Dragon Quest Trilogy Shows Square's Porting Struggles

Published: September 30, 2019 7:31 AM /

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Dragon Quest Trilogy Original Box Art

Sometimes, revisiting classic games can be something of a challenge. While it's hard to deny the classic status of games like Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye, going back and playing them through a modern perspective can leave you wondering how you ever managed to play them in the first place. Enter the Dragon Quest series. Originally released in North America as Dragon Warrior these games were never all that popular on their first journey to the states. Although genre fans recognize their importance these days, revisiting the originals can be a frustrating experience. Luckily, Square Enix has you covered with ports of the first three titles ported to the Switch as a sort of Dragon Quest Trilogy

Dragon Quest Trilogy - Elizabethan Dialogue
The Elizabethan dialogue can get pretty annoying and obtuse at times.

Dragon Quest Trilogy | Lazy Porting

Several problems immediately pop up when you boot up any game in the Dragon Quest Trilogy. The first is the visuals. Graphically Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest II takes directly from the mobile ports of those games. While the visuals are certainly an improvement on a technical level, they don’t have the same aesthetic consistency. The characters all look really out of place on the overworld. It almost seems like the backgrounds have a lower pixel density than the characters themselves. The result is characters which pop out from the backgrounds in such a way that they don’t feel like they belong.

Dialogue is another issue that comes up pretty immediately. It was already a pretty heinous decision to present the original’s dialogue in a terrible approximation of Elizabethan English. Somehow it’s even worse in the Switch ports. It actually becomes difficult to read at times, with the frankly annoying overuse of terms like thine, wherefore, thou, etc, etc. Comparing it to the original dialogue just sort of makes you wonder why they even bothered to change it. It’s not like these changes have helped make the games more comprehensible in any way.

Dragon Quest Trilogy - Character Sprites
The sprites look pretty out of place in the overworld.

Dragon Quest Trilogy | Decent Modernizations

Luckily, not every change for the port is a bad one. All three games in the Dragon Quest Trilogy use the same basic controls. Rather than the clunky verb menu of the original game, most of your actions are automated. Instead of opening the menu and selecting talk, open or search every few seconds, most of your actions are mapped to a single button. You also ascend and descend stairs automatically, which is another great piece of modernization.

The map is a very useful addition. All of the included games are very, very open-world. They basically do not restrict you from going anywhere you want immediately, other than the final areas of the game. Because of this, it can be very difficult to figure out where you are on the map or where you’re trying to get to. The maps not only tell you were all the settlements and dungeons are but also marks your own location. This makes the process of actually getting to and from locations you are aware of much easier. Of course, actually figuring out what you’re supposed to do is it’s own challenge, as it tended to be in games of the era.

Dragon Quest Trilogy - Battle Screen
The battle screens are one consistently good element in the Nintendo Switch ports.

Dragon Quest Trilogy | Saving The Best Game Till Last

The real winner of this port is Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation. While the first two entries suffer from poor character integration and even poorer dialogue, the third game very much comes out on top. The characters look like they were actually designed to inhabit these environments. Additionally, the wacky dialogue seems toned down, at least in comparison to the first two included titles. Instead of the faux-Elizabethan speech, characters interact in a much more natural and understandable way. The dialogue is still different for some reason, but at least I understood it.

Of all 3 included titles, Dragon Quest III ends up being the most playable. The basic system used in the first two games is still here but has many of the expanded options which made the 3rd title in the series so groundbreaking in the first place. The auto-heal system, the personality system, and the tavern recruitment system, all give Dragon Quest III much more depth and complexity than the previous games. That complexity also translates into the open-world, which is the biggest yet and has the most going on.

Dragon Quest Trilogy - Dragon Quest III
Dragon Quest III ends up looking and playing the best of all the titles.

Dragon Quest Trilogy | Final Thoughts

Overall, the Dragon Quest Trilogy on Nintendo Switch is not too bad of a package. Although Square's age-old problem with re-releases still recurs here. While the first two games do come with their problems, there is enough modernization to make them infinitely more playable than the NES originals.The graphics are less than amazing in the overworld, but the battle screens and cover art are pretty damn stellar. With the third game coming in to tie the package up with a flourish, there’s never been a better way to experience the beginning of this groundbreaking series on the go.


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More Info About This Game
Learn More About Dragon Quest II
Game Page Dragon Quest II
Square Enix
Square Enix
Release Date
January 26, 1987 (Calendar)
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