What's immediately apparent is that the graphics engine used is still the same as in Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, also previously released on Nintendo DS. It may have been tweaked a little to include some mood lighting effects, required in some places to remain true to the Super Famicom original, but it's still mainly the same. A few cutscenes put the new 3D aspect to good use with some neat camera angles to better represent the action, but these are sparse. However, the graphics are still so nice on the eye and full of charm that this is not a bad thing at all, though they tend to look a bit too pixelated at times, which is aggravated if played on a Nintendo 3DS in the default stretched display mode. The character designs, fabric of Akira Toriyama's imagination as usual, are in line with the rest of the series: good, but all too familiar to anyone who's watched Dragon Ball to death.
The game world is very pleasant, and supported by a compelling storyline. The Hero wakes up in a forest clearing with two companions, Carver and Milly. They're about to launch an attack on an evil monster named Murdaw. As they battle against it, they're sent flying and disintegrated into thin air, and the Hero wakes up in his bed from what appeared to be a bad dream. He's then sent by the mayor of his village, Weaver's Peak, to sell goods in the town of Haggleton to buy a crown used for a traditional ceremony. Looking for the craftsman who he's supposed to bu the crown from, he finds a huge hole in the ground and falls in it, trying to save the artisan. Down this huge hole lies a whole different world where no one can see him. Finding a way back to his own world is now a top priority...
The duality between the two worlds is a key feature in this game, as you will have to travel between the two very often to advance the story. Both share many similarities, and events in one may have some effects on the other. Some places inaccessible in one can only be reached by making a detour via the other world, for example. It reminds of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but in a different fashion and game genre. The only problem is that a lot of time will be spent looking for what to do next, as this is far from obvious on a lot of occasions. The hints from the fortune teller can also be a bit too cryptic sometimes. You're given a lot of freedom of movement but some things have to be completed before others, and looking for which world holds the next thing to do can be confusing.
The monster raising aspect of Dragon Quest V is now gone... for the most part. Throughout the game, the player will meet several of the series’ recurrent Slimes, each one completely unique, which can be recruited in your party. Some of them will prove to be very useful, such as the Healslime Healie, for its party healing capabilities.
Most Dragon Quest games in the main series play in a very classic turn-based JRPG style, often with a little new twist added to the mix. Dragon Quest VI is no exception. At some point in the game, each character will be allowed to take on a vocation, as in Dragon Quest III. To put it simply, this is Dragon Quest's very own job system. Unlike previously, the vocation level is now separate from the character level, which makes learning different vocations a lot easier. Spells and skills learned with a certain vocation remain permanently accessible for that character, regardless of what vocation he or she is currently taking on. This allows a character to develop a huge set of spells and skills. Vocations are sorted into tiers. In order to take on a second tier vocation, one will have to master at least two first tier vocations first. The third tier is comprised of special vocations, the requirements for which are not always obvious. Just as expected, difficulty is a prominent aspect of the game. You'll spend a lot of time gaining levels and mastering vocations. Therefore, anyone who can't stand retro RPGs where a lot of grinding is required should be wary.
Battling isn't all there is to do in the game though. A new character statistic is introduced, ‘style’. Characters’ style stat will rise and drop based on the equipment they have equipped. Combining certain particular pieces may also grant a style bonus too. The main purpose for this stat is to be able to stand a chance in the best-dressed contest, which rewards the heroes with pieces of equipment. The casino also provides a fun distraction, just as in previous episodes.
A couple of new features have been added to Dragon Quest VI’s DS remake. One is the Suite Dreams location (replacing the duplicate fortune teller house originally found) where you can set up your DS to exchange greeting cards in tag mode with players you cross on the street, much like the 3DS’ StreetPass system; being a regular DS game, however, the game card must remain in the system and tag mode must be entered manually at said game location. Exchanging enough ‘dream cards’ will grant the player access to optional playable characters who are otherwise only obtainable in a post-completion save file. Another addition for the DS version is the Slippin' Slime mini-game, a curling style game which uses the touch-screen for input. Other tweaks have also been made here and there to better balance the entire game in comparison to the original. The added party talk function is great. You can get reactions from your party members to all sorts of things in the environment, or even to what any NPCs you encounter say. This makes for some very funny moments.
Dragon Quest VI feels like any previous Dragon Quest episode, with its very old-school look and sound, and the way it plays... only everything is bigger, longer, and more varied. The playable characters are more diverse and well-developed (mostly thanks to the party talk option added for this DS version), the quests are a bit more original, and the different locations are more imaginative. It's easy to understand why Japanese gamers love this episode more than most.