Already a colossal adventure clocking in at over 100 hours, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age just got even bigger, and, crucially, even better. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition adds to and reshapes the game with new character-driven stories, substantial gameplay features, and more. It's a bit like Persona 5 Royal, in the sense that this expanded re-release makes the original game pretty much redundant.
But before we get into it, let's touch on the fact that Dragon Quest XI S on PS4 is a port of the Nintendo Switch title. Its resolution has been boosted — as has the frame-rate, to 60 frames-per-second on PS4 Pro and PS5 via backwards compatibility — but the graphics are still a slight downgrade from the original Dragon Quest XI on PS4. Some foliage is less dense, and the draw distance on things like shadows has been scaled back. We're mostly talking tiny details here — the kind of stuff you probably won't even notice unless you're playing the two versions side by side — but that's just how it is.
Fortunately, all of the improvements that Dragon Quest XI S brings to the table are well worth paying the price of slightly worse visuals. For starters, Dragon Quest XI already had a fantastic cast of characters — and now you get to spend even more time with them. Each party member has been given their own side story, which take place at different points during the main adventure. Individually they're not that long — a few hours at most — but they provide additional insight into what makes the core cast tick. Some are comedic, while others are surprisingly emotional. You could argue that Dragon Quest XI is long enough to begin with, but the new character stories add another layer of welcome detail to this wondrous fantasy world.
Next up, you can actually play through the whole of Dragon Quest XI S in a completely different form, if you're feeling nostalgic for the 16-bit era of Japanese role-playing games. The entire journey has been remade as an optional old-school game mode, complete with 2D pixel graphics and its own music. It's one hell of an impressive bonus, and as you'd expect, it feels like a totally different title — at least, outside of the story beats.
The only problem with this retro mode is that it's hampered by awkward implementation. In order to access it, you need to head to the nearest church, where you can swap between the 2D and 3D realms — but doing so means that you'll be forced to restart your current story chapter. As such, it feels like you're being actively discouraged from jumping between the 2D and 3D versions of the game, which is a shame considering the clear amount of effort that's been made. As it stands, you're best off either saving the 2D mode for a second playthrough, or giving it a quick look and not much else.
Again, the 2D mode is a lovingly crafted extra, but to be brutally honest, you'd be missing out on a lot of what makes Dragon Quest XI special if you were to stick with it. As has always been the case with Square Enix's long running series, the story is a straightforward hero-fights-evil affair, but the charm with which it's told is unparalleled. The colourful world, the character designs, and yes, the now fully orchestrated musical score, combine to create a truly memorable adventure. Each and every narrative arc is well defined and offers something new, to the point where tearing yourself away from a mammoth play session becomes incredibly difficult.
Dragon Quest XI still feels like an immaculately written love letter to traditional RPGs. Its approach to exploration, with towns separated by picturesque countryside and monster-infested dungeons, is unashamedly old school but also timeless in terms of structure. Likewise, its basic turn based battles are bolstered with brilliant beast designs and addictive character progression. It's just JRPG joy from start to finish.
To round things off, let's briefly talk about the many smaller additions and improvements that Definitive Edition brings. We've got an optional Japanese voice track, new character outfits, more 'Draconian Quest' settings that make the game even harder (if you're into that), and the introduction of a 2D town called Tickington, where you can follow a surprisingly elaborate side quest that involves past Dragon Quest games. On top of all that, there are quality of life improvements all over the place, including the ability to summon your horse or the Fun Size Forge at any time while out in the field. You can even enable a turbo mode, which speeds up combat considerably. Convenient, especially when it's time to grind.
Dragon Quest XI remains a game to get lost in. We weren't entirely sold on the idea of playing through such a gigantic adventure all over again, but Dragon Quest XI S has only served to solidify our opinion that this is one of the best Japanese RPGs ever made.