I’m dreaming of a heroic adventure, just like the ones we used to know…

dq6

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie (1995)

I’m just back off a week of annual leave, but I don’t even get to have a pathetic attempt at a tan to brag about, as I was cooped up in rainy Ireland for the week. Both the Irish and Greek governments aren’t entertaining the idea of me travelling on Hellenic booze cruises, and Vegas isn’t exactly enticing right now. Something to do with a virus. Is that nanny state-ism in action or what?

My alternative wasn’t so bad though, I essentially spent a week in bed. You might think I’d get bored of lying in bed until 1PM, then sleepwalking down for some brunch before retiring back to the scratcher. “You need to be out doing something,” my mama would cry, when I wasn’t particularly fussed about landing a job. I once mentioned that if I somehow had a big lottery win without buying a ticket, I’d use the proceeds to buy a castle – but don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’d be using it to defend against any sieges.

No, it would strictly be a place for me to repose, perhaps count my money in a medievally styled Scrooge McDuck moneypit, and bring in some busty courtesans when I felt like it. I wouldn’t actually be spending the rest of my dosh. Financial security and contentedness for me means lying in bed, listening to The Prodigy for the rest of my days.

God, but aren’t lie-ins great? Isn’t it great to lay in bed with the Saturday fry, or Sunday fry if you’re a bit more religious, belting away downstairs, nearly ready to lash down your throat? Don’t have me down as some sort of male tyrant now, I do some work around the house. In fact, I often take on the worst task of all, worse even than cleaning out the ovens and the drains: I put new bedclothes on the bed.

It’s like an Olympic endurance contest, designed to push you to your limits, or more likely designed to wind you up. You’ll need Herculean strength in particular to get those fitted sheets on. Ever had to deal with those supposedly elastic sheets? They’re a nightmare, because even if by some miracle you get the four corners down, one of them will spring back at 200MPH and hit you in the face. That’s exactly what happened when we tried to get a United Ireland: three corners playing ball, but then one goes all dog-eared, backfires, and leaves you halfway.

Is it all worth it, just to have a presentable bed? I’d say yes, because you never know when you’ll need the swankiest bed in town. After all, you get to ride around in a flying wanking chariot in the dreamy Dragon Quest VI – just the latest in a long line of strange transportation devices in this series.

We’re talking about the Super Famicom version here, but just speaking of dreamy, there’s some strange online-only features in the DS remake of this game, something called Dreamscapes. It’s just a way of inviting other fools to come by and comment on your personality traits, like your occupation and speech style – ah yes, that’ll be “doley” and “slurred” for me. It ain’t exactly Tinder, though I suppose it might have found some favour in Japan, where everyone and their dogs plays Dragon Quest.

There’s been some criticism of this game that the encounter rate is a bit high, a bit extreme, rather like the protagonist’s wild blue hair. It seems to be about the same as Dragon Quest V’s encounter rate to me, but you do get pestered quite a bit. Still, I don’t even mind that this time because I’m just loving the drum-and-bass heavy battle theme here.

Dragon Quest VI doesn’t half go on, though. This was a late 1995 release in Japan, not that that matters much because they had Super Famicom games coming out in the early 2000s, but this must have been a lovely big slice of mid 90s RPG juice in a sea of early 3D Ridge Racers and Crime Crackers. A nice 40 hour jaunt, not something to be taken care of in one weekend.

Yes, the Dragon Quest games are getting bigger, but oddly the scope hasn’t increased in size to match – after all, DQ5 saw you grow up, get married, have kids and fight through the hordes of monsters in a plot spanning multiple generations.

DQ6 is a bit less ambitious in that regard, and we know that the Dragon Quest series doesn’t exactly target Harvard and NASA in its life aims as it is. Here, we’re just presented with a less dramatic story about a dreamworld, and there’s also some rhyming mermaids and King Poseidon along the way.

To be honest, in the latter half of the game I was just getting lost, in similar fashion to how a particularly dream heavy sleep can just lurch from one bizarre scenario to another, with no explanation or context afforded to you.

And so it’s the case in Dragon Quest 6 – you frequently swap between both the real world and the dream world, but it’s easy to lose track of where you’re meant to be, or how events in one world change things in the other. Even when you do make it to the end, all you get for your troubles is a nigh-impossible final boss and a crap ending.

It’s actually not too far off Inception, this game, and none of us understood that one either. But you knew it was time for action when that horn blared, similar to how in Dragon Quest you don’t really need to know who shot who and why that boy disappeared and all that rot, you can just keep battling the monsters as they pop up, with another healthy hammering of the A button. You might just look up a guide every so often to get you back on the right track. Because if you go off the right track, you could end up in that dreadful limbo between the two states of consciousness – sleep paralysis.

Familiar with that one? It’d send a shiver down your neck alright, especially if you suffer with it on even a semi-regular basis. I think I got it once before, an inability to move, as if I was being pressed down upon, and one hell of an impending sense of doom.

I don’t think any demons were coming to bite off my willy, and disappointingly no succubi were lining up to do the same thing either. But once my attempts at thrashing about finally got my arm muscles in gear and woke me up, I was pretty ruddy relieved.

See how our brain betrays us? A friend of mine even gets night terrors – proper blood curdling screams in the night if it gets bad, and sometimes hopping up out of the sack to do battle with imaginary enemies. He wouldn’t like real life (or dream life, whatever) to match the encounter rate of Dragon Quest VI, that’s for sure.

You do need plenty of encounters under your belt in this game to work your way through what’s actually a fairly involved Job System, although the series had already lost ground to the hated Final Fantasy by that stage, seeing that FF5 had come out years earlier with a much more pioneering system.

By the end of it all, even with a bit more length to it and with more than one large world to explore, Dragon Quest VI probably winds up as the weakest of the so-called Zenithian trilogy of DQ games, that is, Dragon Quest 4, 5 and 6. I just call those games the DS trilogy, completely discounting Dragon Quest 9 for some arbitrary reason, most likely because Jedward advertised it.

There’s no reason not to pick Dragon Quest VI up of course, you’ll definitely get some juice out of it. But for me, it ends up like those all too common dreams you get where not much gets changed, and even less gets remembered.

29 September 2020

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