Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age first released for PS4 and 3DS back in 2017 before coming to PS4 and PC in the West a year later. Prior to either of those releases, a Nintendo Switch version of the game was announced back when it was simply known under codename NX. Fans have been waiting for that version for years now and it has finally arrived with the best version of the game to date in Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition.
The Dragon Quest series has almost always offered players an enthralling story with charming characters that make the journey all the more enjoyable and that is no different in Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. Starting years before the main plot of the game, the game’s lead protagonist is sent away from the castle of Heliodor as an infant to the town of Cobblestone, as he is the true reincarnation of the ancient hero that saved the world of Erdrea known as the Luminary. Years later, the reincarnated Luminary and his childhood best friend Gemma, who also happened to be born on the same day, take part in a ceremony upon their reaching adulthood.
During this ceremony, his true lineage is revealed after he manages to summon lightning via a marking that appears on his hand when Gemma is in trouble. After learning that he is the reincarnation of the hero that is destined to save the land, he heads towards the capital to speak with the king. As with most stories involving a crown though, the king immediately does not believe him and instead calls the Luminary a fake. This leads to his imprisonment, where you meet your first party member Erik.
After escaping from the dungeons of Heliodore, the Luminary and Erik set off on a journey where you must live up to your legacy and save the world once again. Along the way, you will meet six other characters that eventually will join your party and add even more to the overall experience. Whether it’s the flirty Jade, the compassionate Serena, or the flamboyant Sylvando, the character interactions in this game are phenomenal and are made even better here on the Switch with additional party member conversations available. These are easily accessed while walking around in the overworld, which you can choose to dive into for more character development or just leave them be. This version in particular even adds an extra sidequest for each of the party members that helps to flesh out their personalities further. Even as something that seems small, having the characters following behind you on the overworld map in this version is a nice touch to add a sense of family between these characters.
One feature in Dragon Quest XI in general that really is underrated is the recap provided every time you start the game back up. Especially in a game as story driven as this, having a quick rundown of recent events from your previous game sessions is a big help. You can just skip past this if you want, but it’s really helpful if say you hadn’t played in quite awhile and get a little refresher before diving back in. This is something that all RPGs should start to add moving forward, with it being a great inclusion here.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition features the classic turn-based combat you know and love from the series, but adds a little more free reign to the battles by letting you move around the battlefield when in combat. There are no random encounters to be found here, as the monsters are found on the map and trigger a battle when interacted with. This can be from just touching them or attacking preemptively for a little extra damage by hitting them in the overworld.
The battle system is prototypical Dragon Quest this time around, where you have the basic Attack option for whatever weapon you have equipped, as well as your Spells and Abilities. You start off the game with little in the way of the latter two, but that is where the game’s Character Builder comes into play very early on in the game. Nearly every RPG has some form of skill tree based system that has you learning new abilities throughout by using points you collect throughout the game from leveling up. Each party member has their own tree to build upon here, based on three weapons and then a character specific type, such as Luminary for the lead protagonist. You must use the skill points you earn to unlock the skills along the way, with the amount of points you obtain varying throughout the game.
As great as the original release of the game was, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition manages to add in multiple quality of life features that make the experience all the better. The ability to increase the speed of battle is a major help here, as sometimes the battles could feel a bit dragged out between attacks, so having two additional speed options is a godsend. Crafting also plays a role in the game as before and now it is even easier than ever. In the original releases, you had to visit a campsite to use the Forge to craft items, but now you can simply access it from the menu at anytime once you gain access to it in the game. This makes crafting so much better, as you can now do it whenever you need instead of always having to find a campsite to do so.
One of the absolute coolest new features in Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is the addition of 2D mode. This isn’t some small mini-game or game mode either, as the entire game can be played in this 2D mode with 16-bit sprites. You can’t just change between the two at will, but it can be done pretty easily and allows you to experience the game in full with both the 3D and 2D modes. The only problem here is that you will have to go back to the last specific checkpoint the game decides when you switch over, so you can end up losing progress when going between the two. Since the 3DS release that was Japan only featured the 2D mode we never got, to have both modes available here truly proves the definitive part of the game’s title.
The 2D mode isn’t the only ode to the past in the game, as the town of Tickington takes this to an entirely new level. This 16-bit town that you must play in 2D is truly a tribute to the series as a whole, with quests honoring the past games in the series. There are quests based around the 10 previous Dragon Quest games, which is a great way to honor the long running franchise in what is a pretty meaty series of sidequests.
Also brand new to Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is a Photo Mode for the game. Photo modes have become a major trend in gaming over the last few years, especially with the sharing integration on various consoles, so it just made sense to add it in here. The Photo Mode here is quite enjoyable and lets you capture all the moments of your adventure with relative ease.
Considering the lesser power of the Nintendo Switch, it was expected there would be a bit of a visual downgrade between the PS4 and PC versions to this. While this is the case, it really is not anywhere near that big of a deal in the long run. Base PS4 consoles ran the original version at 900p, which is the same as on the Nintendo Switch when docked, but you will see a drop to 720p in handheld mode. Thanks to the animated visuals, you cannot even really tell that big of a difference, though there is definitely a little downgrade overall. The performance on Switch is also very solid, maintaining a 30fps just like on PS4 throughout the game with minimal slowdown throughout.
As well received as the original release for Dragon Quest XI was, a common complaint by many was the lack of an orchestrated soundtrack in the game. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition addresses this complaint head on by now including a fully orchestrated soundtrack as the default music option in the game. The original synthesized version is still available within the options menu, but there is no question the fully orchestrated one is the way to go here. Purists can even change the audio to the original Japanese voices in this version as well, which is always a good option to have.
Dragon Quest XI was already one of the best JRPGs of the generation by far and Square Enix has managed to improve on that even further with Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. On top of the numerous quality of life improvements, this release adds the entirely 2D campaign originally only found on the 3DS version, new character quests, and the much requested orchestral soundtrack. Mixing in the ability to play the game on the go now, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition truly lives up to its name and more.
While a straight port of Dragon Quest XI with the perk of playing portably on Switch would have been enticing enough, Square Enix went not just the extra mile, but many extra miles with the content rich Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition.