Home

Hugh Likes Video Games: Dragon Quest XI S

Leave a comment

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition
Published and Developed by Square Enix
Played on Nintendo Switch

cq5dam.thumbnail.319.319
The Skinny: Dragon Quest returns with a massive JRPG in the classic style.

While technically the PS4 version of this game came out in the U.S. last year, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age is probably one of my top games of 2019. I gave the original a pass because I just don’t have that much time to sit down in front of my television. But the portable version has been a delight.
The game follows the familiar tropes of the OGJRPG of a young man being chosen by a great force to leave his remote village and confront evil, recruiting a troupe of companions along the way. But like the other modern iterations of the series, it does a great job interrogating the tropes and cliches of the genre.
Particularly interesting is Sylvando, who is a powerful fighter, and an openly gay character in a genre of game that gets a lot of traction on AO3 but is somewhat lacking in official representation. And while the game does play him for laughs (he is a jester, after all) it also goes out of its way to portray him as strong, brave and chivalrous as well. It’s rare to see something so well done in a space where representation usually boils down to male-gaze lesbians and that time Cloud Strife wore a dress in FFVII.
Combat is fun, a little on the easy side, and about what you’ve come to expect from Dragon Quest over the past 30 years. The 3D mode has an option to let you move the characters around in battle, but it is more for aesthetics than a gameplay feature. Mini-games also make a return, from the ubiquitous Dragon Quest casino to a horse-racing mini-game and a portable forge for making weapons and armor from recipes.
Another nice feature is that while the default is to play in 3D mode, the game also includes the 3DS 2D version, which was previously unavailable in the US, as well as a massive sidequest that was unique to that version. You can even switch back and forth between the two if you want, although progress is gated to certain story chapters that aren’t so clearly delivered.
While the game looks and plays great, there are a few compromises in the animation and display. Some character animations feel jerky and off. Objects, particularly complex ones like trees, pop in as you get close to them. My Switch audibly chugged when it had to render too much in handheld mode. And like most Dragon Quest games, it is entertaining but long. I have already put in over 40 hours and from what I understand I’ve barely scratched the game’s surface. Also like modern localizations of the series, it’s full of puns. So many puns. If you aren’t onboard for a hundred hours of dad jokes, this is not the game for you.
Dragon Quest XI S is a delightful return to form for Square Enix, crammed full of exciting quests, memorable characters and a surprising story. Just be sure to set aside some time to play it, because this game is long.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Hugh Likes Video Games: Dragon Quest

Leave a comment

Dragon Quest I for Android
Created by Yuji Horii
Published by Square Enix
dq1andios_011
Square Enix is not a company that is shy about porting its classic games to new platforms.  WIth three of the most beloved Japanese Role Playing Game brands in their stable, it’s easy to see why.  And with the ubiquity of mobile gaming, it is only good business for them to move into the tablet and phone market.  But while many of these ports have been based on early updates such as the DS or PSP ports of early Final Fantasy games, the mobile port of Dragon Quest seems to be developed for the phone.
Dragon Quest, which was called “Dragon Warrior” when it was released in North America, was a full-on phenomenon in Japan but never quite took off in the United States.  The U.S. never even saw the two Super Famicom itterations of the series until they were released for the Nintendo DS in 2009 and 2011.
The mobile version of Dragon Quest is a bit to get used to but retains all the charm of the original.  The first surprise is that it runs in portrait rather than landscape orientation.  I was put off at first, but it actually works with the game’s graphical style quite well.  DQ is arguably the first true Japanese Role Playing Game, and a lot of the tropes of the subgenre start here.  Like the original, battles take place in windows that pop up on the map rather than transitioning to their own screen.  This actually works really well in portrait mode once you get used to it.  The sprites seem to come from one of the 16-bit versions of the game, and look great, but remain simple.  The soundtrack is a gorgeous, high fidelity version that sounds great, even out of the rear speaker on my Galaxy S5.  The english translation is based on Dragon Warrior’s psuedo-Shakespearian script, which is fine, but reads oddly printed in an arial font.  Windows have the original black bubble quality, but commands are on phone buttons that look a little off.  These all felt a little distracting, but don’t get in the way of the experience.
The gameplay itself, aside from a few shortcuts from the menu, remains unchanged.  This is great, but as the origin of the JRPG, it still has some rough edges.  Be ready to spend a lot of time leveling up, and accept that sometimes the game will kill you and there will have been nothing you could have done to prevent it.  Also be prepared to wander a bit.  It’s still a fun and entertaining experience, but this game doesn’t hold your hand.
If you’re looking for a bit of a gaming history lesson, or if you’re an older gamer looking for a nostalgic refresher, Dragon Quest I for mobile platforms is a bit to get used to, but does an excellent job delivering a classic game.  You can download it from your preferred app store.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it, or support me on Patreon for more content!