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REVIEW: Dragon Quest XI S

Dragon Quest XI S Title Screen
Title Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition
Developer Square Enix
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date September 27th, 2019
Genre JRPG
Platform Nintendo Switch
Age Rating ESRB T for Teen
Official Website

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition isn’t merely a port of the fabulous PlayStation 4 and PC game. As such, this review will be entirely focused on the differences between this version and the base game. If you are looking for a review about the story, characters, battle system, and other basic features of the game, check out my original review here. If you are at all interested in JRPGs, but haven’t played Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age because you didn’t have a system capable of it, then you should definitely pick it up. None of the added features are likely to make or break a first purchase, but they can definitely determine whether it is worth purchasing a second copy of the game. There are really only two minor areas where this version could be possibly construed as inferior to the base game. The first minor downgrade is that the graphic quality is reduced, but not to a drastic extent (texture quality and lower draw distance), and the other is that this is the only version without any trophy support, outside of the game’s own internal achievements.

Dragon Quest XI S | 2D Mode
The entire game can be played like a classic 2D Dragon Quest.

Other than those minor things, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is entirely additive. The most obvious added feature can be used right away, and that is the full classic Dragon Quest 2D mode. The 2D mode is not just classic in its graphical styling (looking most similar to the SNES era of the games), but it also features a much more traditional approach to combat. As such, some of the features that you may be used to in the base game may not transfer over entirely. There are too many examples to list, but a subtle one would be how MP restorative effects are added to the characters. In 3D mode it may do so before you take your turn, but in 2D mode it happens after your entire party goes. As such, you can find that you are using much more MP than in 3D mode, because you will not get it back if you defeat the monster before the turn is over. Another important distinction is that enemy targeting happens in the traditional way, so this mode may take a lot to get used to if the player is unfamiliar with classic Dragon Quest. You can switch back and forth between 3D and 2D at any Goddess Statue, however you will start at the beginning of whatever Chapter you choose. A side benefit of this limitation is that it is a subtle way to get in NG+ as well, because you bring your equipment and levels with you.

Dragon Quest XI S | Tickington
Tickington is an entirely new area that is only in 2D.

Fairly early on in your adventure you will meet up with an individual out in the world who will be able to send you to an entirely new area, called Tickington. This area and all quests associated with it are entirely new to Dragon Quest XI S. Whether you are playing in 3D or 2D mode in your main adventure, the graphic style will always transition into 2D when you are transported to Tickington. If you played the original version of the game, you will know the creatures that populate this area, but if you haven’t they will be a bit confusing until you reach Act 3 of the game (after the first credits). But they do offer sidequests with some fairly nice rewards early on in the game, and a couple rewards that are exclusive to them. One potential source of confusion or frustration might be that they tell you in the Quest Log when you can technically reach a new quest giver (you find them out in the regular world before going back to Tickington), but that is only when you can reach the local area. That individual may still be locked behind a door that you don’t have the key for, or need to wait for a particular story event. So if you see that a quest giver is available to you, search around that listed area, but if you can’t find them it’s best to come back later (especially after getting the Magic Key and Ultimate Key).

Dragon Quest XI S | Familiar
Wait, I seem to remember this from somewhere.

This town is entirely new to Dragon Quest XI S, but it contains a series of books which will transport the Luminary and his party to various different worlds. For those who have played them, it doesn’t take long before you will notice that each of those worlds is represented by a previous entry in the Dragon Quest series. This was fantastic for me, since I’ve played the entirety of every game in the series other than Dragon Quest X (the MMORPG). The Tickington content is entirely additive, so I wouldn’t criticize it too much. But there are some potential issues for players of Dragon Quest XI S, especially those who are entirely new to the series.┬áMany of the quests given here are rather short and often don’t have a lot of direction to them. This is particularly noticeable when they send you to another area from the past. If you don’t know very much about that original game, then you may be confused by some of the names and references. And you may end up having to do a bit of trial and error before it works. But even when a quest is short, it’s still impressive that the development team took the time to re-render every game in the series in this new way. Some of the monster and character models will transfer over with little problems, but many of them don’t. That can involve making very old monsters and regions more graphically impressive or it can mean entirely recreating a 3D monster and area into sprites. That is not a minor amount of work.

