There is no limit to the cuteness that can be distilled from Dragon Quest. It’s there at every turn, with the happy slimes and the clever puns at every corner. It’s the perfect playground for a kid-friendly, low-stakes affair, and as you’re probably aware, that’s precisely what Dragon Quest Treasures has been pitched to be.
Developer Tose, the prolific studio behind the Dragon Quest Monsters series and — as it happens — Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion, is the perfect pick to deliver a simple tale about siblings Erik and Mia. All the better, then, that the bulk of the game’s events occur within another dimension; there’s no risk of stepping all over established worldbuilding in the relatively more serious (albeit still whimsical) world of Dragon Quest XI.
This newfound dimension in question is called Draconia, and it will, if you’ll allow its goofiness to get the better of you, charm the heck out of you at every turn. It’s stuffed with references to past Dragon Quest games, from smart little nods for the in-the-know to straight-up character cameos. The result is a veritable feast for any longtime fan, even if some fans will find Treasures‘ gameplay more of a middling buffet than anything truly filling.
I say this lovingly. You see, I don’t mind that Dragon Quest Treasures’ combat system is not great. Heck, it’s not even good. I don’t mind because I’ve found myself far more engaged with its surprisingly sizable explorable regions, coupled with the thrill of cool loot around every corner, and the enjoyment of seeing the realm of Draconia slowly return to grace. But, as a reviewer, I can’t simply brush aside the game’s biggest weakness: battles are a bore.
Whether you’re controlling Erik or Mia, you’ll find yourself smashing away at the attack button semi-mindlessly for a vast portion of Dragon Quest Treasures‘ slim runtime. (For reference, I finished my playthrough in 25 hours, and I feel like I got plenty of mileage out of its optional offerings in conjunction with the main storyline.) The kids have slingshots, and they’ll be shooting pellets at all manner of nasty interlopers until they’re dead and dusted. There’s more to it, mind you; healing your helpful monsters, a handful of special abilities, and the like.
A friend of mine, a huge fan of Dragon Quest Monsters, headed into Treasures hoping for a similarly complex system of training fiends and unlocking their full fighting potential. He came away from it fairly bummed; that’s not what Treasures is about. Exploration is front-and-center, and your monster pals are more frequently concerned with helping you traverse the landscape and sniffing out particular favorite varieties of treasure than doing much of note in battle. That’s not to say they aren’t important parts of combat, because they absolutely are — it’s just that they’re going to do whatever it is they want to do when bludgeoning your foes, and there’s not a lot you can do to inform them otherwise. Thankfully, they’re pretty good at the aforementioned bludgeoning.
But hey, about that exploration.
Dragon Quest Treasures is less about touting deep RPG mechanics, then, but rather it uses its role-playing overlay as a jumping-off point for its kid-friendly plot about restoring hope to the downtrodden, and banding together with a ragtag found-family gang to renew Draconian denizens with a sense of happiness and purpose.
Now, if you’re allergic to JRPGs that harp on about hope, I have some weirdly good news: the script’s subdued to the point that common tropes like nonstop chatter over hope, dreams, and honor are largely tossed by the wayside. Thank goodness. On the other hand, the tossing-out might have more to do with the brevity and generally shallow nature of character interactions, rather than any willful decision on the writers’ part to sidestep the overly familiar.
And frankly, that’s OK. Some games don’t have to be a mile deep in every direction to be a fun, if merely passing, good time. I doubt I’ll touch Dragon Quest Treasures again for years, but it’ll be there waiting for me when I feel the urge to ingest another few ounces of its particular brand of cuteness. It might not reach the heights of the mainline series, and if you’re looking for another Monsters, I’ve got bad news for you. But if you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy some vintage tunes in a fun world that celebrates the most time-honored JRPG franchise there is, you could do far worse.
Plan an overseas trip to the all-ages fantasy realm of Draconia in Dragon Quest Treasures. It’ll be fun. Just don’t book your flight for than a few days — it’s a fun destination, but there’s only so much to see.
Disclaimer: Review code for Dragon Quest Treasures was provided by the publisher Square Enix.