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Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake: More than a fresh coat of paint

Published Jun 24th, 2024 9:48PM EDT
Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is out on Nov. 14.
Image: Square Enix

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Remaking an old video game is always a dicey proposition — even more so if the game you’re remaking is held up as the pinnacle of the genre. That was not enough to dissuade Square Enix from giving the three original Dragon Quest games a high-definition reboot for modern consoles, starting with Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake this fall.

Square Enix officially announced the HD remakes during the latest Nintendo Direct, but a week earlier, I actually had the chance to play Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake.

As Square Enix explained, Dragon Quest 3 is coming first because it takes place before the first and second games chronologically. Years after the great warrior Ortega tried and failed to defeat the evil Archfiend Baramos, you take on the role of his only descendant as you gather a party of heroes and set off to vanquish the villain for good.

Having spent countless hours playing Dragon Warrior 1, 2, and 3 on my Game Boy Color in the early 2000s, I am within the target demographic for this remake. Going back to those old games now is tough for me, but what if there was a fresh version with updated visuals, gameplay, story, and UI, along with countless modern conveniences?

That’s exactly what this HD-2D remake offers, and for the most part, it does the job.

A forest town in Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake.
A forest town in Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake. Image source: Square Enix

First off, I’m head over heels in love with the look of the game. You’ve likely seen the HD-2D art style in other recent Square Enix titles, such as Octopath Traveler, Live A Live, and Star Ocean: The Second Story R. It’s just as attractive here, infusing more life into the flat, 2D landscapes I remember seeing on a 2.3-inch screen 23 years ago.

The HD remake features detailed lighting and shading, as well as new renders and animations for all of the monsters. The sound design has also caught up with the times, with the sounds of rats scurrying, water flowing, and fire crackling all around you as you make your way through a vibrant, living world. But none of this takes away from the core game upon which the remake is built. Underneath all of the pretty lights and sounds is the same classic RPG.

With that said, there are some major changes in store for the gameplay.

We were set loose a bit past the start of the game in the castle town of Aliahan, with a full party of three companions already by the hero’s side. We were free to wander around as we pleased, but my goal was to progress as far as the demo would allow.

Fighting monsters in Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake.
Fighting monsters in Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake. Image source: Square Enix

After poking around the town for a few minutes, I quickly made my way to the overworld, where I proceeded to run around in search of random encounters. Unsurprisingly, monsters weren’t hard to find, and within seconds, I was facing off against a group of slimes. I was introduced to the all-new combat features, which include adjustable battle speeds, a choice of tactics for each party member, and the auto-battle setting.

Not having to issue commands to all four characters every turn is a welcome change from the original, but the battles do feel much more hands-off as a result. Tap the A button once, and you can effectively sit the controller down for 30 seconds until the next input. It was on by default, so I assumed it was the way the developers wanted me to play, but I did notice that the further I got and the more spells I unlocked, the less thoughtful my party members were about MP usage or item consumption. I’m sure I could have adjusted the aggressiveness with the aforementioned tactics, but I think auto-battling is best for wiping out groups of low-level grunts.

By the time I reached the end of the demo, I felt like a kid again. Once you get in a groove with an old-school RPG like this, it’s hard to walk away — even harder when it looks and sounds this good. I am not sure if such a faithful remake is going to convert many gamers who don’t have a history with the original three Dragon Quest/Warrior games, but there won’t be a better way to experience any of these three titles when the HD-2D remakes arrive.

Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake will be available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on November 14, 2024.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.