Pokemon is something of an anomaly in the gaming world. Instead of inspiring countless games like Demon’s Souls, or Monster Hunter, only a few were attempted. Some of these did well, others not so much, with Dragon Quest Monsters being among the most notable. With player interest in Dragon Quest at an all-time high, Square Enix has returned to the franchise with Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince. Given the history, additional power, and plenty of newcomers, is it a winner, or does it fall short?
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince offers a rather familiar narrative. The demon king fell in love with a human, resulting in a child. This half human/demon was someone the invoked strong emotions from those around him. Some people fear him, others want to kill him, with his mother explaining how he needs to remain strong and be better than those around him.
He Probably Isn’t Dangerous
It’s not exactly a new premise, nor is the journey of rising above adversity, though that doesn’t stop it from being engaging. Those familiar with the storyline can probably predict how things go, or at least get a decent baseline, though much like Pokemon the main draw is capturing and battling monsters.
After answering a couple vague questions to get your starting monster, which can be changed if you don’t like the outcome, the adventure begins. Exploring the overworld is about what you’d expect from a modern monster capture game.
Enemies can be seen, so there is no question what kind of fight you’ll need to overcome, along with goodies hidden throughout. Anyone familiar with the franchise will likely get a lot more out of the experience. Instead of seeing various slimes, weird creatures, or goofy enemies, you’ll recognize some of the franchises most enduring enemies. This alone can be a huge motivator, as there are so many beloved enemies that can fight along side you.
You Can Go One Way, or Another
Before getting too excited, gameplay is far from being that deep. There are two basic gameplay loops. Either you can dictate what every monster does, or just exchange attacks until someone dies. Depending on how you play, one will be more common than the other. Those who over level/build a powerful team will likely not need to try as hard as those rushing towards the end.
To prevent things from being too easy there are various mechanics that push players to try harder. These include buffs for longer fights, status changing magic, along with monsters being pissed if you fail to capture them. Failing is also somewhat common as it takes time to get a feel for when you’ll actually be successful in capturing.
As you level monsters will receive various points. These can be used to increase their attacks, or stats depending on what you deem important. It’s an interesting twist to the Pokemon formula, just not one that changes much as the choice is only so important. Later monsters can be fused to create more imposing threats to keep new enemies at bay.
Exploration is also rather straightforward. Either you follow the “intended” path, or go to the side to find useful resources. Occasionally a specific monster will also be lurking there, so there is a lot of value in exploring every option. Not to mention the usual benefits of increasing your monster army, or level.
Simple gameplay aside, the thing that stands out most about Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is graphics. Everything looks kind of fuzzy, and genuinely highlights how out of date Nintendo Switch is. Those bothered by this kind of thing will likely find it very rough, since it was apparent in practically every scene. Something that gets worse the more detailed/expansive the setting is.
Unfortunately, it’s also noticeable in cutscenes. I had hopes this would be limited to grander locations, but isolated sections like fights/cutscenes have the same weak quality to them. This is also something that will likely not improve short of Square Enix adding another platform.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince Review Verdict
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince: There is really only so much to say about Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince. It's fun, designs remain fantastic, though at its core it isn't particularly deep. Those into the Dragon Quest brand will undoubtedly enjoy it, as will those looking for a good pick up and play adventure. It would be nice if there was a bit more depth, but even in its current form it isn't hard to get your money's worth. – Mark
Editor’s Note: Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.