Dragon Quest XI S | New Bosses
The Tickington content culminates with a series of all new boss encounters.

Once you have completed all the quests from each tome (all of them have 3, other than Dragon Quest X), a statue will form above the book featuring the hero for that particular game. Or a token hero if the game had multiple options (true of III, IX, and X). After you have completed them all you will enter a series of completely new boss fights with some very interesting rewards. And finally after they have all been completed a new fight will become available back in the normal world outside of Tickington. This fight can happen either in the 3D or the 2D world and features the strongest boss in the game, and by quite a ways. This is a nice addition because one thing Dragon Quest XI S is missing from previous games in the series is that notorious Dragon Quest difficulty. There is still the option to add handicaps to your playthrough, which was added to the English version of the original game, but we were still missing some of the super bosses you could find in the later Dragon Quest games. The Tickington boss series definitely increases the difficulty a bit, but the true monster is the fight at the end of the whole series in the “real world”. Even with the best gear on every character I had to do a bit of Seed farming. But that was satisfying after how easy the rest of the game is.

Dragon Quest XI S | Intermission Stories
The side stories between Act 1 and 2 are a very nice addition.

One of the largest reasons for picking up Dragon Quest XI S, even if you already own the original game, is the 2D mode of the game. But even if you were never into those classic Dragon Quest titles, there are other reasons to pick this version up. One of the complaints in the first game was the abrupt turn the story takes between Act 1 and Act 2. You were originally told some of what happened by a prominent NPC (trying to keep it vague), but even when you reunite with your friends, some of it remained a mystery. They added a whole bunch of content between Act 1 and Act 2 this time that fills in those stories for everyone but the Twins. If they showed you everything that went on with the Twins, it would have lessened the impact of a later scene, so that omission is understandable and I really can’t elaborate on it further than that. But your party members and a few side characters really get to shine in these side stories, so it really is an extremely strong addition to the overall game of Dragon Quest XI S, and perhaps more than any other feature marks this as the Definitive Edition of the game.

Dragon Quest XI S | Jade Marriage
Yes, you can finally give Jade her proper place, or others if you are a Philistine.

There are a lot of other, more subtle additions to Dragon Quest XI S. The other large complaint with the original version of the game was the midi soundtrack, and now almost every song in the game has been given a Symphonic treatment. This can be changed at any time in the menu, and is an overall improvement, just probably not as drastic of a quality increase as many would have hoped. They also added many new items, and especially several new armor sets for each character that slot in nicely with progression and also give you some very nice glamour options. There were also some strong quality of life improvements when it comes to the Quick Menu, especially calling any mount and using the Forge anywhere. The Forge also had a massive quality of life improvement that allows you to purchase any material that is carried by a vendor somewhere in the world right from the Equipment Creation menu. Because gold is easier to come by than previous Dragon Quest games, much easier than many foraged items, this is a massive time saver. Some classicists might balk at so many quality of life improvements, but they are also optional, so realistically Dragon Quest XI S doesn’t suddenly get a Casuals Only tag due to these changes. It is still most definitely a hardcore JRPG that is extremely long, especially now with the added content.

Dragon Quest XI S | New Outfits
The new outfits are good enough that I used them most of the game.

As I said at the beginning, if you are new to this game but like JRPGs then feel free to jump right in. But even if you played through the entirety of the game in its original form, I can still heartily recommend this game. I might say that you can wait for a sale, but this is published by Nintendo and sales will be extremely rare. Was it worth playing through again for $60? Most definitely, but I cannot say that will be true for everyone. There is at least 20 hours of new content here, but realistically just having this wonderful JRPG on the go and with the quality of life improvements already made it a must buy for me. Fringe benefit is the added story content. If I was in charge, there is only really one other thing I would have added, and that’s additional skill trees. But that is small fry compared to what they did add, especially when it comes to actually getting to marry my waifu Jade (which wasn’t possible in the original).

Review Score

Review Copy Provided by Play-Asia

William Haderlie
Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.