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The Switch Is The Best Way To Play Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI comes out on the Nintendo Switch tomorrow. I’ve played the original game four times all the way through on the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve now spent 20 hours with the Switch version, and I can safely say it’s the best way to play this game, which I consider the best installment in my favorite game series.

In summary: the Switch version is portable. Dragon Quest’s developers have apparently decided that portability is the “definition” of Dragon Quest.

Consider this post a supplement to the review I wrote of the PlayStation 4 and Steam English release of Dragon Quest XI last year for Kotaku. You can read that review right here. (I recommend you watch the big fancy video at the top.)

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Dragon Quest—glacially paced, Tolstoy-long fairy-tale role-playing games whose art direction literally consists of the artist of Dragon Ball redesigning Dungeons & Dragons monsters and character classes in cute anime style—has been my favorite game series for 30 years. Considering the games’ unfailing commitment to depth, length, generosity, salt-of-the-earth wisdom, and rewarding patience, in my review last year I decided Dragon Quest XI was the best entry in its series.

I stand by every word I wrote in that review—except the minor calculation errors regarding the battle system that FAQ-writers uncovered in the months after its publication.

If I were to write a review of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age S: Definitive Edition, I’d write almost exactly the same review that I wrote last year. This is high praise: the game is masterfully great.

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However, when I say I’d write “almost exactly the same review,” I’m also saying that the additions, improvements, and tweaks that Dragon Quest XI S makes over the original game do not excite me nearly as much as, you know, the original game. Rather, most of the Definitive Edition additions serve to inject quality of life that I, so enthused with the presence of a new Dragon Quest game, did not even notice was missing.

If I’d played Dragon Quest XI S before playing the original Dragon Quest XI, my review probably would not mention any of these “Definitive Edition” alterations. I’d be too busy talking about the Dragon Quest series as a whole. I’d be going on and on about this series is so old in video game years that it’s practically an ancient tradition. I’d be declaring it miraculous that these aging creators have somehow transcended even their best work with this installment.

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I’d be too busy talking about how Dragon Quest games work best when you treat them like bedtime stories (30 minutes after a bath, before bed) to bother to mention that it’s nice to be able to dress your characters in flashy costumes without sacrificing the stats of superior armor items.

I’d be too busy talking about how Dragon Quest XI, first announced on the 30th anniversary of the original Dragon Quest, sublimely flows like a Dragon Quest greatest hits mixtape that I wouldn’t have time to mention the newly added pixel-art side-stories tying directly into previous Dragon Quest games.

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If I were to review Dragon Quest XI S without having ever played Dragon Quest XI, I’d not even mention the ability to fast-forward battles. My fond memories of wasting entire summer days playing Dragon Warrior III on the NES prevent me from encouraging you to hurry through a role-playing game.

Therefore, I can’t exactly say that my video today is a “review” of Dragon Quest XI S: consider it a supplemental critique of the Switch version’s additions and improvements.

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How are the graphics? Well, they’re complicated

Dragon Quest XI was one of the first Nintendo Switch games ever announced. When series director Yuji Horii announced Dragon Quest XI for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS in 2016, he also announced that it was in development for Nintendo’s new console, then called the “NX.”

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Yet when Dragon Quest XI was released in Japan on July 29th, 2017, the Switch version was nowhere to be seen.

The developers issued nebulous comments about the Unreal Engine presenting performance issues on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve played Fortnite on my Nintendo Switch, so I believe them.

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Thirteen months after the Japanese version of Dragon Quest XI was released, the English version came out. I made a big, long review. This review became quite popular on YouTube.

After I uploaded my review, I got 5,000 new Twitter followers in less than a week, and 10,000 in the course of a month.

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These 10,000 people all knew me as “The Dragon Quest Review Guy.” I mean, I’m not complaining. I’ll take it.

Over the next several months, I received more questions about Dragon Quest than about anything else. And the most popular Dragon Question of all was absolutely “Should I just wait for the Switch version?”

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A lot of question-askers presumed the Switch version had already come out in Japan. It hadn’t.

Many of these questioners adopted a more speculative phrasing: “Should I wait and see if they make a Switch version?”

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Square Enix was keeping so eerily silent about the status of the Switch version that some people were assuming its announcement had been a dream.

Fan speculation swirled, much of it in my mentions. Seeing as “video” accounts for 50% of the word count of the phrase “video games,” most of this speculation concerned the graphics.

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Here’s a simulation of what that speculation looked like: “The graphics are going to be bad.”

Well, now Dragon Quest XI S is here, on my Nintendo Switch. (And yours, if you downloaded the demo.) The graphics are great.

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Unless you elect to play the Steam version of Dragon Quest XI on my home PC at 1080p and 120 frames per second (or 4K at 60 frames per second) for about a hundred hours before starting Dragon Quest XI S for the Nintendo Switch, you might not have any complaints about the graphics.

Handheld, the game looks as good as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or Breath of the Wild, the games that twohandedly proved to me that, yeah, I’d play a massive living-room-style triple-A video game on a bus if you gave me the opportunity to easily put it onto a television when I reach my stop.

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If you put Dragon Quest XI S up on your TV—ah, suddenly my wrists hurt. Wow, my body doesn’t want me to hate on Dragon Quest. I will type this next paragraph with my nose:

It’s got about as many jaggies as non-jaggies. When you leave the desert and enter a not-desert place, you might be like, “Why is that heat mirage effect still happening?”

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At least the framerate is consistent. I mean, it’s also low, though that’s not the point.

If I hadn’t played Dragon Quest XI at 4K and 60fps on my PC (also, yes, 1080p and 120fps, if you’re keeping score), I’d simply be so overcome with the overjoy that a brand-new Dragon Quest brings that a single critical thought concerning the graphics would never sprout up in my brain. This is a sprawling, charming, generous video game that offers you pretty much six anime seasons’ worth of plot twists. Framerate scrutiny must bend the knee before the breadth of this content.

