Dragon Quest XI S for Nintendo Switch review: This is the best version of an already amazing game

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: This is the best version of Dragon Quest XI. It includes new character storylines, allows you to switch between playing a 2D and 3D version of the game, and has several other small enhancements to make the gaming experience more convenient and fun.


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    2D mode is awesome

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    Gorgeous world and character design

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    New story content adds to character backstories

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    Orchestral music is phenomenal

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    Fun turn-based combat

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    Several small enhancements


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    The world isn't as open as it first appears

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    Not for those who hate battle grinding

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Last weekend, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition released on the Nintendo Switch. This is an enhanced adventure that combines the 3D version of the game, previously released on both PS4 and PC, as well as the 16-bit version that was released exclusively in Japan on the 3DS. Many folks are saying that playing Dragon Quest XI on Switch is the best way to enjoy the game, and I heartily agree.

The cartoony visuals, vibrant landscapes, turn-based combat, and fantasy storyline all feel at home on Switch devices. What's more, the improved music, added character storylines, and gorgeous 2D mode all work together to make this the best version of the game that I've seen yet. Seriously, if you haven't picked this game up for your Switch you really ought to.

It tells the tale of an unnamed protagonist who discovers early on that he's, not only an orphaned prince but also the Luminary - a magical individual who's responsible for defeating darkness and protecting the land. Unfortunately, some believe that he is the very darkness that he seeks to destroy. You'll be on the lam from your hunters from pretty early on in the game. As you traverse the land you'll battle fantastical monsters, meet new folks to travel with, learn more about who you are, and defeat the evil forces plaguing the land.

An epic turn-based RPG

Dragon Quest XI S What I like

Gorgeous visuals Art direction and resolution

Before this game released, many people, including myself, expressed concern over how the game would look on the Switch considering the lower resolution and frame rate capabilities of the Nintendo gaming system. From the moment I started up the game, I was blown away by how well the visuals and gameplay looked. I mean, you can definitely see a difference if you compare the PS4 version side-by-side against the Switch's, but overall the game runs beautifully and is pure eye candy.

The 3D mode and 16-bit mode are different enough from each other to feel like two completely different versions of the game.

What's more, if you're playing in handheld mode the low resolution really isn't noticeable thanks to the small dimensions of the screen. The game looks equally beautiful in docked mode while displayed on my large flat-screen TV. Sometimes the lines are a little blurry, but it's really only noticeable if you go looking for it.

One of the things I love about this game is the gorgeous landscapes and character designs. Everything is full of rich colors whether it be the green countryside or the blue hair of your traveling companion. The monsters you come across all have interesting designs and some of them have clever names to go with them. It makes me excited to go exploring whenever I reach a new area because I'm never sure what new monsters or locations I'll come across.

2D and 3D modes Feels like two different games

Dragon Quest XI S 16-bit visuals

Dragon Quest XI S 16-bit visuals (Image credit: iMore)

If you're unfamiliar with the history of Dragon Quest XI then it might be strange to learn that there's a complete 2D version of the game that comes with the Switch release. Back in 2017, a 16-bit version of the game released exclusively in Japan for the Nintendo 3DS. So the 2D version isn't completely new, but a section of it is.

To tie the 2D sections in with the 3D game, Square Enix added a new 2D location called Tickington. Here players interact with Tockles, little white creatures that were previously unnamed and resemble Adipose from the Doctor Who TV series. Tickington is basically a station for several side quests. I love this section because it forces you to interact with the 2D world and the short quests remind me of playing games on my SNES in the 90s.

You can play in the 2D world as you go through the game, all you need to do is interact with a church or a statue to switch between the 3D and the gorgeous, retro, 16-bit world. The best part about the two modes is that they are different enough from each other to feel like two completely different versions of the game. For instance, instead of being able to see monsters and avoid them like in 3D the 2D mode operates with random encounters. Additionally, the map looks different and items are placed in different areas compared to where they are in 3D. It's almost like getting double your money's worth since you can enjoy the game for twice as long.

New story content Adds depth to teammates

The storyline in Dragon Quest XI is already good, but the addition of character backstories and cut scenes in the definitive Switch edition, makes it so there's even more to discover. Once you get to a specific section of the game, you are able to play as the other members of your team. This allows you to learn about their pasts and visit new locations from their own perspective instead of witnessing it from the view of the main character. Some of the added content can feel a little disjointed at times, but I love that it allows you to get more out of this story.

