Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince ventures into a revenge-driven narrative where you play as Psaro, a half-human, half-monster second-born son of the demon king. After refusing to heal your sick mother, Randolfo curses you with the inability to harm anyone with demon blood. Thus, Psaro becomes a monster wrangler instead of a direct combatant. While the story isn’t anything groundbreaking, the manner in which the game goes about telling it while balancing quirky humor with dark undertones does make the whole experience far more enjoyable than what I expected.
Given that this game is my first real experience with the Dragon Quest franchise, I went into it with an open mind. I was initially scared that I would need prior knowledge of past titles to enjoy but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was enjoying myself for the most part, as soon as I got past the awkward first few hours.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is a game that can potentially provide a ton of fun with gameplay systems that are easy to get into, but also provide the right amount of depth for players who want to go down the rabbit hole. While it is not exactly a must-have, it’s a great pick-up-and-play type of experience that the Nintendo Switch was made for.
Gotta recruit ’em all!
In terms of gameplay, the combat follows a standard 4v4 format, introducing an intricate system of monster talents, passive traits, and individual resistances. The inclusion of tactics and instructions adds depth to the strategic aspect, steering clear of a simplistic battle experience. The ability to modify tactics mid-battle emphasizes the need for thoughtful planning, especially when dealing with challenging encounters.
You can choose which behavior your monsters would mostly do. Are they more offensive, dishing out as much damage as they can or are they the type to give as many debuffs to the enemies as possible? Perhaps you would want to dedicate a monster in your party to be in a support position wherein it will just hang back and provide heals and power ups to the rest of your party? The choice is yours. Of course, there are ideal combinations of monster abilities so that you can make the most out of your combat. Your party’s strength will also depend on what species you currently have recruited and how you dedicate the skill points you have for each one.
There are options to auto battle and speed up the animations, which you can tune in and out of at any time. These were a godsend for my playthrough. As long as you have paid attention to your party’s composition and invested in the right skills, you’ll start to look forward to the encounters rather than actively avoid them.
There is a lot of grinding involved. A significant part of the story will have you competing in an arena against other monster wranglers to gain the attention of your father. As the matches progress, the harder your opponents get. This is where exploration of the different biomes comes into play.
The game introduces a rotating weather system, altering terrain, pathways, and the roaming monsters periodically. The environment can change such as rivers being walkable now due to frozen ice or climbable vines as they grow in the sunny weather. This feature adds an amusing change of pace to exploration and encourages players to adapt their strategies based on the changing seasons, providing a fresh perspective to familiar areas. Some collectibles and chests can be discovered depending on the current weather.
The presence of powerful monsters in each region adds another layer to the gameplay. Defeating these not only tests the player’s skills but also earns respect from other monsters in the area, making them more amenable to recruitment.
The synthesis mechanic allows players to combine monsters, passing over talents and points to create powerful skill combinations. It is possible to create some very powerful combinations here and they are extremely rewarding when you pull it off. Definitely makes battling in the latter half of the game so much easier.
However, the game falls short in the visual department, showcasing subpar graphics that don’t align with the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch. Despite the handheld console’s potential, the outdated visuals and inconsistent framerate performance hint at potential budget constraints rather than hardware limitations. These problems are all the more prevalent when running around the large outdoor areas. I mostly played this on my OLED Switch just so I could preserve as much of the visuals as I could. Stretching them out on a bigger screen in docked mode would’ve just made everything look worse.
We’ve already seen how other studios are able to create stunning-looking games on the console. It’s just unfortunate that the look of The Dark Prince doesn’t match the enjoyable quality it provides from a gameplay perspective.
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince Review Final Verdict – 7.5/10
Despite visual and performance drawbacks, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince manages to carve a niche with its simplistic but enjoyable narrative, strategic in-depth combat, and dynamic environmental elements.
This is the type of game that I would love to just boot up on a random road trip or kill some hours in a plane. It’s simple, fun, and a great way to experience why the Dragon Quest franchise is as beloved as it is. Hopefully, the developers are given more resources to work with in their next installment. But for now, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince was definitely a great palette cleanser amongst the heavy AAA releases of 2023.