When Dragon Quest XI hit the PS4 in the West last year I was so damn excited.
It is an iconic JRPG series which due to most of its western releases being on the 3DS, I had no experience with the series, until I tried them too late where issues with the 3DS running out of battery and losing hours of data between saves kept me from enjoying myself. So, the opportunity to play on PS4 had me eager and thanks to it being an outstanding game, I enjoyed every second of it. With a Switch port making the 100+ hours of gameplay portable, I was sold for a second playthrough, and I was rewarded.
First it is worth covering what is different between the Switch port and its previous PS4 release because it is substantial. It has a handful of quality of life improvements like some added missions which flesh the story out a little, though some are a bit unnecessary, speeding up battles more, and extra Draconian Quest options such as making your party randomly cower in battle, or having NPC’s lie about important information. These are better options for second playthroughs where you won’t get angry following instructions, but it’s the perfect addition for someone wanting their second playthrough being way more challenging.
So immediately there are some features that seem to make the game better, and they absolutely do, but the biggest surprise is the addition of a 2D mode. This allows you to play the whole game with 2D pixel art, or portions of the game if you want to switch. At any time, you can go to a church to make the change so if you get sick of it now and again you can swap between beautiful 3D models or the beautiful 2D pixel art. Given the game is gorgeous in both modes, it is a wonderful choice to have at your disposal, and even better that you don’t have to commit for the whole game.
If you haven’t played Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age yet, the story kicks off with the son of a king being born which thanks to a birthmark is identified as the Luminary, a destined hero. The kingdom is attacked, and he is set off in a basket down the river where he is found by an old man who adopts him until he grows up. Once he is older, he is told of his history and gets sent off to meet one of the kings who were there when the attack happened, but this king is cynical about the Luminary being a saviour, instead considering him the Darkspawn locks him up. In the prison he comes across his first friend for his journey, the thief Erik who helps him break out.
I could write paragraphs about this games plot, so I will leave it there. It is a wonderful story that uses heavy doses of JRPG tropes to make it feel comfortable to veterans of the genre, with plenty of refreshing new takes. All the characters throughout his journey are amazingly well thought out, from the stoic and strong Jade, to the flamboyant, over the top circus man Sylvando who initially can be annoying, but he easily becomes one of the best characters in the game.
The sprawling JRPG takes a few twists and turns, a few times feeling like it was ready to end, but instead having another huge revelation from where the story continues. This isn’t a problem thanks to the gameplay which feels much like a classic JRPG with its battle system. One thing I adored was its use of automating battles. You can choose every character’s attack or automate as many as you want including the protagonist. If you are doing a little bit of grinding then automating the lot can be useful, bur the occasional boss will have you wanting to control every single attack, and as with the graphical switch, how much is totally up to you.
It’s not often I get to say this but the Switch port of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is the best version of the game, both for portability and additional features. It looks gorgeous and the beautiful soundtrack lets you enjoy this console quality game on the go with an increase of features, rather than a culling of them.
Released: September 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch