Every few years, Square Enix tries to bring success to Dragon Quest in the West and often fails when you look at how successful other Square Enix properties from Japan are in North America and Europe. While a lot of the success or mindshare for the brand outside Japan has been thanks to Nintendo publishing, Square Enix has definitely done a ton of great stuff over the last year or so with Dragon Quest Builders 2 and Dragon Quest XI across multiple platforms. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition released a few days ago on Nintendo Switch and Square Enix also brought three other mainline releases to the system on the same day.
Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, and Dragon Quest III The Seeds of Salvation debuted on the NES in the late 80s before seeing multiple releases across different systems since. The most recent releases have been on iOS and Android over the last few years and those releases serve as a base for not only the Nintendo Switch versions here but also the Nintendo 3DS and PS4 releases that happened back in 2017 in Japan and eventually in Asia. Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest II, and Dragon Quest III on Nintendo Switch are conversions of remakes of ports of NES games. That’s quite a mouthful but this is Square Enix and it loves releasing and remaking games multiple times. The three games are often referred to as the Erdrick trilogy and are the only real mainline entries that have a plot connected to each other.
The first Dragon Quest game was released back in 1986 and it shows. A lot of gameplay aspects haven’t aged well and it isn’t very long compared to JRPGs that released in the decade following the 80s. It is pretty mindblowing to experience this knowing that while it isn’t the first JRPG ever, it definitely is the one that put the genre on the map. Your tale here begins in a castle where you are being instructed by the King to vanquish the dragonlord. I originally played this when it hit iOS a few years ago. If you’ve never played a Dragon Quest game before, you’re definitely better off starting with a newer entry but I think Square Enix should release not only this but also the first Final Fantasy on all modern systems just to preserve its legacy.
While the original release of Dragon Quest had you only being able to save at specific places, the Switch port lets you quick save which is very useful. Sadly, that’s the only good thing about this release in terms of feature set. The sprites look very inconsistent and I’m not a fan of the new monster designs. Dragon Quest series monsters are iconic and it is disappointing seeing them in this state here. Another problem is performance. You’d think a port of a mobile release would be ok on Switch but movement doesn’t feel great. It stutters a bit here and there just like the iOS version does even on modern phones. Playing the original Dragon Quest after the 2D mode in Dragon Quest XI S is a massive step back visually and in performance.
Dragon Quest II Luminaries of the Legendary Line debuted in the West in 1990 as Dragon Warrior II and is set 100 years after the events of the original Dragon Quest game. Dragon Quest II builds on the first game in almost every way with more areas, more party members, and multiple enemies in battles. When I bought the Dragon Quest games on iOS, most people recommended starting with Dragon Quest IV while a few recommend the sub-par port of Dragon Quest VIII. All Dragon Quest fans agree that the second entry is one of the worst entry points into the series because of the awful moments towards the end of the game. Dragon Quest II does a lot for the franchise but it is also not worth your time unless you want to revisit the origins and already played the first Dragon Quest game.
Dragon Quest III is where things get interesting. This is the equivalent to Final Fantasy VI for Dragon Quest in terms of how fondly its remembered by most players and by just how great the game is. Not only is Dragon Quest III the best of the three games released alongside Dragon Quest XI S on Nintendo Switch, but it is also a damn fine JRPG in its own right. It doesn’t stutter like the first game and only really falters because of the sprites for characters and monsters. The great thing is, this release is actually set before the first two Dragon Quest games chronologically. It also has a class system for your party members and is one of the few older JRPGs that lets you switch classes for party members while keeping enhancements from earlier classes. Dragon Quest III costs more than the two others but it is well worth your money on either platform. Even with the visual flaws and interface issues, Dragon Quest III makes these re-releases worth it.
Dragon Quest Nintendo Switch vs iOS what to buy
If you have the option and are ok with touch controls, you should absolutely get the iOS version of each of these three games over the Nintendo Switch versions. Not only are the iOS versions better scaled for newer displays but they aren’t using poor sprites and don’t have an interface that looks out of place completely. If you love Dragon Quest and want to check out the series’ origins, you can buy the first game very cheap on iOS and Nintendo Switch to check out for yourself. Unlike many console ports for mobile, the Dragon Quest games look and control brilliantly and play very well in portrait mode.
This trilogy of ports on Nintendo Switch is the only way to play these games on modern systems with traditional controls. All three ports sadly have issues and are not as great as the mobile versions, but if you can’t stomach playing with touch controls (despite how well done they are on mobile), these three releases are well worth your time. Dragon Quest III in particular is an essential game for any JRPG fan and is the one I’d recommend getting if you want to just get one of the three games. Hopefully Square Enix can look into fixing some of the visual issues with monster and character designs because these three classics deserve a lot better.