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What else is new?

Speaking of anime: Dragon Quest XI S features a full Japanese voiceover. You can switch to it at any time. I adore it.

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You can also switch the music from the new orchestrated soundtrack to the synthesized original at any time. I mean, if you want to. I am not sure why you’d want to. Please watch my video if you want to hear a great (I think), long joke about the music. I can’t say any more without spoiling it. (Except this: the orchestrated music owns, and belongs here. The new orchestrated music is so good that Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo walked into my office and said “Is that a game? I thought you were just listening to classical music.” Thanks for complaining so much, everybody. You did it!)

One thing you can’t switch to at any time, however, is the gorgeous new 2D pixel-art graphical mode. You can only do that at churches, and even then the game requires you to make a new save file, and choose a chapter to start from.

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It’s hardly instant. You might lose as much of an hour of story progress. Furthermore, chapter beginnings and endings are nebulous: the game never trumpets the opening or close of a story arc. So when you choose a chapter to start from, you might not know exactly where you’re going to land in the different graphics mode.

Helpfully, though, the game lets you carry over all your experience and equipment. It’s like a new game plus, in the middle of the game!

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Hold up a second: earlier I described 2D mode as a “gorgeous” and “new.” I’m sorry. I forgot to turn my Dragon Quest Fan Mode switch off.

By “new,” I meant that 2D mode is “new” for the English audience. The 2017 Japanese 3DS version already featured this 2D mode. I played it extensively back then. I loved it.

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By “gorgeous,” I meant that this mode presents you a bare-bones, no-frills “demake” of the lushly 3D Dragon Quest XI. It’s “gorgeous” if you played a 16-bit Dragon Quest game between the early 1990s and 2002. Do not expect anything on the level of stylized, polished pixel art like Octopath Traveler. Dragon Quest XI S’s 2D mode revels in chunky crustiness. It shows you what Dragon Quest XI would have looked like had it actually come out in 1993.

I say “1993,” because that’s the year before Final Fantasy VI came out.

2D Mode: more than just “graphics”

And though I’ve repeatedly called 2D mode a “graphical mode,” my experience playing it in close juxtaposition with the console-quality 3D mode has convinced me that 2D mode is different enough to qualify as a separate game.

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It eschews 3D mode’s avoidable enemies for more traditional random encounters. In exchange, it shrinks every map down to a pitch-perfect facsimile of an 8- or 16-bit Japanese role-playing game.

Your first few hours in 2D mode might feel weird if you have already played a lot of this game in 3D. Towns might feel claustrophobic. The world map might feel insignificant. Cutscenes blink by in displays of old-fashioned paper doll melodrama. The game feels wildly fast-paced.

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After a few hours, you might come to appreciate that grandiose, huge-scale open worlds like the one in Dragon Quest XI’s 3D mode are a modern invention. Pumping a game full of details and dragging out its drama is a thing of the now.

3D Dragon Quest XI is a 100-hour game. 2D Dragon Quest XI is more like an 80-hour game. I mean, that’s still huge, though it’s a different, lonelier, more battle-system-enjoying kind of huge.

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Many Twitter friends who consider me “The Dragon Quest Review Guy” have been telling me they plan to play Dragon Quest XI S twice: once in 2D, and once in 3D. Then they ask me which I’d choose first.

I go into depth about this in the video, though here’s the short answer: play it in 3D first. This game has roots in 1986, though it was developed in 2016. The cutscenes are well directed. The voices are lovely. The 3D level geometry is fantastic. The towns are beautiful. You get none of that in 2D mode.

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I’d say consider 2D mode a supplement. When you’ve gotten to the end of 3D mode’s main campaign, break off a new save file to experience 2D mode as a treat. Do your endgame grind in 2D. By this point you’ll have already spent 60 hours in the main game. You’ll know all the locations by heart. Seeing them demade into 2D will blow your mind. You’ll love it.

At least, that’s how I played the game. I’m now considering the hypothetical perspective of someone who plays the 2D mode first and then plays the 3D mode afterward. That’d be wild. That’d be like having both the original Final Fantasy VII and the Remake in one package.

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Should you play Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition?

If you’ve already played through Dragon Quest XI on PlayStation or Steam, is there enough new here to tempt you to play it again? How much do you really want to see the new character costumes? Does the ability to forge items wherever you want instead of just at camp amount to a Grand Theft Auto-level power fantasy for you? Do you really, really want to play the classic throwback 16-bit episodes and the weird little DLC-like character episodes? Is all that, plus the 2D mode and the Japanese voice acting in 3D mode worth $60 to you?

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If Nintendo hadn’t sent me a free code for this game, I’ll be honest: I’ve have preordered the Japanese collector’s editions.

I absolutely will play this game in its entirety all the way through again, both because it’s now portable and because it’s an excellent game.

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If you’re one of the billions of people who have not played this game, and you own a Nintendo Switch, congratulations: you patience pays out bigtime. This is the best version of this game to play. And this game is the best game in my favorite game series. You don’t need to have played any other games in the series to play this one: Dragon Quest XI flows like a greatest hits mixtape, expertly representing all the finer points of the series.

Though if you absolutely want to bonker out on Dragon Quest, you could play Dragon Quest I, II, and III first, remasters of which are also releasing on Switch tomorrow. This first trilogy expresses many themes that resonate with some of the more dramatic moments of Dragon Quest XI, and it won’t take you more than 40 little hours to get through all three games.

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I’m sorry. I’ve become what I’ve always feared: I just gave you homework.

Feel free to ignore the homework assignment and just play Dragon Quest XI S for Switch.

