Dragon Quest XI arrived on PC and PlayStation 4 just last year, breathing fresh life into an iconic 30-year-old JRPG franchise. While Dragon Quest is a household name to anyone in Japan, the series has only really to get major traction overseas thanks to the success of this latest entry. This is a series that made its name on Nintendo hardware, though, and alongside a cameo in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Square Enix have brought their latest to the newest Nintendo console. This is more than just a port, and the swathe of extra content included makes it clear as day why this version of the game has been branded the Definitive Edition.
The greatest parts of Dragon Quest XI remain unchanged in this release. It’s still an epic turn-based JRPG adventure, full of colorful characters, lovingly localized dialogue and inventive locales to explore. The grand open vistas, challenging dungeons and addictive turn-based combat are just as glorious as ever, and it all comes together in a wonderful package that pays tribute to the old-school stylings of the series while still mixing in modern touches and crisp current-gen graphics.
Those incredible visuals are surprisingly well maintained in this Switch release. While some cuts had to be made to ensure the game could run on the lower powered Nintendo hybrid, I would easily put this up there with ports like Doom 2016 in terms of how impressive it is. Frame rate has been halved from 60 to a stable 30, and the resolution is noticeably lower in handheld mode, but the gorgeous lighting, vivid colours and stylish character models have come through almostunscathed. Only a meticulous side-by-side comparison of this release to the original version would reveal any major differences in texture or lighting quality.
Of all the graphical shortcuts, the only one I found bothersome was the very frequent graphical pop-in. Full character models and environmental detail like rocks and shrubbery would poof into existence a bit too close to me, and it came to be a regular distraction during my time with the game. In light of the buggy demo released last month, I should also add that I only experienced just a single random crash during the first few hours. Even just the one had me worried for a while afterward.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition makes a solid case for double-dipping to anyone who’s already played the game before, thanks to an impressive amount of additional content. Dragon Quest XI also released on 3DS in Japan, but that version of the game was built entirely in a classic 2D sprite style that evoked the design and visuals of the earliest entries in the series. The entire 2D version of the game has been included in the Switch release with only minor caveats. I was initially disappointed to find that you couldn’t swap between 3D and 2D at will. Instead, I needed to find a church and swap the modes there, setting up an alternate save file for the altered playthrough.
After some time in the new mode, it became obvious why there were so many hurdles to swapping into it. While every cutscene and piece of dialogue is matched up impressively well to how they play out in the 3D version, the maps you explore and do battle in are laid out and designed in very different ways. The path to Heliodor you take in the 3D version of the game is much smaller and more direct in the 2D version, making it hard to accurately implement any kind of live-switching feature to link the two modes. Thankfully, going into 2D mode allows you to conveniently start at any major story beat you’ve already encountered in the game, allowing you to quickly revisit any iconic scene or areas you’ve already witnessed in 3D.
There are also new story quests in this updated 2D version of the game that allow you to visit the worlds of previous Dragon Quest games, as well as a set of new quests in the 3D version of the game that put each of your party members in the spotlight, making them playable characters in their own short adventures. These new stories alone are sure to be enticing material for existing fans, and you can thankfuly avoid some of the headache of having to play through a 100-hour game again just to experience them. This Switch release lets you can skip any cutscene or dialogue scene with the Y button, and you can set combat to a new ultra-fast speed in order to blaze through battles quicker than ever.
This release is filled with quality of life improvements that make it hard to go back to the PS4 version. You can call your horse to you wherever you are with a new portable horse bell, as well as craft items whenever you want with a pocket-sized version of the Fun-Size Forge. There’s even an incredible new Japanese dub of the game you can swap to whenever you want, as well as a fully orchestrated version of the soundtrack that is also available at any time. Did I mention that costumes are now separated from their equipment slots now? Or that you can now marry any party member in the updated post-game? Or that there’s a photo mode? There’s an incredible amount of updated content and improvements in this version of the game that should make it clear to anyone that this is no simple port.