Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is an upcoming game releasing on December 1, 2023. It is the third main entry in the Dragon Quest Monsters series and continues the trend of being set dressed within a main Dragon Quest title. This go-round we get some extra love from Dragon Quest IV! Let’s journey forth into my Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince Impressions!
NOTE: I do not have precise measuring tools, however, I do have experience and enough of a trained eye to give out enough information.
The Princely Premise – Charming and Adventurous
At the heart of every Dragon Quest game is the spirit of adventure. These games excel at drawing players into a quaint and wonderous world bursting with charm. To me, this is the franchise’s strong suit, and Dragon Quest Monsters 3 is no different.
The game starts with the main character, Psaro, rousing from slumber and then discussing his current predicament with his slime compatriot and his benevolent caretakers. His current problem is that he has been cursed by his father to be unable to harm monsters. This affliction proves a severe detriment when the village he currently resides in is attacked by a group of monsters. He is unable to defend those who took him in and unable to protect himself at that. Luckily, Monty, a resident monster wrangler, quells the attack with his trusty monster friends.
This magical journey is about Psaro trying to cure his curse in order to overthrow his father and become the new lord of all monsters. Join Psaro, the monsters he tames, and the outcast friends he makes on a curse-curing adventure. That’s about all I can say, as the demo doesn’t go that deep into the story. A lovely little prologue it is!
Dark Performance – The Switch “Anchor”
I’ll be upfront; in docked, the game is the complete opposite of smooth in terms of framerate and image quality. I’ll touch on the performance itself next, but first, let’s discuss the quality of the image itself. The resolution, docked, looks to be hovering between 720p and 900p. This game certainly isn’t delivering a full 1080p image that the switch is capable of producing. So, the raw image is blurry, to say the least. However, the resolution isn’t the end all be all. Shadow resolution isn’t much to write home about, but that’s expected and not super important in a game of this fidelity. The Level of Detail settings for the environment is pretty standard for the Switch. There is pop in galore, but it’s not that bothersome overall. Something I noticed was the anisotropic filtering. You can clearly see the lines where the high-resolution textures cut in near the player character. This same thing applies to nearby monsters and character models. In short, these are all typical for Switch graphics settings.
Framerate is the sour spot for me in the demo. It almost never stays at it’s 30 fps target. Indoors and smaller areas like towns fare well enough, but the fields you explore range from the early to late twenties at all times. Ever fluctuating. There even appear to be frequent stutters. I’m assuming this is from the loading and streaming of data.
The thing is, a lot of this wouldn’t bother me if there weren’t a superior Dragon Quest experience on the Switch: Dragon Quest XI S. To be fair, Dragon Quest XI is a mega-seller in the franchise and got extra care and love when being ported to Switch. Despite the odds being stacked against this little spinoff title, I reserve the ability to compare them. The gist is that DQXIS runs better while showcasing much more advanced rendering techniques at all given times. The better lighting, superior texture work, and smoother performance all lend to creating a satisfying experience. It was one of the best JRPG experiences ever, in my opinion. To Dragon Quest Monster 3‘s credit, it definitely has a smaller budget and goes for a different style (much to its boon!).
Interestingly, handheld mode appears to hold up a tad better! The image doesn’t appear to be a full 720p, but even the softer image holds up well due to the simple and pleasing art style. Character model outlines make them readable and appealing, LOD issues aren’t as apparent, and to top it all off, the performance is a smidge more solid than in docked mode! That’s the real kicker for me. The game much more frequently hits its framerate target of 30 FPS, and the stuttering doesn’t seem as severe. Other games like Shin Megami Tensei V are similarly performant in handheld mode as well. I almost wonder if that power profile was the primary target due to Japan’s love for portables.
This is only a demo version that is out nearly two months before the release, so it IS possible that the game can be better optimized by the December launch.
“Goo”d Gameplay *slurp* – Classically Trained
Enough of that nerd stuff! What about the game part of the game? How does that fare? First thing’s first, the titular Dragon Quest Monsters. Yep, there’s quite a decent selection, even in the demo. Go out and try to nab some of your monster favs. Better yet, you unlock Monster Fusion near the end of the demo. This alone almost made me double my demo hour count. It’s quite addicting gathering and fusing monsters!
The battle system is what you expect from Dragon Quest: classic, command-based battles. Select your team and their tactics, or input commands individually to enact a masterful strategy. What’s interesting is using the skill points you earn to build out monsters your way. This adds a lot of depth to the monster-catching, raising, and team building.
In order to discover more monster friends and some treasure, you will be exploring areas. From what the demo has to offer, it seems that the areas are on par with other 3D entries in the series. That’s good enough on its own, but there is a nice little mechanic that actually changes up how you explore these regions; the very seasons themselves! Different areas also change in different ways from other areas. So be sure to explore a lot to get to new locations and even tame seasonal monsters!
At first, during the demo, I was quite worried that you’d be stuck exploring around Rosehill and that the entire game was gonna be the tournaments at Endor. Luckily, while you can still do that to your heart’s content, you gain passage to more areas. It’s even very clear that there will be more on top of what the demo offers. Make no mistake; this IS going to be a fully-fledged Dragon Quest adventure!
Capturing the Past – A Smorgasbord of Callbacks
I abso’goo’tley adore the premise. Dragon Quest IV is the dressing on top of this salad. The battle theme and many other songs are ripped straight from it. However, my favorite carryover from Dragon Quest IV in this game is Psaro. I can’t understate how much I love this. Taking the kind-of-not-really villain of Dragon Quest IV and expanding upon him in a spinoff game that relies on monster training is beyond perfect.
Monsters are, of course, the main draw of the Dragon Quest Monsters games, more than likely due to how awesome the monsters in the series are. These little and big fellas all ooze charm, terror, cuteness, or coolness. The driving force behind these ‘slime’tacular designs is definitely the legendary art from the legendary artist Akira Toriyama. Of course, the whimsy and charm of the series is brought to us by the visionary creator of the series, Yuji Horii. The decades of history, brilliant talents, and the hard-working devs at Tose Software have finely crafted a Monster Raising RPG experience that has perfect fan service!
Dragon Quest Monsters Related Links
Check out more Dragon Quest content right here on Final Weapon!