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Just make sure you play it portably, in bed, thirty minutes a night, in 3D mode, with headphones; turn on the Japanese voice acting, and don’t fast-forward the battles (unless you’re a narc).

By the way! If you personally liked, commented, and / or subscribed to our YouTube channel, that would definitely fuel my habit of making a lot more videos like this. I promise you might love it.

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There’s even a playlist of all my other videos. Wow!

Source: Kotaku.com

I Keep Quitting Dragon Quest XI Thanks To Its Atrocious Music

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

Ever since my friend and Kotaku comrade in arms Tim Rogers reviewed Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age last year with glowing praise, I’ve been trying desperately to play it. The combat is snappy, the world is gorgeous, and the prospect of a sweeping story excites me. But every time I play, I stop. It’s the music. Dragon Quest XI has terrible music.

Much has been made of Dragon Quest XI’s decision to use MIDI music for its original release, which is what I’m currently trying to play. The synthesized quality offers a sense of nostalgia but is harsh on the ears by modern standards. I’m glad the upcoming Nintendo Switch definitive edition will use fully orchestrated music, but that’s not the core issue I’m struggling with. I’d be able to endure low-quality music if the compositions excited me. Dragon Quest XI’s music has failed to excite me so far. While the main theme is adventurous, everything else (at least in the early sections I’ve played) fails to live up to the promise of that theme.

Dragon Quest XI’s music is composed by Koichi Sugiyama, who has written the series’ music since the original Dragon Quest released in 1986. Sugiyama is a controversial figure, owing largely to comments he’s made over the years including denying that the Nanking Massacre happened during the Second Sino-Japanese War and dismissing the need for LGBTQ education in Japanese schools. It’s led to some reappraisal of his reputation over the last few years, but what’s making pissing me right now (even if the other stuff is shitty) are Dragon Quest XI’s compositions, which grate on my ears.

The worst offender is the game’s battle theme, which bursts to life with synthesized brass instruments. It’s easy to hear the old-school inspirations, but in execution, it’s outdated, overblown, and irritating. I just want to battle Slimes and learn cool magic, but the prospect of entering battle makes me seize up a little. It’s a bad fight theme, y’all, and I want nothing to do with it in MIDI or orchestral form. Having such a common and unavoidable theme be this bad is a huge hurdle.

It’s not like I can’t endure a bad theme if a game is good enough. Suikoden III is one of my favorite JRPGs, and its music is some of the most bland and forgettable stuff ever. Dragon Quest XI’s music is honestly better! But games like Octopath Traveler and my favorite game of all time, Skies of Arcadia, lift up their combat with rousing musical themes. My current game of the year, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers rises to soaring heights thanks to composer Masayoshi Soken’s work. By comparison, Dragon Quest XI is held down.

I make it a personal point of pride to finish basically everything I play, the current exceptions being Alan Wake, Watch Dogs, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Whether it’s simply soldiering on or lowering the music volume so I don’t have to deal with it, I’ll eventually continue Dragon Quest XI. —But wow, I wasn’t expecting to struggle so much with what I am sure is an astounding RPG because of its music. I hope I can push my annoyance to the side and enjoy the rest of the adventure.

Source: Kotaku.com

Dragon Quest XI On Switch Lets You Make NPCs Lie

This week, Nintendo put out a demo for the Switch version of Dragon Quest XI, and it’s got at least a few new features we didn’t know about before. My favorite has to be the toggle that makes townspeople lie.

Dragon Quest XI, which came out last year for PS4 and PC and launches on September 27 for Switch (as an enhanced edition with plenty of new features, like a redone soundtrack and a 2D graphics mode), has a set of optional toggles called Draconian Quest. These options are mainly meant to make the game more challenging—one of them reduces the experience you gain from enemies; another makes monsters stronger, and so on. The Switch version adds a couple of new ones, including Townsfolk Talk Tripe, which I of course selected immediately:

Anyone who’s played an RPG or two knows that when an NPC tells you they heard a rumor about a mysterious sword buried under a nearby waterfall, it’s always going to be true. I love the idea of a massive game like Dragon Quest XI sticking in some lies just to screw with you, and this is a fun wrinkle for anyone who’s already played the game and wants to play again. (I also recommend turning on some of those challenges, because Dragon Quest XI is painfully easy—for this second playthrough, I’ve put on stronger monsters. Plus, if things get too tough, you can turn off these Draconian Quest toggles at any church in the game.)

I’ve just started the demo—which is reportedly 10 hours long and worth downloading now if you plan to play Dragon Quest XI on Switch, since you can transfer your save to the proper game—so I don’t yet know how this will come to fruition, but I for one cannot wait to try to sort out who’s telling the truth. Lie to me, Dragon Quest XI NPCs. LIE TO ME.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Difficult Dilemma Of Dragon Quest XI’s Post Credit Sequence

Dragon Quest XI is a very long game full of tragic twists and turns, so when my journey finally came to an end, it felt like a real accomplishment. The credits rolled. I’d defeated the main villain and brought peace to the land. I actually felt sad that my time with my companions was coming to an end because I liked them so much. There was a “The End” screen marking the quest’s conclusion. I was about to turn the console off when to my surprise, another line of text followed that read “to be continued…”

That’s when the post-credit sequence began. I thought maybe it’d consist of a few new bonus quests, some extra dungeons, and a chance to find treasures I’d missed in my first playthrough. But I was wrong as there was an entirely new journey awaiting which had me question everything I’d done up until then.

Echoes 

The second half of Dragon Quest XI was remarkable. I put it on the same level as the moment Kefka succeeds in decimating the world of Final Fantasy VI and the Kingdom of Zeal being destroyed by Lavos in Chrono Trigger.

