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Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince Review (Nintendo Switch)

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Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince review

If you thought you'd seen the last of the Dragon Quest franchise, well, you were wrong. Square Enix is back at it again with another exciting RPG in the medieval monster-filled world. Buckle up because we're again diving into the epic world of Dragon Quest Monsters.

Since the debut of the first game, Dragon Warrior Monsters, the series has come a long way. From Game Boy-esque graphics to Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker being the first to launch with 3D graphics, there seems to be more in store for the series. And indeed, there is. 

The latest addition to the series, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, unfolds with a fresh cast, narrative, and more. If you're a fan of the franchise, you definitely won't want to miss out on this Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince review.

Unlock Your Fury

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince

Like the previous game before it, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince draws focus on the protagonist, Psaro. He is the progeny of a human and a demon king. You'd expect that, as the son of a demon king, he would be all-powerful and mighty. But, unfortunately, it's the leading cause of his misery. In other realms, he would be considered a god. Look at Namor from the Wakanda Universe as an example; the half-fish breed commands so much respect. Not even his Asterix-shaped winged feet get any ridicule. Sadly, this is a different mystical universe where Psaro and his sick mother are expelled from the village after the villagers find out about his bloodline. 

With his blood boiling, Psaro decides to take revenge on the demon king, but things go south quickly. He ends up getting a curse that deters him from harming anything with monster blood. There goes his ingenious plan.

But all is not lost after he meets Monty, a monster wrangler. Monty shows him an alternative way of getting revenge: using monsters in battle and becoming the ultimate Monster Wrangler. Psaro doesn't pass on this opportunity and uses these abilities to forge a legacy and finally bring his father down. 

For franchise fans, you may have encountered Psaro a few times, but not in this form. Remember the final boss in Dragon Quest IV? If you guessed Psaro the Manslayer, you are absolutely right. Dragon Quest Monsters is notorious for revisiting its roster of monsters in the game. The Dark Prince's narrative serves as his origin story, where we even interact with familiar faces from the series.  

Monsters Assemble

fighting in arena Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince

As a monster wrangler, your first quest is to pick a starter monster by answering various questions. Ideally, the questions gauge your preferred play style and character outlook, giving you a monster that fits your flow. The game irons out all possible details you may consider in a monster, including whether you prefer a smooth or a fluffy one. If you're unhappy with the result, you can return to the menu and answer differently. 

After securing your pick, you can add three more to your collection. You can have four for every run, and any more monsters you capture go into your inventory, or in this case, ranch.  

Now, if you've played Pokémon, you might have noticed striking similarities. The Dark Prince's gameplay is simply what the Pikachu game is about. Granted that Pokémon has, for a long time running, not been rivaled, it's interesting to see another game try. But it's sad to see it fail. The Dark Prince sticks to its franchise's formula of exploring small open-world maps and battling Dragon Quest monsters. After capturing the crème de la crème of monsters, you fight other top monster wranglers. It sounds very promising on paper, but after a go at the game, it feels half-baked. It's like the devs really wanted to rival Pokémon but rushed the process before someone else beat them to it. 

Ready, Fight!

psaro vs the shriveller

Speaking of monsters, the beasts vary in size. You have your standard small monsters that are relatively easy to capture. Then you have the large ones that don't go down easily. Plus, they are more challenging to find. While you get to choose which monsters will fight, you have limited control over the battle. The monsters will deploy their attacks and skills as the situation demands. But you can tweak their AI controls in the tactics menu. Here, you can preload the specific moves to take place and then start the battle. The game pauses after the moves' execution, giving you a chance to select more moves or assess the luring percentage of the monster you want to bag. You can recruit monsters by overpowering or luring them with snacks or treats. The percentage gives you an idea of the additional effort to put in to wrap things up.  

Moreover, as you scale the monster trainer ranks, your reputation grows, making it challenging to capture the local monsters. You'll have to battle the boss, and after a capture, you can quickly reel in the other monsters. 

When it comes to capturing, you may have all the stamina to traverse the environment. But the difficulty lies in the catch. You see, if you fail to capture a monster once, you raise its agitation. If you fail again, it develops a massive tantrum, making it even more challenging to capture it. So do what you may, but avoid waking the sleeping giant inside the monsters. 

Breathtaking Scenes

psaro Training

At least one thing the game gets right is the breathtaking scenery. Exploration is part of the gameplay; you'll traverse the small worlds searching for monsters. Each environment is unique, and after completing one, you can instantly travel back to it via teleportation. For every environment you traverse, you get a crystal that lets you revisit the area. The crystals go to your tower, which is your central access point for these areas. 

I specifically enjoyed the seasons' cycle, which appears on the screen. You can witness the environment change from snow-covered terrain to the fallen leaves of fall. If an area is inaccessible due to water, wait for it to freeze during the winter, and you can ski through it easily. Plus, a season change means a new breed of monsters in the environment, keeping things interesting. 

The Good

 

acquiring a monster

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince offers much variety in its gameplay. You can participate in tournaments when you're not collecting monsters and have them battle each other. In the tournaments, your best monsters take on other monsters for three rounds. To win the tournament, your monster has to bag all three rounds. Notice that I am saying your ‘monster has to bag,' not you. This is because you have zero control over the battle. The best you can do is get your monsters in tip-top shape with upgrades and cross your fingers that they win the rounds. Thankfully, their health is replenished after every round. Plus, witnessing your nurtured creatures unleash their prowess in the heat of battle is pleasant.

Moreover, the game's online system is another way to dive into the combat. The battles are straightforward but sometimes short-lived. Almost always, the players with high-ranking monsters win.  

Additionally, we must appreciate the game's visual art. The animations are impeccable, despite the characters not being well-detailed. Plus, even with over 500 monsters available in the game, they all have unique looks. 

Finally, the varied environments are a feast for the eyes. One minute, you're traversing a Halloween-themed land, and next, you're in what I can presume to be Candy Land. It's full of candy and little witches, like an episode from a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. 

The Bad

Evans protecting Psaro form bullies

While the story is engaging, it's a bummer that the game misses the fast-forward button as seen in its predecessors. It also misses out on a log feature, meaning you can't revisit a conversation if you missed it. Additionally, the game doesn't have an in-game load feature. So to save a game, you'll have to head to the main menu, which can suck out the fun of the game. 

Another downside is the frequent frame rate dips, plenty of loading screens, and a few graphical hiccups. You may experience screen freezes during battle, which, of course, ruin the immersive moments. These are, however, minor issues that we expect the developers to iron out with a pre-release patch. 

Verdict

mushroom head

Despite the game failing to meet the Dragon Quest quality standards, it checks boxes in other areas. First, the storyline is like no other and immerses you in the RPG action. The beautiful display of the environment and character designs stick to the precedence set by the franchise. I'm glad the developers didn't gamble on that. Finally, the gameplay lives up to the franchise's standard. Although it doesn't match up to Pokémon, it was a worthwhile attempt. In the future, we hope the series can improve on its shortfalls rather than emulating other games.

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince Review (Nintendo Switch)

A Half-Baked Monster Mayhem Adventure

Dragon Quest Monster: The Dark Prince is a JRPG by Square Enix. The game offers an immersive and wholesome gameplay experience akin to the franchise. However, performance issues are making this game a miss.

 

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.