Published on October 4th, 2019 | by Nathan Misa
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition Nintendo Switch Review
Summary: Dragon Quest XI S is the ultimate content package of a new JRPG classic, and a phenomenal port for the Nintendo Switch.
First thing’s first – don’t let the stereotypical JRPG title put you off: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition more than deserves its long-winded moniker for the sheer quality of content on offer.
An updated port of last year’s very successful DQXI, the Definitive Edition delivers a visually resplendent, jam-packed role-playing game package complete with new quality of life features, story beats and even an old-school 2D mode that never made it out of Japan.
New and returning fans get the very best experience to enjoy on both the television and on portable screen, and considering the rest of the 23-year old JRPG series is widely available on handhelds, this version feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. The wait for the port has been more than worth it – double-dipping is recommended.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game and the porting team have done an incredible job of carrying over Akira Toriyama’s distinctive art style and the original game’s HD visuals over to the Switch version. In both docked and portable modes, the frame-rate is consistently solid and overall graphical fidelity, while not as high owing to the Switch’s less powerful hardware, remains as vivid in colour and detail as I had hoped. The portability factor of having such a content-rich RPG with a vast open-world to play during a commute is a major plus, especially when it looks this good.
The overall presentation of the game is picturesque and a treat for those craving an epic JRPG adventure. The character designs of both the main cast and the monsters (I’ve always had a soft spot for the slimes and sham hatwitch) are animated and expressive, effortlessly charming and just the right mix of cute and weird. Dialogue and voice-acting is not only well-acted, but captivating and funny, owing to the regional British accents. Purists, too will enjoy knowing there are now Japanese voices with English subs you can opt for at any time in the game’s settings. Oh, and the original’s grating synthesised soundtrack is now fully orchestrated. You can also switch to Dragon Quest VIII’s score with the free DLC through the in-game settings. Rejoice!
The real treat for both long-time Dragon Quest fans and SNES-era gamers who appreciate the 16-bit, sprite-based RPGs of yesteryear is the inclusion of a 2D mode exclusive to the Switch, which previously was limited to the Japanese-exclusive version of the game on the Nintendo 3DS. While I played mostly in 3D, the developer deserves major kudos for implementing what amounts to another full game in this port; everything is essentially re-created in a 2D graphical style – the overworld, cities, towns, dungeons, characters, monsters – and you can switch between two versions at any save-point. The one limitation is you can’t quite swap between modes on the fly; you will be brought back to the start of the last chapter should you do so.
While the story and characters remains the same in 2D mode, the vast open-world is (naturally) more condensed and the area layouts different, combat is via random encounters with mobs unavoidable, and some activities like horse-racing are altered or otherwise unavailable. I preferred playing in 3D mode, but having 2D mode readily available is neat and offers players a very unique option to entice and them back and indulge in a second, retro-inspired playthrough.
In terms of new content, Dragon Quest XI S introduces several additions and quality of life improvements that more than justify its ‘Definitive Edition’ title. There are fresh story chapters in the post-game where you control party members in their own unique adventure, new marriage options, new cosmetic-only outfits, a photo mode, a battle speed selector (a god-send for grinding), crafting and calling horses at any location (once unlocked), and bonus content from the 3DS version which lets you play optional side-stories set in the retro worlds of past Dragon Quest games. For me, having party members able to follow me around in the overworld and all cutscenes fully skippable were enough to make me jump from my unfinished PS4 save-file.
The Draconian Quest difficulty modifiers unique to Dragon Quest XI S deserve a special mention. You can up the general difficulty of the game with several unique options only available at the start of the game, such as negating any experience from monsters weaker than the party, or having townsfolk talk tripe to throw you off where to go next. All can be turned off at any church in the game, but are sure to offer up an additional level of challenge for those inclined.
If there are any weaknesses to point out in the new Definitive Edition package that aren’t the result of nit-picking, it would be some concessions owing to the hardware and one puzzling omission. While I personally found the graphics of the port to be stellar, fans who were blown away by the original release’s stellar HD visuals on PC and PS4 may fine the lower detail and jaggies in the Switch version to be a deal-breaker, and it’s something to keep in mind if you’re on the fence about double-dipping. The first-person mode present in the original version of DQXI is also removed entirely in the Switch port; while minor, it is noticeable and a bit disappointing.
What impressed me the most about Dragon Quest XI S is how ideal it is for quick 30-minute gaming sessions. JRPGs as a genre are generally not associated or tailored towards the time-poor gamer, and this is a game with over 100 hours of content on offer – yet, all of the QOL tweaks introduced in the Definitive Edition combined with the base game’s simple but addictive turn-based combat formula and straightforward adventure narrative (with enough dark elements and unexpected twists thrown in that kept me genuinely engaged throughout) felt perfect to experience in small doses during my work commute. As a triple-AAA JRPG on a portable device, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is the one to beat.
The Final Verdict
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is the ultimate JRPG package, jam-packed with dozens of hours of content and new quality of life improvements made even better with the Nintendo Switch’s portability factor. The game simultaneously celebrates its past and indulges in the old-school roots of the genre while simultaneously modernising it for the current generation, resulting in one of the best JRPGs of this generation. The Switch port is a labour of love with impressive visuals, rock-solid performance and ample fan-service that should be experienced by anyone looking for the perfect role-playing game experience on-the-go.
Primary Format – Games – Nintendo Switch
Game Genre – Role-playing game
Rating – M15+
Game Developer – Square Enix
Game Publisher – Square Enix