That’s because it’s so rare when villains succeed. In Dragon Quest XI, not only does the Lord of Shadows, Mordegon, corrupt the Sword of Light, but he destroys the Yggdrasil Tree. Your party barely escape with their lives. When the main character wakes, he’s transformed into a fish and is hiding in the underwater city of Nautica. A massive monster called Alizarin, who’s one of Mordegon’s Spectral Sentinels, commences his attack on the underwater city. When you do escape, you immediately see that Mordegon has wreaked devastation on the land. The sun hasn’t been seen since the fall of the world tree. The land is corrupted; there’s poisonous patches all over the place and vicious forms of monsters are roaming everywhere. It was especially depressing because I’d felt such a deep connection to the world with its likable NPCs.

From there, the quest becomes an emotional and physical struggle to regather the party and destroy Mordegon. There’s a lot of character building after the fall of the tree, from the desperate situation at the Last Bastion, to Hendrick’s joining your side and the friendship you build, to the revelations Erick undergoes with his sister. A world of ruin, suffering from the consequences of the Luminary’s failure to stop Mordegon, makes every act more grave. I felt the second act was even more poignant than the first.

Things do become more hopeful as you meet back up with your companions, especially Sylvando, whose Smile Brigade tries to bring cheer, and rhythm, to the land. But the party’s search for their last member, Veronica, takes a tragic turn. You find her in the Grove of Repose in Arboria. At first, her sister, Serena, thinks Veronica’s sleeping. But when you touch Veronica’s staff, you get a vision of the past, jumping to the moment the tree was destroyed. You learn that Veronica did her best to save the party from destruction. “You’re the only ones who can save this world. Don’t let me down!” she yells as she transports everyone to safety. The tree is engulfed in a blast of fire that fatally wounds her. Veronica’s body evaporates soon after you see the memory. The whole party is both saddened and angered. Serena gains Veronica’s powers, who lives on through her sister.

I took out Mordegon’s sentinels one by one. Then I stormed his castle and finally defeated him. Game over, right?

An Elusive Age

I’m always talking about how underrated I feel Yuji Horii’s contribution to Chrono Trigger is and in many ways, Dragon Quest XI has themes that reminded me so much of what I loved about the classic time travel JRPG.

That’s thanks to the post credit sequence. A few days after the party defeats Mordegon, they gather in Arboria in a memorial to their fallen companion, Veronica. They share a drink, mourn their friend, and marvel at Yggdrasil being in full bloom again. “It still hasn’t sunk in, you know. We really did it. We really saved the world,” Sylvando states.

Serena states somberly, “We survived. We have to make the most of that. We have to laugh and smile for those who can’t.”

While the people of Arboria partake in a festival to celebrate their victory over Mordegon, the Luminary decides to sneak off on his own. The rest of the members catch him and they agree to set off on some new adventures, starting with investigating a shining light south of Octagonia. They find the remains of one of the floating islands that the Watchers lived on and discover there might be a way to save someone “lost to eternity.”

In other words, Veronica.

The party finds their way to the Tower of Lost Time where they encounter a being called the Timekeeper. The Timekeeper informs them that the Luminary can actually jump to the past using Time’s Sphere to the moment where Mordegon is going to destroy the tree. The Luminary can stop him there, preventing the destruction of the Yggdrasil, and saving Veronica’s life in the process.

“But to lose time is to lose much,” the Timekeeper warns them. “To take a sword to the Sphere would be to erase those moments.” Only the Luminary can go back, but if he does, everything that happened afterwards would be erased. The whole second act wouldn’t have happened. The new memories, new bonds, and character growth I’d had would be wiped clean. There is some debate among the party members, but the choice seems like a no brainer.

I made the jump, stopped Mordegon, and saved Veronica, which was awesome. If the game ended here, I would have been super satisfied. But as you quickly learn, since Mordegon is defeated, it has a ripple effect that isn’t all good. In the original timeline, one of Mordegon’s Spectral Sentinels prevents the summons of an evil monster called Calasmos. With Mordegon out of the picture, Calasmos is free to enter the universe and wreak havoc. A whole new quest begins.

I appreciated the way Horii shows that the consequences of a time jump like this isn’t all cheery. Horii is always playing with morality in his games, showing subtler nuances that make for uncomfortable truths. In this case, one terrible evil wards of an evil greater evil. Stopping Mordegon has unintentionally unleashed the potential for even greater mass destruction.

What I didn’t like was that it pretty much erased everything that had happened in the second half of the game. That made the dozens of hours I’d spent fighting Mordegon feel empty. I had invested so much of myself into that journey, that this new quest didn’t feel as important. While your party does regain all the experience and skill points from the second quest that had been erased with the time jump, the events I remembered had pretty much never happened.

In Chrono Trigger, there’s that moment where you can change time to save one of your companions. But that doesn’t erase the experiences that happened previously between the team members. Even in Avengers: End Game, the time jump doesn’t erase what Thanos did. It was as though I’d undergone an arduous trial where I’d lost so much, but only gotten through thanks to my companions who’d stood by my side. Then everyone around me forgot it ever happened. I felt isolated, lonely, and frustrated.

What was a gripping narrative with really dark moments in Dragon Quest XI had turned into a fairy tale. Bad things happens in fairy tales, but for the most part, the consequences are minimal as good triumphs. I’d jumped from two different types of stories; the grim, but quirky, quest of the Luminary with bittersweet consequences in their journey to defeating Mordegon, to one where good completely triumphs over evil and even some of the more tragic NPC sidequests get happy endings once you switch their original fate.

So I stopped. I turn off my PS4, removed Dragon Quest XI, and moved onto a new game.

