The Dragon Quest series is a staple in the JRPG community, continually churning out games of varying quality for more than 35 years. The latest entry in this seminal franchise is Dragon Quest Treasures, a spin-off from the mainline series, with many of the standard Dragon Quest tropes packaged into one of the most accessible JRPG experiences out there. While that translates into this game being a good starting point for fans new to the genre and the series, it won’t pose much of a challenge for seasoned treasure hunters.

Dragon Quest Treasures features a pair of familiar faces from the outset. Erik, who served as a party member in Dragon Quest XI, and his younger sister Mia toil away onboard a Viking ship searching for treasurers to plunder. Here is the first hint that this game is aimed at a younger audience, as the Vikings are presented as far more friendly and jolly than they were in Dragon Quest XI. Erik and Mia are aged down as well, with younger features and a more enthusiastic attitude befitting this cheerier adventure.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The plot maintains this age-appropriate feeling throughout, along with a much shorter playtime. Fans expecting to sink 100 hours into this game as they did with the mainline predecessors will find themselves disappointed. Of course, there is still a looming peril hanging over the world, but it doesn’t get the sense of grand scale that JRPG fans might expect. Even the last time we saw Erik and Mia, they were in the midst of a far more apocalyptic situation than they find themselves in here.

The first hour or so of this game is spent introducing the basics of gameplay, which focuses less on combat and more on seeking out and collecting treasures. You’ll even learn the mechanics for recruiting monsters and gathering treasure well before you swing your dagger. Increasing your treasure hoard’s size and value is one of the main ways that you’ll advance the plot; while you’ll do a fair bit of hacking and slashing on your way, combat feels decidedly secondary to the pursuit of valuables.

When you do need to get your dagger out, though, combat is very straightforward, particularly in the first several hours of the game. It just requires players to bash the attack button to perform their main combo until the monster in question is vanquished. Occasionally, you’ll impress monsters so much with your skill that they’ll become available to recruit at your base, which will allow you to build a more powerful party to tackle bigger monsters and travel further into the unknown on your quest for the Dragon Stones. Honestly, the monsters in our party quickly became stronger than either Erik or Mia and could tackle the enemies on the field without our help unless we tried to take on something much higher level.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Monster companions also become central to helping you travel across the world and the different terrains. Each one comes with a 'Forte', which is an ability that helps players reach new places on the map. It is a good touch that encourages players not to focus on a monster’s battle stats when deciding their party makeup. Having a wide range of Fortes in the party will allow you to leave no stone unturned in your quest for treasure.

Even though they are presented as dual protagonists in this game, you’ll seldom get to see both Erik and Mia in action together. Players can control the sibling of their choice, leaving the other behind to mind the home base and take the monsters not in the party on smaller errands to level them up. Both Erik and Mia play the exact same way, and the game even tells you it doesn’t matter which one you control. You can switch between them every time you head back to your base if you want, and progress with one is transferred to the other, resulting in the choice being a purely cosmetic one.

Erik and Mia both being playable feels like a missed opportunity to add a much-needed wrinkle to the gameplay. Because both the protagonists play the same and have nearly identical personalities, it made the dual protagonist feature feel unnecessary. Giving them different abilities would have at least opened up some additional puzzle-solving opportunities by switching between them.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Every mechanic in Dragon Quest Treasures is a good, if simplified, take on a JRPG mechanic, adding to the feeling that this game is for younger players. Finding treasure is just a case of issuing a command and being pointed in the right direction by your magical dagger. When you get close enough, your monster companions will have a 'vision' of where it is, forcing you to check your surroundings until you spot it and dig it up. It is a fun mechanic, though it becomes repetitive after a few hours of doing it.Though there is a fun visual nod to how each monster sees things in a slightly different way. Dracky companions see the world in black and white and orcs have a kind of ultraviolet vision, for example. It is a small touch that makes the monster-vision moments feel like more than just getting a different snapshot to help you find the treasure.

Dragon Quest Treasures has some limited online functionality which consists of entering other players' “worlds” and hiding a copy of your own treasure on one of the floating islands there. It wasn’t activated when we tried to test it ahead of release, but it seems intended to encourage players to help each other build their treasure hoards. You can also send some of your monsters to other bases as part of their welcoming party, which is a purely cosmetic touch but could be an exciting way to see just what sort of monsters are out there to recruit.

The gameplay and plot might be more kid-friendly fare, but this is still a Dragon Quest game, which comes with certain expectations. The music sounds right at home in the series, hitting all the dramatic highs and sombre notes that you’d expect. The animation and character designs are colourful and full of personality and charm, from the massive boss battles to the small touches like how Erik and Mia put their daggers away with a dramatic flourish. It isn’t the best-looking Dragon Quest game out there but it is still beautiful to see and hear it all in action.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Dragon Quest Treasures plays like an introduction to JRPGs, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of fun to be had in it. The characters are simple but charming and the monsters all have the classic Dragon Quest designs that returning fans will expect, while the focus on exploration over combat makes this entry perfect for those who want a more relaxed gameplay experience. If you've got a young person in your life that is curious about JRPGs, this is a great way to get them hooked on the genre.

Conclusion

If you go in expecting to sink 100 hours into Dragon Quest Treasures or think you’ll get the same kind of intricate plot that the series is known for, you’ll come away disappointed. However, if you are a younger gamer that is itching for a taste of what a JRPG is like or you just want something laid back to tackle, there is a lot of fun to be had here. Everything you’d expect in a JRPG is in this game, just stripped back to the basics, all adorned with that timeless Dragon Quest charm.