Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is an old game. While it’s the newest entry in the Dragon Quest series, it has a decidedly throwback vibe. And considering that Dragon Quest basically invented the Japanese role-playing game genre, that makes Dragon Quest XI S quite old-fashioned indeed. It’s also a port. This Nintendo Switch version adds some new features on a game that launched two years ago in Japan and a year ago in the West.
None of this is bad though. Dragon Quest XI S doesn’t need to change because it works. It’s classic. But beyond that, experiencing the game on the go for the first time shows how old games can shine in new ways when presented in new forms.
I’m not going to go over the basics of Dragon Quest XI again. For that you can read our previous review. But here’s a brief summary. As the legendary hero (and new Super Smash Bros. character) the Luminary, it’s up to you and your party of colorful Dragon Ball Z characters to travel across the continent pushing back the darkness. Tale as old as time.
The gameplay is also as old as time. No building here. Dragon Quest XI uses its patented straightforward turn-based battle system. Defeat enemies with tactical combinations of physical attacks, magic spells, heals and buffs, and special Pep Powers that randomly trigger giving you that extra edge. Battles sit at this nice sweet spot between smart enough to be engaging and frictionless enough that you can just churn through a bunch of them for a relaxing grind. It helps that you can set characters to perform automatically when you don’t feel like giving instruction every single turn.
We already know this because of Pokemon, but RPG combat like Dragon Quest’s just shines in portable form. It’s super easy to slay a bunch of monsters on the bus and feel like you’re making meaningful progress. It’s perfect for, say, killing the time between appointments at a bustling event like New York Comic Con. On Switch you can make battles play out even faster adding to the convenience. The relatively small integers, whether it’s for hit points or skill trees or level experience, make everything easier to follow compared to other games in the infamously complex JRPG genre. Looking at you, Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
In Japan at least, players already knew Dragon Quest XI was a good portable game because of the 3DS version. But on Switch, you get that ease of portable play with the gorgeous presentation of the full-blown console version. Exploring these massive varied areas from the comfort and intimacy of your bed brings back memories of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If anything, the performance is slightly more solid.
Quaint towns and massive cities alike are bursting with side quests, cool details, and just tons of charm. The music is so lush it almost makes you forget how repetitive it is (and how hateful ancient composer Koichi Sugiyama is). On Switch you can also opt for a 2D 16-bit style. And we mean true flat 16-bit, not the rose-colored glasses of Octopath Traveler. Some side quests even require you to enter these alternate retro realms. It’s a neat gimmick, even if they do bring back oppressive random encounters. But honestly I don’t see how anyone could give up seeing these visuals at their best.
There are other new features Dragon Quest XI S like extra difficulty options, new mounts, and new features for the weapon-forging minigame. But considering that I never played the original, I can’t tell you how much they help the experience. I also haven’t even finished the game myself yet. Another plus of playing on the go is that I can chip away at this behemoth for months on my Nintendo Switch Lite, a much more manageable play style. Truly this version is the best of both worlds. And since the free demo lasts longer than some entire games while, you can see for yourself, too.