My stopping isn’t an indictment of the game. It’s actually the opposite as it’s a testament to how much I loved the second act of Dragon Quest XI (I consider Dragon Quest XI, along with Persona V, to be my favorite JRPGs of this generation). I felt a strong attachment to the characters in ways that made me relate to them as much as humanly possibly to people with magical abilities who fight fantasy monsters.

Will I go back? Maybe one day as everyone tells me how good the post-credit scene is. But for now, I’ll leave it unresolved, stuck in a Time Sphere of its own. I’m not the kind of player that needs to experience every ending to feel satisfied (even though I often do, like with Nier: Automata). But in this case, the Timekeeper was right. To lose time was to lose too much.

14:29 – Updated the title so as not to make it spoilery! Sorry about that!  

Source: Kotaku.com

We Stared Into Gooigi’s Cold, Murderous Eyes

E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.  

Tim Rogers is at E3 checking out all the cool stuff Nintendo has on offer this year. Check out the video above for a look at Pokémon Sword and Shield, the new Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, a celebrity interview with Luigi, and more. Tim also faces down his eerie nemesis Gooigi.

Source: Kotaku.com

A Tribute To JRPG Villages That Were Annihilated

The life of an NPC is tough. Perpetually stuck with one or two interesting things to say. Trapped in houses or stores, or making idle chatter around the town’s well. The most excitement that may happen is when the troublesome village kid runs off. But don’t worry, the protagonists will save them. Oh, but what’s this? The villain has set their sights on your humble abode? Uh oh.

Play enough JRPGs and certain themes become commonplace. One of these is the tried and true formula in which towns and villages meet untimely ends. If done well, the scenes can be surprising (even if players guess the outcome before hand), or show how merciless games’ villains are.

Here are some of the most agonizing moments in JRPGs where places and its people were annihilated, and one unconventional scenario that’s just all kinds of fun.

Nibelheim, Final Fantasy VII

Poor Tifa and Cloud. Those two townsfolk lying in the dirt outside the burning houses of Nibelheim? Yes, we feel sorry for you guys too. Not to mention the two guys who were cut down by Sephiroth and his masamune. Back in 1997 when the RPG released, Sephiroth’s iconic exit amongst the flames with his smug face, long black coat and silver hair, was the coolest thing to us. Looking back at it now, it’s simply horrible. It was always horrible but that’s why they’re called villains. Tifa and Cloud’s hometown was the one to bear the brunt of Sephiroth’s rage after discovering the truth about his alien lineage, and being a lab rat. He goes insane and concludes that he’s the rightful owner of the planet. It’s usually world domination with villains, isn’t it? And towns like Nibelheim are the places that get destroyed in the process.

If evil corporations like Shinra are involved, however, towns get rebuilt to hide cover-ups. Final Fantasy VII added insult to injury to poor Nibelheim.

Ryube, Suikoden II

Luca Blight is ruthless, and that’s an understatement. When he and his soldiers invade Ryube, the village is decimated. The details of the destruction are what makes Blight’s acts so depraved. Fire frames the scenes of bodies strewn everywhere and no life is spared, not even the village’s dogs. It’s unsurprising that Blight, one of the game’s major antagonists, has so little regard for life as demonstrated in the shocking moment he kills one of the villagers.

When the woman is brought before him, he doesn’t just kill her. He humiliates her first. When she begs for her life, Blight tells her to “act like a pig,” and she complies. On hands and knees she crawls around the dirt surrounded by soldiers, her text bubbles filled with the words “oink.” There’s a smidgen of hope when she questions Blight if he’ll spare her, but it’s fleeting. His next words are “Die pig!!!!” and what follows is a gruesome execution. When he lands two blows to her face with his sword, the animation is disgustingly effective—showing his lack of hesitation and quickness of the act with her head turning twice in rapid succession.

Ryube and its inhabitants never had a chance.

Palma, Phantasy Star II

It’s not every day an entire planet gets destroyed. But the main planet of Phantasy Star I, Palma, gets blown up in Phantasy Star II, taking with it all the villages within. Its destruction is a big shock, especially as it’s a cultural center for artists and scientists (its climate is also the most temperate of the three planets). Their legacy continues through the escaping spaceship worlds, but Palma’s destruction gives new meaning to the saying, there’s no place like home since home no longer exists.

Kasuto, Zelda II

Last week, I (Peter) wrote about why Zelda II was one of my favorite games in the series and described how it got really dark in places. In the original The Legend of Zelda, we knew Ganon was a threat, but never got to see it directly. When Link comes across Kasuto, he finds a village completely destroyed by a bunch of invisible Moas. The buildings are dilapidated and in ruins. There is no life and the graveyard full of crosses nearby indicates the heavy death toll. Even if the survivors were able to build a New Kasuto, they have to live in hiding lest Ganon’s minions come for more. It’s a chilling visit that made us realize how important Link’s quest was.

Lahan, Xenogears

Is Xenogears actually a treatise on the philosophical complexities of religion and life itself disguised as a videogame? The main protagonist, Fei, isn’t sure as he’s suffering amnesia. But when a group of Gears from Kislev attack Lahan, Fei’s instincts take over. He gets in an empty Gear and fights back, but ends up incinerating the entire village. “Fei is bound… by the dark, cruel destiny of God,” his friend, Citan, states. Everyone is afraid of him and one of the NPCs even calls him “Murderer!” Fei leaves, wishing he could forget some of the memories from the night before. Too bad the NPCs can’t.