Fun combat mechanics For those who love turn-based RPGs

I've already mentioned several times that this JRPG has a turn-based battle system. What I like about this one is that it allows you to move around during battles so you aren't stuck in one spot. Combat isn't groundbreaking or anything, but I do find the battles in this game challenging and satisfying.

I love the feeling I get from RPGs when I become stronger and this game makes you feel like you earn it. There are plenty of new attacks to learn by leveling up or by interacting with the skill trees. As with most RPGs, this one allows you to purchase better equipment and gear to increase your combat stats. However, gear is pretty expensive and you need to do a lot of battling in order to get the necessary amount of funds and experience to defeat bosses. It makes it more rewarding when you do become powerful or when you do earn enough money to purchase the best weapons and armor.

The enhancements New music and conveniences

There are several enhancements in the Switch definitive edition that make playing the game more convenient and fun. Some of them aren't noticeable, but others make a huge difference. For example, in previous versions of the game players could only access the Fun-Size Forge when at a campsite, but the Switch version allows you to craft weapons and gear anywhere as long as you have the materials needed. This is a huge improvement that makes it easier to equip your characters with good gear.

The visuals, play style, and enhancements really make the Switch version of Dragon Quest XI the best one out there.

One of the most obvious improvements is with the orchestral music. The minute you start up the Switch game, the lively instruments greet your ears. It's a marked improvement over the synthesized music found in previous versions of the game. If you really want to, you can switch back to the original music to switch things up. Additionally, Switch owners get the option of choosing between the English or Japanese voiceovers.

Among the small improvements is the addition of the Horse Hailer, which allows you to summon your horse to you even when there is no bell post handy. It goes without saying, that this makes it easier to traverse the map. You can also skip cut scenes if you want to instead of playing through them, there are new marriage options for you to experience, new costumes for your characters to wear, you now gain a small amount of experience when you run monsters over with your horse, and there are plenty of other small changes. You won't notice many of these improvements, but they work together to make a better gaming experience.

Dragon Quest XI S What I don't like

DQ11 review

DQ11 review (Image credit: iMore)

I still say Dragon Quest XI S on Switch is the best version of this game. However, there are some things that could still use improvement.

Too many boundaries The world isn't as open as it first appears

From the minute I started a brand new game, the visuals and colorful imagery of Dragon Quest XI S delighted me. It's especially awe-inspiring when I finally got to explore the large world for the first time. However, the illusion of freedom gets shattered whenever I come across the many invisible walls that prevent me from entering water or from jumping off certain ledges.

I was reminded of how many invisible walls there are while replaying this RPG.

Since it's been a while since I last played this game on PS4, I'd forgotten how many limitations there are. It really wouldn't be so bad if the limitations were consistent. However, that's not the case. Some areas allow you to wade in water, while others won't let you touch it at all. Similarly, you might be able to jump off a ledge in one area, but invisible walls prevent you from doing it in another. It really doesn't seem like there's a reason for this and just makes me feel confined.

Repetitive combat Too much grinding

If you haven't played Dragon Quest XI before, it's important to note that you need to do a lot of battle grinding if you want to get far in this game. Gear can be pretty expensive and enemies can be difficult so you'll need to fight a lot of monsters in order to earn experience and money. I personally find it relaxing, but I know there are many people who don't like battling this much.

The Switch version does allow you to increase battle speed to ultra-fast so you don't have to spend as much time watching battle animations, but it can still take time to get through multiple fights. If this doesn't sound fun to you, then Dragon Quest XI might not be a game you'd enjoy.

Dragon Quest XI S Bottom Line

Dragon Quest XI was already an amazing game, but when you play the Nintendo Switch version the additional enhancements further improve the experience. Though the visuals don't look as good as they do on PC or PS4, the art style and colors look great on the Switch whether you're playing in handheld or docked mode. The landscapes are gorgeous, the characters all have vibrant and interesting personalities, there are plenty of interesting monsters to battle, and I find combat deeply rewarding. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys RPGs and fantasy adventures.

This fantasy adventure lets you experience an epic journey. It's got an interesting plot, good battle mechanics, and gorgeous visuals. Anyone itching for a good RPG will enjoy this game in either the retro 16-bit mode or the HD 3D mode.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.