Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition is one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch. The world of Erdrea offers hundreds of hours of content, an engaging story, a wonderful cast of characters, and a combat system that can be customized to your liking. The developers have been hard at work over the past year adding new features to the game, truly making this the definitive version of Dragon Quest XI.
Two Games In One
One of the best new features on the Switch is the addition of 2D mode. Not only does this allow you to play through the entire game in 2D, but you have the ability to move back and forth between this and the 3D version of the game. It’s not entirely seamless, and you can only switch modes at Save Points, but it’s an impressive feature, nonetheless. As much as I loved the 2D art style, after a few hours I found myself wanting to return to the beautiful 3D rendition of Erdrea. There’s something magical about playing a JRPG of this size on the Switch and for some reason everything just seemed better with that third dimension. If you’re a diehard fan of JRPG classics, however, you’ll find much to love in this 16-bit addition.
The main gameplay loop of moving from location to location, solving the world’s problems, and discovering more about the story of the Luminary is still intact, and is just as entertaining as it was last year. However, the list of new material is extensive, and I’ve yet to come across something new that wasn’t a welcome inclusion. Crafting has been improved, traveling around the overworld is easier, and combat is even more customizable than before. I’m a huge fan of the battle system in DQXI, but the normal combat speed was a bit slow. Having the option to speed up combat is a boon for grinding out some last-minute XP before a boss fight. There’s also a new Japanese voice over option, which is a fun addition, even if it doesn’t add much to the game.
Playing In Mute
Speaking of voice-overs, I was surprised at how hit or miss the overall voice acting was. This was an issue in the PS4 version of the game, and given how "complete" the Switch edition feels, I was shocked to find that they still used the same English voice-overs. To be fair, parts of the game are meant to be over-the-top and humorous, but I often found myself changing to the Japanese voice overs simply because they were less grating. The English cast has a ridiculous range of accents that are so overdramatic, many characters become annoying after just a few lines of dialogue. To compound the issue, the soundtrack becomes repetitive just as quickly. Thankfully, you now have access to both a Symphonic version of the original soundtrack and a portion of the music from Dragon Quest XIII (thanks to some Day One DLC) to help bring much-needed variety to your ears.
Quirky Characters and A Classic Quest
It’s unfortunate that the voice acting is subpar, as the character design is top notch. Each character not only features a distinct Akira Toriyama design (from the Dragon Ball series), but they are thoughtfully brought to life with fluid animations and a brilliant script. One of the best parts of moving through the game is encountering all the new characters. Each region introduces a new aesthetic to the world, bringing with it a new cast of characters. You’ll instantly fall in love with Sylvando, come to hate or pity Lord Faris, and make connections with all your party members along the way. I’m not one to usually get attached to characters (one of my many personal flaws), but I grew close to these lovable folks over the course of the game.
In my opinion, the main story takes a backseat to character development in Dragon Quest XI. That being said, it’s still an enjoyable quest; one that will keep you guessing and engaged for hours. The main character discovers that they are a descendant of The Luminary, a heroic being who is tasked with saving the world in times of crisis. You’ll embark on a quest to reach the magical being, Yggdrasil, and help others in need, all while escaping capture from the King and his men. Beyond the main quest, the world is filled with the usual assortment of side quests. Some are more worthwhile than others, but they are usually exciting enough to be worth the effort. Puff-Puff, a long running joke in the Dragon Quest series, also makes an appearance in Dragon Quest XI. It’s a weird feature (as it always is), but is just another quirk in a quirky game.
A Hero On The Switch
I can’t say enough about this incredible title. Many ports to the Switch are often the exact same game they were on other consoles… but with ‘muddier’ graphics. While the visuals on the handheld console are certainly worse than on the PS4, Square Enix has added enough extra content to more than make up for this. Dragon Quest XI sets a new bar for ports to the Switch, and I can only hope that more developers follow Square Enix’s lead in the future.