Cobblestone, Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI almost lost me (Peter). I enjoyed the opening scenes with the Luminary as the story followed his life in the hometown of Cobblestone all the way to his visit to Heliodor Castle where instead of a hero’s welcome, he’s imprisoned. At the same time, there were so many other games calling me, I was about to put it on hold. Then Cobblestone happened. King Carnelian had sent soldiers to Cobblestone and initially, returning to your hometown, all seems okay, which was a big relief. But matters quickly becoming confusing as no one recognizes you. Even Amber, who raised you, demands to know why you’re there. You come across a childhood version of your sweetheart, Gemma, and after you help her, she takes you to Chalky, your adoptive “granddad.” The Luminary has somehow jumped to the past but Chalky recognizes him. “I’ve known you since you were a baby, after all. I knew it was you right away.” They have a touching exchange where he expresses regret for his actions, which has more poignancy since at the beginning of the game, he’s passed away, “Ahh, but what a fine figure of a man you’ve become… I’m so glad I got to see you all grown up.” And then the past fades and you realize the entire town has been destroyed. I grabbed for the tissues and felt devastated and angry and a hundred different emotions. Fifty hours later, I’m still playing.

Bowser’s Castle, Bowser’s Inside Story

Fear not, Toad Lovers! Bowser does not wipe out the Mushroom Kingdom (although there’s a disease, the Blorbs, which threatens the Kingdom and makes the citizens round and cute, or unsightly, depending on who’s asking). Bowser does, however, battle his very own castle and wrecks it. It may not be a town but it’s home to Bowser and his minions, and it’s just too interesting not to include. Think of it as a break from the heartache represented by the other entries on this list.

In 2009’s third Mario & Luigi RPG (and its 2019 remake), Mario and Luigi find themselves trapped inside Bowser’s body and work with him to save the world. The game sees the return of Superstar Saga’s Fawful, who takes control of Bowser’s castle as part of his plan to rule the Mushroom Kingdom. Fawful outfits the castle to fly, sending it to crush Bowser. With Bowser’s life flagging, the Mario bros. work to save him and in doing so, help Bowser to become a giant.

In a brilliant use of the DS’ (and 3DS’) capabilities, players have to turn the system vertically to enter into combat against Bowser’s castle, which Fawful has weaponized and transformed into a mech (of sorts). It’s meant to show just how enormous the scale of the battle is, and there’s an appropriately epic music theme to accompany it. Giant Bowser takes down his own castle, and though it’s not completely destroyed (amazingly!), it does get pretty messed up thanks to the fight.

It’s somehow even worse when players visit the castle later in the game. Fawful decorates the castle with statues of himself, and brainwashes Bowser’s minions to worship him instead—some don’t even remember Bowser’s name! Not only does Bowser’s castle get pummeled by its own ruler but Bowser’s identity is basically stripped from it. Talk about a whole other level of erasure.


These are just some of the villages, towns, cities, and civilizations that were destroyed by the greedy, murderous hands of some of JRPGs’ cruel villains (and that one Koopa who had no choice, thanks to a bad guy full of chortles). We selected just one from each franchise represented here (with so many others we didn’t include on account of our hearts no longer being able to handle any more sadness), so please feel to chime in with your memories of heartbreaking examples in the comments below.

Source: Kotaku.com

Exploring One Of Dragon Quest XI’s Most Devastating Stories

Screenshot: Square Enix

Dragon Quest XI features a collection of gut-wrenching, bittersweet redemption stories.

The Dragon Quest series often puts the spotlight on tragic stories affecting its main characters and NPCs alike. NPC characterization is strong in the worlds of Dragon Quest, with Dragon Quest XI paying special attention to its cast as well as the characters they meet along the way. The common theme with just about every important character in the game is that their story arcs entail overcoming personal guilt and carving out paths of absolution, even if this means getting a chance to do so in an altered timeline.

One of Dragon Quest XI’s best story quests has two very different endings. One gives its central characters a happy, fairy-tale ending. It’s a stark contrast to the other ending in which the forgiveness one character achieves comes at a horrible cost.

Screenshot: N. Ho Sang (on PS4)

In the village of Hotto, the Hero and his companions learn that the head chief, Miko, is in an awful predicament. The story takes many turns but at the heart of it, the party discover that Miko chose a mother of two young children, Atsuo and Atsuko, to be a sacrifice to appease the gods and temper the volcano near their village. It’s an alarming decision given the usual village rites are performed with fruit, corn, and silk.

In an attempt to find out what’s really going on, the kids and your party learn Miko’s secret: Tatsunaga, a dragon which terrorizes Hotto, and which Miko said she slayed in a battle alongside her son Ryu, is actually still alive. As the children deduce, Miko intends to feed the beast with humans. In true Dragon Quest form, the twist doesn’t stop there. Miko’s real secret adds another complex layer to the entire affair: Ryu, who supposedly died in that battle, was actually cursed by the beast during the fight and transformed into Tatsunaga.

Ryu as Tatsunaga returns to the village in an attack that sees Miko throwing herself to the beast in an effort to protect him from being killed by the villagers. In that moment, Miko decides to give herself up as food to satiate Tatsunaga’s hunger. It’s later learned that she found the magic mirror, a mythical item that reveals true forms, and was trying to use it to cure Ryu but could not get it to work, hence her decision to use the villagers’ lives as food until she could figure it out. Eventually, the group face off against Tatsunaga and the curse is lifted (Miko has the mirror on her when she is consumed, and it works from the inside—yikes), with a tragic ending of a young man’s soul freed without the knowledge that he killed his own mother.

It’s a complicated story that poses a difficult scenario for Miko in which she weighs the life of many against that of her beloved offspring. Dragon Quest XI does a curious thing here: it pulls at heartstrings by giving Ryu peace, and he’s able to cross into the next life with his regained human soul. But while Miko’s last minute decision is a selfless act, she arguably gets an ending that is deserved for her commitment to execute a grievous sin—her punishment fit the crime, so to speak.

Achieving redemption isn’t always a cut and dry affair in Dragon Quest XI’s world of Erdrea, leaving characters with profound consequences to bear.

