When Dragon Quest 11 came westward to the PlayStation 4 and PC about a year ago, Square Enix promised a Switch port would follow. We weren't offered much proof beyond that vow, and the project went quiet for a long time. Fans regarded Dragon Quest 11's Switch port the same way we regarded Final Fantasy 7 Remake at the time: Like a distant father who promised he'd totally visit some day and bring us a pony and a dirtbike. "Sure dad," we said before buying Dragon Quest 11 for the PlayStation 4.
Isn't 2019 a funny year? Not only is Final Fantasy 7 Remake a red-hot topic, but Dragon Quest 11 finally hit the Switch with an excellent port that adds a Gigantes-sized basket of new features. Much as I love vanilla Dragon Quest 11, I can't deny the Switch port its "Definitive Edition" descriptor. If you waited because you had faith Square Enix would eventually deliver its promised pony, well, congratulations. You did the right thing.
This is no half-baked port cooked up to take advantage of the Switch'spopularity. Dragon Quest 11 S has seemingly been rebuilt from the ground-up to make sure the game's engine plays nice with the Switch's sometimes-troublesome hardware. It's a treatto have a portable version of a tremendous JRPG like Dragon Quest 11 that barely compromises the vanilla edition's visuals. But Dragon Quest 11 S goes well beyond by offering lots of quality of life improvements before stuffing the rest of the adventure full of new content, new storylines, and new costumes. Between Dragon Quest 11 S and the barely compromised Witcher 3 port, game developers are clearly making covenants with dark forces to bend the humble Switch to their whims. I don't want to know the names of these demons. I'm just glad they helped Square Enix put together another must-have Switch RPG.
The biggest examples of Dragon Quest 11's new content are up-front: The orchestrated soundtrack and the option to switch the game to a 16-bit mode. It's an understatement to say the orchestrated soundtrack is a welcome addition. Frankly, the original release's synthesized soundtrack was one of the adventure's few low points. The overworld theme is especially grating, which is a small problem because that particular theme is poured into your ears from hour one. Dragon Quest 11 S lets you switch back to the synthesized soundtrack, but here's a spoiler: You probably won't.
The16-bit mode lets you experience the adventure with SNES-style sprites instead of 3D polygonal characters. A great deal of work clearly went into the mode, so I initially felt a little bad when I dabbled with it and switched back. The full Dragon Quest 11 experience lets you pick and choose who you want to battle; though strong monsters will chase you, most will leave you alone unless you pick a fight. The 16-bit version, meanwhile, brings back old-school random battles—not my favorite hold-over from the olden days of RPGs. Also, this is a greedy little thing to say, but I kind of wish the 16-bit enemy sprites were animated. The Dragon Quest 3 Super Famicom remake features animated sprites. I know, I know. It's a big ask.
All that said, Dragon Quest 11 S's 16-bit mode is far from useless. It's the style utilized through one of my favorite new additions to the game: The world of Tickington. When you travel through the realm of Erdrea, you'll uncover "pastwords" that you can take back to Tickington, the land belonging to the Guardians of Time. Monsters have been messing up timelines—represented as past Dragon Quest adventures—and you're asked to set things right by entering the tomes that contain each timeline. From there, you fix whatever needs fixing, but the solutions aren't always simple. You might be able to solve an issue right away by finding and beating a monster, but you also might be asked to fetch or find something that can only be found back on Erdrea.
Tickington is great fun if, like me, you've been a Dragon Quest fan for yonks. For example, one early request comes from Dragon Quest 2's Princess of Moonbrooke, who's desperate to lift a curse that's turned all the citizens of Moonahan into dogs. The magic water she requires to lift the curse is exceedingly rare in her world but is easily found in Erdrea. You can fetch some and then come back for a handsome reward, even though lifting the curse on Moonahan turns the Princess back into a mutt—A slightly sad nod to her fate prior to the events of Dragon Quest 2.
The smaller changes to Dragon Quest 11 S are practically innumerable. Several of them add quality of life improvements I didn't know the game needed when I first played it, but now I'm glad to have them. After you meet Sylvando, he gives you the new "horse hailer" item that lets you summon your steed from almost anywhere on the map; no more having to search for a horse bell. There are also several adjustments to the Fun Size Forge that make armor-crafting more fun and useful. You can access the Forge at any time—In the vanilla game, you need to find a campfire)—you can view and craft newly gathered recipes right away, and you can even purchase missing ingredients right before crafting. It's a big time-saver. All the better for streamlining the chore of ingredient shopping.
Vanilla Dragon Quest 11 is still one of the best RPGs of all time. If you're a big fan of Dragon Quest and/or classic JRPGs, I can't say you wasted your time and money, because that's just not true. I will say Dragon Quest 11 S is unquestionably the version to grab. Even though I expected Square Enix would get this Switch port to us eventually, I never thought it run so well, compromise so little (there's a bit of fade and pop-in and fewer environmental effects, but this is still one of the best-looking games on the Switch), and add so much.
But is Dragon Quest 11 S worth buying if you've already gone travelled through Erdrea on the PlayStation 4 or PC? If you enjoyed keeping company with its characters and feel up to journeying with them one more time, absolutely. It's only another 100 hours of your life offered up to Yggdrasil, right? Merely a trifle.