Dragon Quest II has a reputation. Not only is it the sophomore entry into the juggernaut JRPG franchise, the second of Dragon Quest’s Erdrick Trilogy, but it’s also known as one of the most difficult, unbalanced JRPGs to this day. News of its re-release on Switch is great news for series purists who want to take a beating and look back at the legacy of the Dragon Quest series. However, for folks wanting a great Dragon Quest experience, you might want to look elsewhere.
Set 100 years after the events of the original Dragon Quest, you pick up Dragon Quest II as a descendant of the legendary hero Erdrick once again, and also as a descendant of the original game’s protagonist. This time, you'll see more hallmarks of the series start to appear. One of the biggest differences between the original Dragon Quest and this sequel is the fact that you now have an entire party of characters at your disposal.
This is both a blessing and a curse. The game decides to drip-feed you these party members as you continue on in your adventure, yet its hallmark random encounters can suddenly drop a horde of monsters on you which your growing team is likely to struggle against, leading to some incredibly frustrating encounters – even early on in the game. Needless to say, you will definitely need to make sure you’re properly-equipped before leaving even the starting area of the game in order to stand a chance at making it to your next destination.
Like its predecessor, you’re left to your own devices to explore the world as you see fit, and the game expects you to go and hit every landmark on the map in order to get a full understanding of the world, your place in it and the secrets hidden within the game. Luckily, Dragon Quest II also features a map system, so if you are in dire straits while out exploring its expansive overworld, you’re able to make a quick stop to restock and replenish your party’s HP.
When it comes to length, Dragon Quest II is a bit long in the tooth, and more often than not this feels like a bit of bloat to pad out the runtime; however, some of the new elements – such as the ship – are great time-saving measures. Like the original Dragon Quest for Switch, we would have liked to have seen more done to streamline the experience when it comes to random battles and slow traversal of the game’s overworld, but that would require a pretty extensive re-tooling of the game's mechanics, and would drastically alter the way it plays – which is perhaps not what is expected with these 'faithful' ports.
The gooey details of the port are in line with the original Dragon Quest’s release for Switch, which is to say that there are redrawn assets in the form of enemies, NPCs and player characters that are of a slightly higher resolution than the rest of the game. Enemy designs, in particular, are more evocative of someone trying to upscale sprites than be more faithful to Akira Toriyama’s brilliant original artwork for the monster designs. Additionally, while exploring the map, there is consistent stuttering, which is in-line with the original game’s release on Switch.
There’s a lot to be desired for Dragon Quest II, both as a game and as a port. Considering the final stretch of the game, it’s a difficult one to recommend and spend your time on when Dragon Quest III and Dragon Quest XI are on the same system. While it's great that Switch fans now have access to more Dragon Quest goodness than ever before, this one is a reminder that even the best franchises experience growing pains, and is only suitable for diehard Dragon Quest fans only.