Dragon Quest I, II and III (Switch) Review

Dragon Quest I, II and III a.k.a the Erdrick Trilogy was first released over three decades ago and were considered to be the progenitor of modern-day JRPGs because they launched the popularity of the genre into the stratosphere in Japan. It’s hard to find a JRPG free of Dragon Quest’s influence. Over the years, the beloved trilogy has been ported/remade multiple times over multiple platforms, from the original Gameboy to modern smart-phones, each version shipping with its own unique spin. So it’s not surprising that Square Enix, yet again re-released the trilogy on the Switch alongside the latest Dragon Quest XIS, but is this port worth your time?

The short answer is ‘Yes’, but only if you have never played the original trilogy. It gets complicated for those who have played them before because Dragon Quest I-II-III on the Switch is a direct port of the mobile remake with some graphical enhancements but no extra content. The graphical fidelity has been improved with sharper character sprites, tiles and correct ratio for modern TVs but they are still practically the same with the mobile versions. Let’s take a deeper look at each title and see how each of them fares on the Switch.

The original Dragon Quest is as simplistic as you’d expect from a 35-year-old game. You are the descendant of the legendary hero Erdrick, tasked with a mission to defeat the evil Dragon Lord and save the world. There is no plot twist, unnecessary drama or even another party member. It is that simple. Yet, something is alluring about this simplicity. Adventuring in an unknown land shrouded in mystery is an interesting endeavor after all. Similar to its mobile port, the Switch version of Dragon Quest I alleviates many archaic mechanics from the original, such as getting rid of its clunky menu-based interactions. Inventory management is also easier and the game is more generous with EXP gain, effectively reducing the need to grind.

The player and enemy sprites and backdrops received noticeable graphical improvements as they are a lot sharper and cleaner looking on the Switch. In fact, the enemies are no longer drawn as pixels and replaced with hand-drawn versions of Akira Toriyama’s original, legendary designs. However, this improvement may not be a welcoming addition for everyone, because the charm of the retro-style pixel sprites is lost in this version.

Dragon Quest II is a direct sequel to the original Dragon Quest and the story begins after hundreds of years have passed. You play as one of the descendants of the original hero on his quest to defeat the evil warlock Hargon. You are accompanied by two more party members along the way, who are also descendants of the original hero.

You can witness the evolution of JRPGs from Dragon Quest I to II, as II has significantly improved. It is a bigger and better game in general. The overworld map of I is just a tiny fraction of the entire map of II’s. The enemy roster is larger and battles are harder, requiring more strategic thinking as you can now control three player characters. The graphical improvements are also slightly better. Dragon Quest II is a perfect sequel if you enjoyed the original.

Dragon Quest III is considered to be the crown jewel of the Erdrick trilogy. Even in this port, it is not hard to notice that Square Enix put more effort into this game compared to the previous two titles. The graphics are neater and the game is quite a beauty to experience on a 4K TV.

Dragon Quest III is the prequel to the first game. You play as either a young boy or a girl who embarks on the epic quest to defeat the demon lord Baramos. You are no longer given the mandatory party members like in Dragon Quest II, but instead, you can create your own party members at the tavern. There are multiple classes to choose from the usual RPG standards, ranging from Warriors and Mages to unique classes like Merchants and Gadabouts.

The game is leaps and bounds ahead of both Dragon Quest I and II combined, with not only a bigger world to explore but also a better game structure overall. The journey of Dragon Quest III will let you explore the land, the sea, the sky, and even the underworld. Sadly, as this version is ported from the mobile version, it doesn’t have the animated battle sprites like the ones in the SNES and Gameboy Color versions. It’s a shame that Square Enix didn’t bother animating its beautiful hand-drawn battle sprites here.

The best thing about the Switch port is the music. The auditory experience is truly sublime in all three games. You can now experience the symphonic music of Koichi Sugiyama in full glory. Don’t be surprised when you get captured by the beautiful overworld theme of Dragon Quest II and end up standing still for a while just to listen to the music.

Technically, the games run pretty well on both docked and hand-held modes. However, I noticed that the screen jitters when it scrolls. Also, the UI windows can get cluttered in battles, especially in Dragon Quest III. Nonetheless, it is a decent port with no major issues.

Dragon Quest I, II and III on the Switch are great picks, especially if you enjoyed the recent eleventh entry and wanted to experience the origins of this great series. However, these are ports of the mobile versions with some audio and visual enhancements. So if you have them on your mobile phone already, there is little point in picking them up on the Switch again, unless you really want to play them on your TV in full glory.

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