirit lady.

Next is a roaring bonfire and a party. Feels very Chrono Trigger esque. This game might not be floating my boat so far compared to the earlier ones, but it sure does look good.

The next big step up is to buy the Boomerang. It's a modest upgrade to attack, but it lets you hit all enemies on the screen. So it's actually a massive upgrade at this stage.

Optional superboss alert! In a random well lurks the "Dark Hobbit" and it whooped my ass. It's likely going to be way stronger than the hero when you can first encounter it. I came back at like level 9 and mowed it down. Also they better change that name to Dark Halfling before the Tolkien Estate gets wind of this. They will sue!

Next our hero gets a job as a royal guard. So far this narrative is broken up into what are basically short chapters and there isn't really an overarching goal yet aside from people whispering about some Mudo guy.

Next up is the Tower Knight from Demon Souls. HELP MEEEE

While scaling the tower in question (the knight didn't do a very good job defending it) I meet the second party member. He doesn't join yet, but he does soon enough. This is HUGE in this game. Getting a second party member is usually a fun and exciting development in an RPG, but here it's practically a breather because I've been getting pummeled so badly.

No HP, no MP. At least I've got a Heal spell now, not that it'll do any more good here. Bringing like 10 Medical Herbs to an early-game dungeon is overkill in any other DQ game, but not here.

I ain't helping shit! Being a good Samaritan has really died a death in recent years.

This guy has The Wagon, of previous games fame. This wagon has seen some stuff. I wouldn't want to go in there and shine a blacklight around.

Hassan is another guy trying to become a royal guard, and your heroes sort of bond over that, and then he barely says anything else. He's a typical big brawler / monk type character and hits pretty hard. No spells. He can't use the Boomerang and he tends to go last, so basically he ends up knocking out whatever foe survives the initial Boomerang attack. He does get some special attacks (like jump kicks) that do more damage than normal attacks, just to break the monotony of a pure melee character like this.

Look at this tremendous(ly anemic) spell list. At least we've got Return now, which is super-useful in DQ games. What would REALLY help is Outside, but it's not until like level 12.

Zoolander: "God??"

I'm glossing over a lot here (again, saving most of my in-depth thoughts for the remake) but this game takes place over two parallel worlds (again, like Chrono Cross). One world is actually the other world's future, like...50 years or so later? Your characters turn into ghosts when they go to the future world, though once you meet this fortune teller, your ghost status gets fixed. So you've got your characters warping between these two worlds via wells and other random portals. The two worlds look basically the same and it can be hard to keep straight which one you're currently occupying.

Also the "dream world" as they call it might as well be the regular world because you spend a lot more time in that one. Mudo seems to be in the regular world because that's where people were talking about him.

Wonder if they got this idea from that one part in DQV where the hero warps from the future chapter of the game to the past chapter and talks to himself as a kid. They decided to make a whole game with past and future worlds and the same people in both.

Muriel is the third party member, and completes the trio we saw in the intro. She's another character who barely says anything, but she is kind of mystical and mysterious. Most of the cast of this game barely says a word after their initial burst of dialogue. Like Chrono Cross.

Muriel is a caster, so she doesn't hit very hard with melee attacks. She gets both Heal and attack spells. It's great that the hero isn't the only one with heal spells anymore, freeing him up to Boomerang away.

It's worth noting that since Hassan is a fighter with no spells and Muriel is a caster who is physically weak, they're basically two archetypes. The hero is both a good fighter and a good caster, so he's already much stronger than the other two. That was pretty common for RPGs of this era though, a main character who supercedes everyone else in power for the whole game.

The visual engine of this game is what was repurposed for the Dragon Quest III remake on the Super Famicom. It looks real good, and that DQIII remake was what got the ball rolling on me actually looking at remakes of things on here.

First Metal Slime alert! Their points are looking especially pokey today.

At one point Hiko pretends to be a missing prince to gain access to a castle in the future world. It doesn't work, but this seems to indicate that our hero is royalty and his future heirs are as well.

Next dungeon is slightly memorable, as you must surf on LOG. Much like this game, it's better than bad, it's good.

The Sage's Stone! This is early to get it. Except it doesn't do what it usually does (infinite group heals). Instead it's a one-use consumable that restores some MP. Talk about a letdown.

The next boss is the first real challenge since I gained a three-person party. It seems like this game is very bottom-heavy. While the whole thing is more difficult than your average DQ, the first couple of hours are the hardest part.

That whole shindig was kind of its own separate scenario from the main game. Actually DQVI in general is the beginning of the "lot of short stories as opposed to one long story" method of overarching narrative that became dominant in DQVII. You're going around helping people with smaller-scale issues and it's almost episodic.

More later.

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