Last year Nintendo Switch fans got to experience the likes of Dragon Quest XI when the definitive edition hit their platform of choice. The original PS4 and PC title (of which we reviewed back when it released here) had been spruced up with a number of features and new content, helping to sell the critically acclaimed RPG to a new audience. Now here we are, a year after that with the game circling back around for its second definitive release on PS4, PC and Xbox One.
Similar to said Switch release, this Definitive Edition (aptly titled Dragon Quest XI S Definitive Edition), comes packed with a laundry list of features not found in the original 2018 (2017 in Japan) release. Now that the game’s been ported back around to its original source, how does it stack up?
Having tested the game running on PlayStation 5, the base game starts out innocently enough. If you’ve played the original Dragon Quest XI you’ll largely know what to expect. For those who haven’t, well… a titanic beast of a game awaits you.
The briefest rundown for newcomers, the game tasks you as the silent protagonist of your story – the Luminary as it were. Or rather, its reincarnation. The Luminary is a force of light chosen by the tree of life, Yggdrasil tasks to eliminate darkness from the land. As with any typical RPG, as the Luminary you’ll venture cross the lands of Erdrea, meet a colorful cast of companions all while discovering the ins and outs of a vast world.
Gameplay and, by extension, the battle system consists of a fairly straight forward turn-based combat setup. Attacking or defending through menu-based selections which can be sped up or slowed down depending on selected settings. You can control tactics as well as the characters themselves in battle. All in all it’s a modern take on a classic formula.
The Definitive Edition, while not quite as striking as the original (it’s the Switch version ported back to the PS4 after all), still holds up on the visual front. The game’s bright art direction and Akira Toriyama character designs come through just as vibrant. The game runs quite fast too, with framerates at a faster pace and load times, at least on PS5, lightning fast. Load screens finish in less than a handful of seconds so you’re back in the game in no time at all.
For those not entirely keen on the 3D visuals, however, the Definitive Edition adds a new mode that lets you play the entirety of the game in 2D. Similar to classic Dragon Quest games of the 16-bit Super Famicom days, characters and maps are now made up of pixel art. Similar to the Switch version, players can swap between modes at will, should they desire to scratch that nostalgic itch or go back to a more modern experience.
The game also offers up a selection of music types, with the traditional old school tracks being swapped out for their orchestral versions. You’ll have a choice on what you want to hear when you get started, but like the 2D mode, can swap around whenever you want. Personally, I preferred the orchestral score as it helped levitate the more modern design sensibilities of the game.
As with the original Western release, the Definitive Edition features voice acting. In addition to the English cast, the Japanese track is also available should you so choose. The game also sports a photo mode so you can catalogue every frame of your journey. The photo mode is neat because in addition to normal screenshots you can pose characters and observe them from different angles.
Other improvements come with the addition of new character stories that further delve into the individual party members. They help flesh out what are otherwise fun characters on their own, breathing more life into the narrative.
All in all, the Definitive Edition is just that: the definitive release of the game. Despite being a port up from the Switch release, the added feature set and story content more than makes up for it. Being able to run at a higher resolution than its Switch counter part also helps, and the smooth backwards compatibility on PS5 even better.
The one downside is, however, the game stands so far apart from the original DQXI release that existing owners of that game won’t be able to upgrade for free. Square Enix have already said as much and it’s a bit of a shame because you effectively have to buy the game again to experience the new content. Fans can at least take solace in knowing it’s not locked to the Switch release forever despite not arriving in the most ideal of packages.
That said, for newcomers this is the way to go. Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition is still every bit the stellar experience of the original and even more. Sure, it’ll clock in around 100 hours or more but there’s a reason the game continues to be highly acclaimed. After all’s said and done, Dragon Quest XI remains one of the best RPGs this generation.
Disclaimer: A PlayStation 4 copy of Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition was provided to Nova Crystallis for review by the publisher.