Dragon Quest XI doesn’t need an introduction. It was first released for the PS4 and Nintendo 3DS in 2017 but in Japan. It took a whole year for the localization to happen but the platforms changed from a Nintendo 3DS to PC in addition to PS4. For fans of the Nintendo ecosystem, they had to wait a whole year for the launch of the Dragon Quest XI S, which added tons of new content and several quality-of-life changes to the game. There was just one minor issue, and that was the visual downgrade that occurred in the transition to the underpowered hardware, which was the Nintendo Switch.
Dragon Quest XI on the Nintendo 3DS was unique in the sense that it offered a 2D gameplay mode. This was basically an old-school visual and gameplay mode that transformed the game into an 8-bit JRPG reminiscent of the early days of the series. It was an amazing implementation, seemingly interchangeable through a menu in the game. However, this feature was cut with the PS4 and PC release. It is finally back into the game with the release of the Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition.
While this mode is good for fans who are feeling nostalgic for the older Dragon Quest games, the main course is obviously the full 3D game that plays out beautifully in 60 FPS now. It is disappointing that Square Enix has kept all of the visually downgrading features intact while adding none of the polish that was present in the original release, but again the point here is that there is enough worthwhile content to consider this one a definitive release. After all, what matters most is the gameplay and story, both of which have been benefited from a slew of new improvements.
The story has been further fleshed out with a new Party Talk feature that lets the hero communicate with other party members. There is additional story content is the ability to marry and find a partner, which was not possible in the original release. New voiceovers have been added and a whole new playable area is available in the 2D gameplay mode that also brings in new monsters. While these additions are nice, those who are invested in the music will also benefit from an orchestral soundtrack compared to the MIDI in the original release.
The ability to switch between the 2D and 3D gameplay mode is not instant, which is slightly disappointing. It can only be done in a Church. This was not the case with the Nintendo 3DS release due to its dual screens, but that version is sadly exclusive to the 3DS in Japan at this point. The biggest addition in terms of quality-of-life is the ability to speed up battles that lines up well with the jump in the frame rate for the game. There is also a quick command menu in addition to dozens of tweaks that have greatly improved the experience. I wouldn’t really consider going back to the original release unless you are a hardcore visual enthusiastic who hates this minor downgrade.
Coming to the game itself, Dragon Quest XI S is a remarkable game that has a legacy to prove for itself. The series is now approaching its 35th anniversary and yet it still manages to dazzle and surprise with a new game like this one. The quality control is just remarkable to say the least, all thanks to the hard work and craftsmanship of series creator Yuji Hori. Every Dragon Quest game has retained its charm by offering a unique setting, story, and memorable characters and this is no different here. This might be my favorite entry in the franchise, taking the reins from Dragon Quest VIII.
The story is long with a scenario that stretches over 60 hours. The battle system is a mix of turn-based with the addition of controlling each party member in real-time, so while attacks happen in a turn-based order, the flow of the combat feels smoother because you don’t just sit in one place. Most of the traditional JRPG elements still exist here with a modern touch added to them, and there is just so much content to unwrap here including a higher difficulty mode called Draconian Quest with customization and tweaks based on how a player prefers it. This has also been improved with the release of Dragon Quest XI S adding more options for players to customize.
There is no other way to put it here. If you think Persona 5 Royal is the best old-school JRPG released this generation, perhaps you need to give Dragon Quest XI S a chance. I feel confident in saying that this is easily one of the best traditional JRPGs released this generation, and perhaps, even for the last 10 years. Yuji Hori doesn’t sacrifice the series traditions by shifting to modern action-based combat but instead refines the gameplay and combat system so it doesn’t feel like a chore to play like some of the classic JRPGs.
Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher