DRAGON QUEST VI / Enix / SNES
DQ6 very grudgingly makes a few concessions to the console RPG world that has passed it by at this point - it is the first DQ game (after only six entries!) that is genuinely pleasing to look at, with lighting and fog effects, detailed towns, unique battle backgrounds and animations for the different enemies.
However, it still clings to many of its "beloved" staid, outdated, and tedious traditions. The game's first task - taking goods from your village down a mountain path to sell at a small town - requires grinding for a good three or four levels just to make it there and back without being killed. This humble opening quest sets the tone for the rest of the game, which features the usual overly high encounter rate and need to grind tediously to survive, not to mention sluggish battles that eat up way too much time even when you totally outclass the enemy. The typical cliche story with forgettable characters doesn't make any of this any easier to put up with (if you haven't played a DQ game in at least a year, here's my proof that the writing of the first six games is entirely mediocre - name one major supporting character. From any game. I bet you can't, at least without thinking for like five minutes. Hell, if you played one last week you probably can't even remember all of who was in your party.)
We are also still having the ancient interface foisted on us - there is no easy way, for example, to simply see how much money you are carrying, which is actually a downgrade from the previous games. You also still have the same ridiculous inventory limits.
There's a Job system in this one, a bit similar to that of Dragon Quest 3, which does make progression a bit less tedious. The "monster-capturing" system of Dragon Quest V has also been brought back, albeit in a slightly more limited form, via the Beastmaster class. There are only a couple of "uber" classes that are really worthwhile (and capable of standing up to the punishment that the last 1/4 of the game dishes out) so this system tends to just end up following a generic progression anyway.
In addition to the pretty and detailed background art, Koichi Sugiyama turns in the usual lovely soundtrack, which in this case is finally done justice by the powerful SNES sound chip and the programming knowledge to use it to full effect. The music really needs to be beautiful, however, as it often becomes the only compelling reason to pay attention to the game.
Dragon Quest 6 is a long, hard, formulaic slog with not much to offer in the way of plot, characters or innovation. Pretty much the only real enjoyable bits of it are the background art and the music. If you enjoy the formula, for whatever reason, and have the patience for serious level-grinding, this one will likely do it for you and the enhanced graphics and music will be frosting on the cake. For everyone else, however, there is not enough here to convert you if you found the other games tedious.
* Gameplay Video