It’s the definitive edition for a reason.
What They Say:
With a ragtag band of adventurers, you’ll engage in well-balanced, turn-based battles and embark on quests across the kingdom of Erdrea. Forge gear, develop party members’ skills, and alter their outfits without changing gear in this edition of the game! This version also lets you ride and attack with monsters on the field to earn experience points, as well as change between HD or 16-bit visuals, symphonic or synth music, and English or Japanese audio. Complete the tale with new character-focused stories, and travel to past DRAGON QUEST worlds!
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age takes the tried and true formula of the long-running JRPG series and translates it well to the modern age. Though the series has been going for so long, this latest entry acts as the culmination of every game to date.
It is one of the longest in the series, it has the most fluid and best combat to date, and it wraps it all up in the strongest presentation, too. The game kicks off in the kingdom of Erdrea as the player embarks on a coming-of-age journey to find themselves and their place in the world.
Right from the start, Dragon Quest XI S showcases itself as a very anime-like game in that the story is one that feels a lot like a traditional coming-of-age anime story. It also helps that it is an absolutely gorgeous on the Switch, perhaps, the best-looking game on the hybrid system period.
Akira Toriyama’s classic Dragon Quest look for the characters is the best it’s ever been, straddling the line between a brilliantly designed Dragon Ball game and a colorful creation that is wholly its own. The visuals are rather impressive with performance and resolution barely seeming to ever take a hit, despite looking so great.
And the crazy part is that that is only the 3D portion of Dragon Quest XI S. One of the biggest features of this Switch version of the JRPG is the ability to play through the entire game in a 16-bit style format that would have been right at home 25 years ago on the SNES.
Nearly the entire game, including its areas, cities, dungeons, and characters are transformed into tiny little 2D versions of themselves from that classic top-down perspective. With this in place, Dragon Quest XI S does two totally different art styles at the same time, pleasing two crowds at once and offering plenty of replayability.
The bang for your buck is certainly something that can be said for this lengthy JRPG that not only features its already long main story but has some extra goodies also thrown into it. There are character-specific storylines not seen in the original version of the game that further flesh out the main cast along with the ability to visit areas from previous games.
All of these add up to give you a massive JRPG that is well worth sinking your teeth into. With the ability to play the game in two different art styles, I could even see some players enjoy playing it one time in 3D only and then another time in 2D.
As for the gameplay itself, it is one of the most refined turn-based combat systems in modern games. For anyone who has played a previous Dragon Quest game, you’ll feel right at home. You still have the same old menus that determine what move you are going to make this turn but what is surprising about the game is just how fluid it is.
Selecting options in the menu then doling out attacks and repeating the whole process is rather seamless, allowing for grinding and battles in general to play out surprisingly smoothly. Though there aren’t a whole lot of new additions to the combat, the few like essentially going Super Saiyan Blue at random times are a welcome addition gameplay-wise and visually.
Traversing the overworld and exploring the vast land in the game is an enjoyment, too, due to how good the game looks and the many secrets that lie around. There are plenty of side quests, extra content, and more to distract from the main story.
As for the main story itself, it is one that shocked me in how genuinely interesting it was. I haven’t been a fan of any Dragon Quest plot that I’ve experienced in previous games but this one had me actually hooked for the majority of its run.
Right from the start, Dragon Quest XI S sets itself apart from the other entries in the series by not wasting any time in getting to the good stuff and it doesn’t really let up during the entire game. In a way, it feels like a really good long season of an anime with several smaller arcs spread throughout.
Customization is, as always, at the core of the game as well. There are plenty of options to customize your party and gear as you go about your adventures. You are able to assign skill points on a grid-like system where you can build characters to be the way you want them to be.
There is also a forge where you can craft your own armor, weapons, and the like. What was impressive about it is how interactive it is. It seems to take a page from the excellent Final Fantasy XIV crafting system in how you are able to control the crafting process directly and have fun with it in a minigame-like system.
My only real issue with Dragon Quest XI S is the, unfortunately, outdated UI for the game. From the menus to the customization screens to the turn-based combat selection, the look and feel of the UI is a little too old school compared to everything else.
In this way, it lacks the visual appeal and modernization that the rest of the game has. This includes the annoying fact that you still have to go to the church to save the game most of the time whereas being able to save anywhere would have been appreciated. Even still, this does little to deter from just how great this game is.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition expertly brings this storied JRPG franchise into the modern age. With a surprisingly good story, massive world, and fluid gameplay, it is a modern rendition that doesn’t stray too far from its old school roots.
Though this does also mean that much of the UI is pretty outdated and saving is still annoying, these do little to take away from the wonderful additions this version has. A revamped soundtrack, glorious 2D version, and additional content make this not only the best version of Dragon Quest XI but also one of the best RPGs on Switch. If you’re looking for a meaty, high quality game to sink your game into, this is a must-play whether you like playing at home or on the go.
Developer: Square Enix
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: September 27, 2019
Platform: Switch (reviewed), PS4, Steam (original versions)
This review was done with a review copy provided by the publisher. We are grateful for their continued support.