Screenshot: N. Ho Sang (on PS4)

Neither character gets much of a happy ending in this scenario. When Ryu gives Atsuo a message to deliver to his mother he unknowingly kills, it’s heart-wrenching. In that message, he says that he’ll wait for her in the afterlife. It’s unclear to me if Miko would even be able to join him given the gravity of her sins. I found it particularly sorrowful, as the player looking into this world, that I became the keeper of the horrible truth of Miko’s demise.

Miko, for her part, gets her forgiveness from the villagers after her death. Atsuo notes that although she betrayed them, sacrificing herself is what ultimately saved them.

There’s a second meeting with Miko and Ryu that is attainable in the post-game where altering events of the past is necessary for achieving Dragon Quest XI’s true ending. In the post-game timeline, crafting a powerful end-game weapon will take players back to Hotto. In that quest, Miko and Ryu get a happier ending without their respective deaths as the magic mirror works without Miko being eaten, and Ryu surviving the curse. It’s a better resolution to a story in which Miko does not resort to murder out of desperation. For me, the original timeline’s story is much more impactful even though it’s quite tear-jerking seeing their reunion. But I might be a horrible person who much preferred the drawn-out twists and turns that Dragon Quest XI dishes out to disastrous results.

But there’s something poetic about the fact that I had to work hard to give Miko and Ryu that good ending, given that it is a part of the post-game. I’m not a person who usually delves into a game after seeing the credits roll the first time. It adds a whole other layer to the game where these characters could live in one timeline and never see a second, if not for players actively seeking it out. Although to be fair, Dragon Quest XI gives you a very good reason to play the post-game content, which I won’t spoil here.


Miko and Ryu’s tragic tale is just one of many in Dragon Quest XI’s world. While the post-game can bring about relatively happier endings to some, how the game expertly crafts each of its stories is one of Dragon Quest XI’s greatest achievements. Even for some of the more predictable outcomes, the game deftly subverts expectations on how the stories play out by including subtle twists to draw out empathy and emotion in players. For some characters, redemption comes with endings that humble them. For others, forgiveness does not come as easily, resulting in incredible depth to the narratives the game tells.

Source: Kotaku.com

Dragon Quest XI Has Some Of The Best NPC Stories Ever

Playing a main series Dragon Quest game is a serious time investment. I’ve finished half of them, and the last three I played (V, VII, and VIII) each required almost 100 hours. But there’s something special about the games that director Yuji Horii is involved with, whether it’s the Dragon Quest games, Chrono Trigger, or even the classic adventure game The Portopia Serial Murder Case, that make those hours go by quickly.

A major part of the signature Horii touch is the attention to detail in almost every aspect of the game’s inhabitants. Dragon Quest XI is full of quirky, funny, and tragic NPCs that make the world feel alive and a joy to spend time in. They give the story more gravity because you actually care about its inhabitants. Saving Erdrea means rescuing people you care about. Here are some of the ones that were most memorable for me from the first half of the game.

Shop Quest

In Dragon Quest XI, everyone gets attention. Priests at churches have a personality as they carry out their functions. Sometimes they’re somberly warning you, other times they’re reveling in drinks at a celebration. Storekeepers comment on the news of the day and are affected by events, like in Phnom Nohn, when many of its inhabitants have been kidnapped. One of the children has actually taken over for her mom and there’s a desperation in her voice as she says, “My mother is coming back. I know it. I am only looking after the shop until she returns. Maybe you would like to buy something, sir?” Even though I didn’t need anything, I bought a bunch of stuff from her.

Laguna di Gondolia has one of the most hilarious sales interactions. There are two brothers who are merchants and one of them sells a catsuit for 10,000 gold—pricey, to say the least. If you go to his brother and tell him about the initial offer, he’ll offer the same suit at a lower price. By going between the two brothers, their competitive nature takes over, and you can bargain them down to 1,000. The funniest part is how aggressive they get in their haggling and how much of their relationship is conveyed through their angry dialogue. You can tell this rivalry has been going on for years, and I couldn’t help but wonder what family get-togethers were like for them.

This cycle continues later on with a very strong armored suit, which has the additional effect of changing the wearer’s appearance. The first brother sells it for 100,000 gold, which is very steep. Go to the other brother, who makes a “special offer” of “only 50,000 gold coins.” The haggling continues until one of the brothers offers it at 5,000 gold because “I cannot lose to my brother! I do anything to beat him!” It had me cracking up as I bought this badass armor at a 95 percent discount.

While Dragon Quest XI has a massive world, these touches for background characters that are usually relegated to functional uses (buy, sell, save) help make it feel smaller, more personable. When was the last time you remembered a shopkeeper in a RPG?

Delivery Quest

One of the most moving sidequests seems simple on the surface. Deliver “A Lovely Letter” from a soldier, Hakim, in the Gallopolis region to his sister, Akia, in Laguna di Gondolia, which is where the hero is heading. She’d gone there to pursue her dream of becoming a baker, but Hakim hasn’t heard from her in some time. As a footsoldier, he doesn’t have the liberty of leaving his post, so he is desperate for help. After you accept and head over to the bakery in Gondolia, you learn Akia actually quit and is now working as a maid for Doge Rotondo. You find her sweeping the floor outside, and once you hand her the letter, Akia eagerly opens up it up. She reads the letter to find what Hakim has written: “Now that the misery of our old life is a thing of the past, I pray that you are enjoying your freedom. I cannot wait to see you blossom into a fully-fledged baker.” He had placed a few gold coins in the letter to support her.

