I haven't played Dragon Quest VI so I can only judge this CD by comparing it to the others in the DQ series. It's a satisfying effort. As a whole it's not the strongest, but a few individual tracks are among the best that I've heard from Sugiyama, which is saying a lot. Overall, I'd say that Sugiyama should be admired for being more experimental with this score. But unfortunately, some of his experiments with atonality and minimalism come off sounding flat and strained.
First the bad. "At the Palace" is an almost incoherent recycling of ideas from the Dragon Quest I castle theme. It has a few impressive flourishes just to let you know the composer's still alive, but overall it's the most boring castle music in the series (although I haven't heard DQV). "Monsters Demon Combat", "Evil World-Satan's Castle-Frightening Dungeon", and "Dungeons-Last Dungeon" are all build from a brief, menacing motif (so short and simple it's almost more an exclamation than a theme) and don't seem to know where to go from there. Even though I've listened to this CD many times, I still can't remember what sets one of these tracks apart from the other two. Sugiyama tries repetition, embellishment, key changes, instrument changes, and abrupt bursts of loud after soft, to the point where it almost becomes a farce. But it's no use. It's still the same brief barely-a-theme.
Now the sorta-good. In "In the Town - Happy Humming - Inviting Village - Folk Dance" I can only distinguish three separate themes, despite the four titles. The first is standard village walking-and-talking music. Cheery and spritely and pleasant. The second part is probably Casino music, only this time, instead of evoking an Old West saloon, it sounds like something out of a 1920's Big Band club, or Cabaret. It's bold and refreshing. The third section is really nice though - it seems to build from the lonely, plaintive "Homeland" music from DQIV, but is less sparse and more engaging. "Through the Fields - Wandering through the Silence - Another World", unlike the tour-de-force of "Comrades" from DQIV, is just one overworld melody played in three different keys and tempos. It's still a nice line though, average-to-good compared with Sugiyama's other overworld themes, and the variations are interesting.
Now the awesome. "Pegasus" is my favorite flying music in the DQ series, and that's saying a lot. The flying themes are where Sugiyama has done his most consistently inspired and experimental work. DQIII's "Ramia" is simple, perfect, heartbreaking in its quiet power; DQIV's "Balloon" is fascinatingly modernist; and DQV's "Magic Carpet" is a wonderful mixture of urgent melodrama and a lighthearted beauty reminiscent of Gustav Holst's "Mercury, the Winged Messenger". This one, though, is tops in my book. Eerie and mysterious, stirring and romantic, it combines an old-fashioned "exotic" flavoring with classical attention to form. It's just as successful in its own way as John Williams's "Bespin, City in the Clouds." "Eternal Lullaby" is where Sugiyama tries to rival the masters, and doesn't altogether fail. The beginning is a mixture of ideas from DQIV's "The End" and Stravinsky's "The Firebird". He then works out a strange departure from the typical "Grand Finale" style - it ends with a whimper not a bang, and seems filled throughout with pathos and longing that swells up into a kind of exoticized rapture. Lush, strange, and powerfully moving, it's my favorite ending piece from this series.
Strangely, some of the themes sound better in the 16-bit sound versions from the game, on the second disk of this box. The battle themes are especially cool because they're dance tracks with imaginative percussion and sharp synth riffs - the orchestral equivalents are boring. Sugiyama also exploits his newfound freedom to make 16-bit noise in the Casino music. In short, I think this is a worthy addition to your collection if you love Dragon Quest and/or the Western classical style. If you're a Sugiyama fan, then a few tracks make this CD a must-own. Just be warned, it has a few other tracks that are barely tolerable.