The Dragon Quest series has always existed in a strange place for me. While I can’t doubt its popularity, I’ve never really had it have any impact on me. That’s not to say I don’t love what I’ve experienced of the series, but rather I’ve never been able to experience how influential the series is through those around me. It’s something that has always bothered me as I’ve always felt there is something special about the series and I feel that it’s unfortunately been passed up far too many times. While this may be the case, that doesn’t stop the series from being a delight to experience.
Dragon Quest XI was originally released in 2017 in Japan and only received its worldwide release during September 2018. The worldwide release, unfortunately, skipped out on the Nintendo release, with the 3DS version of the game being exclusive to Japan. Fortunately, the definitive edition of Dragon Quest XI is here for the Switch bringing with it a game people have loved along with additions here and there. The question is, is this release worth dipping into and for some, is it worth dipping into again?
Not to hold anything up, yes. This might seem like an oversimplification, but it truly is the bottom line. Dragon Quest XI is a fantastic game and it’s only improved by this definitive edition.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at what makes this game tick. The first thing that should draw you in is the distinct art style of Akira Toriyama that the series is known for. Dragon Quest has a noticeable style and XI carries on that tradition with more of its distinct design. The world of Erdrea is delightful to spend time in with beautiful and varied locations. While there is a lot of what one expects when one thinks of an epic quest, it is presented in a gorgeous manner that will keep you engrossed. Along with the environments, the character and monster designs also bring with them their own flair. While the environments may be impressive, it’s these specific designs that steal the show.
The characters are something special, with each character given enough detail to make themselves stand out while not having everyone try and steal your attention. It’s nice to be able to have plain yet interesting designs for characters and it means that they manage to give off a far more believable appearance while still being able to have a distinct style. All of this goes out of the window when it comes to monster design, but at least it makes the game more enjoyable.
Monsters in Dragon Quest have always had weird and wonderful designs that make them a pleasure to encounter. With many varied designs and cartoony yet entertaining animations, the monsters often get to steal the show in terms of entertainment. They even get to have some of the cutest names with one of my favourites being the Sham Hatwitch, which is a cute little boar in an over-sized witch’s hat. The easiest way to describe the overall aesthetic of Dragon Quest is fun, with almost every piece of detail being an absolute joy to behold.
Now while Dragon Quest XI was already a wonderful thing to behold, the definitive edition adds some more flavour to that. One major inclusion is the 2D mode from the 3DS version that allows you to play through the game in the classic retro style before it made the jump to 3D. This gives you an interesting change in perspective and makes you realise how far we’ve come when you compare the, already delightful, 2D environments with their modern 3D counterparts. This is coupled with the inclusion of the orchestral soundtrack for the game which is a fantastic addition considering the previous release only had a midi soundtrack, which just can’t match the quality. All of these give Dragon Quest XI some epic production value and make the game delightful to witness.
Now even though there is a lot to see and hear, it doesn’t help if the gameplay isn’t able to back it up. Fortunately, the game delivers here with classic gameplay for the series as well as some improvements to make things just that much more enjoyable.
While the game has traditional JRPG gameplay, the game’s systems are distinct enough and provide enough variety to keep players engaged through its campaign with enough to let you level up characters in the ways you see fit. It’s a pretty standard affair but there are enough systems in place to force you to seriously consider how you utilise your party members and their distinct roles. So on top of the already solid gameplay, a couple of quality of life changes and options have been provided to just make the experience that much enjoyable and streamlined. It varies from little things like having the game pick up all dropped items when you do something like mining to having an ultra-fast battle speed, that allows you to speed through encounters that can eventually become monotonous.
All in all, this provides a solid release for those who may have no experience with the series as well as XI specific veterans.
The only real issues come in where it sticks to its traditional JRPG roots and only allows players to save in specific places. While they may not be spaced out too far, they can be a cause for concern should the game potentially crash on you. While this wasn’t a frequent occurrence, that fact that it happened to me after a lengthy boss fight and before I could save put a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. While there is an autosave feature, it’s unfortunately not frequent enough to completely mitigate the risk. This shouldn’t be enough to put you off the title, however, it is something to consider. Hopefully, the release build of the game is able to iron out these crashes completely.
This brings us to the last piece of the JRPG pie, the story. While everything is still intact here, do the changes here make it worthy of the definitive edition title and does it bring enough to the table to warrant the return for those who have already experienced it?
The story of Dragon Quest XI starts as a bit of a low stakes affair as opposed to other titles in the genre. While you are built up to be destinies hero, there is no immediate threat and the game nicely paces up with a build-up to what most of its contemporaries do in its opening scene. It’s a wholesome low stakes adventure that builds itself up to a grander scale. There are portions of the game that feel a bit too much like filler however they build up the characters well enough to maintain enjoyment. The additional content in the definitive edition sets out to give the player a broader look at the party members in their individual quests along with some additional content that delves deeper into the legacy of Dragon Quest. All in all, this provides a solid release for those who may have no experience with the series as well as XI specific veterans.
Dragon Quest XIS: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition provides a valuable update to already enjoyable title. While the graphics do see the expected knock from moving to the Switch, it brings more than enough to the table to make up for it. Whether you’re approaching it for the first time or jumping back in, this release provides a wealth of content and an overall enjoyable experience. This is a Dragon Quest experience and that means an epic but wholesome adventure that anyone can