I wondered what misery he was talking about. “Oh, poor Hakim,” she says to you. “How he must scrimp and save in order to send me money…”

She asks if the Luminary (that’s you) can return a letter, but also not to tell Hakim that she no longer works at the bakery. The letter she writes is equally painful. “I know that it cannot be easy for you to have to support us both. If it were not for your assistance, I would be unable to follow my dream of becoming a baker… I will continue to work hard, Hakim. I want you to be proud of me.” She continues the lie so that both of them can keep going, persisting through their difficult time with hope.

The story doesn’t end here. As Hakim reveals, their tragedy isn’t the evil monsters of Erdrea. It’s their father. “He was once a kind and gentle man, but then he suffered a terrible injury, which made him horribly bitter. Akia and I would often bear the brunt of his frustration.” Hakim is fighting for her future to try to make up for her past.

The interesting thing is, neither letter is integral to the plot. The material reward is just a cookbook. But the developers had changed what would normally be a simple trading quest into a glimpse of a family tragedy, where you realize even the freedom of being able to wander from town to town is a privilege. I wanted to give them some of my hoarded gold just to help them. The follow-up quest reveals even more about their circumstances and has a touching conclusion. This quest, more than all the monsters I’d fought and evils I’d vanquished, made me feel like a true Luminary, someone trying to restore light to a world being consumed by human darkness.

A Mermaid’s Quest

The playable characters in Dragon Quest XI have really great story arcs and the party talk option is an excellent way to gauge everyone’s mood. Every campfire break has interesting exchanges, and the fact that you can swap characters out at any time in battle means everyone gets field time. But it’s still Horii’s NPCs that steal the show, as in other games. This includes Chrono Trigger’s Fiona and her dream of reforesting the Sunken Desert, or the priest in Vogograd who sacrifices himself in Dragon Quest VII for the mental wellbeing of his fellow townspeople.

In Dragon Quest XI, an encounter with a rhyming mermaid named Michelle leads to one of the most memorable quests in the game. Initially, Michelle mistakes the Luminary for Kai, the human lover she’s been waiting for. Kai had promised to return so they could get married. When one of your teammates, Veronica, questions whether a human and mermaid can be wed, Michelle explains the Mermaid’s Burden: “If a mermaid leaves the sea and makes the land her home, if ever she gets wet again, she melts away to foam.” Because of that curse, Kai promised to come to the sea with her, and they received special permission from the Queen Beneath the Sea to live together in the underwater city Nautica. Michelle asks if you can go to Lonalulu and check up on him.

But when you get to Lonalulu, you learn that interspecies love isn’t exactly a popular political position. The citizens of the sea village despise the mermaid, believing they have a bewitching influence on humans. Horii’s narratives often play with public perception this way, so that those you think are the heroes turn out to be villains, and vice versa, and back again. Eventually, the party finds Kai’s mother, who tells them the story of one of the village’s best fishermen. The mayor of Lonalulu, the Big Kahuna, gave the fisherman “the hand of his beloved daughter” Leilani. But when he got lost in a storm,m he was rescued by a mermaid who stole his soul, causing him to forsake the woman he was engaged to. Even when he returned to Lonalulu, he just wanted to get back to the mermaid. Eventually, the fishermen was banished to Saikiki and forbidden from sailing again.

I was confused on which version of the story was true. Had Kai had his soul stolen, or had he fallen in love? When your party finally meets Kai, he at first is confused and tells you his full name is Kainui, then realizes they have him mixed up with his grandfather, Kainoa. Since mermaids have much longer lives, a generation had passed since Kainoa had met the mermaid. You learn from Kainui that the fishermen in his mom’s story was Kainoa, her father and his grandfather. Shortly after being exiled, a storm killed the chief Kahuna as well as his daughter’s new husband. Leilani had previously given birth to a new baby with her husband, but mother and daughter also disappeared. The villagers, believing the mermaid had taken them as revenge, were furious, and marched to Saikiki beach to confront Kainoa. They found him there with a baby whom they believed was the unholy result of a mermaid and a human. Shocked, they left him there. But that baby was Kainui’s mother. Did that mean Kainui was a quarter mermaid?

I have a confession to make before I go on. When I was much younger, I watched an animated version of The Little Mermaid—an anime film released in 1975 by Toei, not the Disney version. It was one of the few movies I remember bringing me to tears and I was sobbing because the ending, based on the original Hans Christian Andersen story, was so sad.

So as I played through this scene, learning the true identity of that baby, it brought back flashes of that memory. The party learns from a letter Kainoa left behind that he wanted to return to the mermaid, but he could not keep his promise after his exile. That was because he saw his ex-fiance, Leilani, “standing on the cliffs” of Saikiki Beach. “With her father and husband gone, she had lost all hope… and reason… Before my disbelieving eyes, she threw herself into the ocean.” Kainoa tried to save them, but only the baby survived. Wracked by the guilt of his ex-fiancée’s death, he felt he had a responsibility to take care of their child. So he stayed behind and raised her as his own.

While I didn’t openly sob this time around, I had to blink back tears. As the Luminary, my primary power was to shine a light on the truth. But I was powerless after I told Michelle the truth about what happened, and she opted to sacrifice herself. She faded away into foam, their love never fulfilled.

I was aghast. Even writing this article, I still feel depressed thinking about their love and the weight of remorse that must have hammered Kainoa everytime he looked at his new baby. He bore the censure and contempt of the villagers without protest, feeling it was just punishment for what his actions had caused.

There are so many more great NPCs in Dragon Quest XI. I could go on about the prince of Gallipolis pretending to be someone he’s not, the whole troupe of Sylvando’s Smile Brigade, or some of the wackier encounters players face in the Masked Martial Arts tournament of Octagonia. While the overall quest is of an appropriately epic scale in this eternal battle of good versus evil, it’s the all-too-human struggles of the minor character that make the game really stand out, echoing elusively about relationships that resonate long after we’ve left the world behind.

Source: Kotaku.com