Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake knows where to keep it retro

Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake looks like a capable modernization of a classic, but also keeps in some elements from 1988.

Square Enix
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The Dragon Quest games have been captivating imaginations since the old 8-bit console days. It's held close to the hearts of many as a series of stories focused on a great hero, venturing out into an expansive world to vanquish a terrible evil. It's a narrative that officially began with Dragon Quest 3, which is the beginning of the Erdrick Trilogy and set canonically before the events of the first two games. Square Enix is about to introduce that beloved classic to a new generation with Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake. It's a game that feels updated for 2024, but there are a few timeless ideas that are staying unchanged. Shacknews recently had an opportunity to take a first look.

Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is a project that has been in the works for a long time, first teased all the way during 2021's Dragon Quest 35th Anniversary celebration. For those who didn't grow up with the original, this game is based on the classic1988 Nintendo Entertainment System release. It tells the story of the nameless Hero, descended from the warrior Ortega. Ortega once set out to destroy the evil Baramos, but he ultimately failed in his quest. With Baramos still threatening the world, the 16-year-old Hero seeks to do what their father could not.

The Dragon Quest HD-2D Remake overworld

Source: Square Enix

The HD-2D art style has rapidly become a hallmark of Square Enix's Team Asano development studio. It's been used in previous modern remakes like Live-A-Live and new classics like Octopath Traveler 2. Unsurprisingly, it brings new life to Dragon Quest 3's world, combining the restored 2D pixel art of the original game with vibrant 3D landscapes. This combines the original art of the late Akira Toriyama with the better lighting, detailed shading, visually enhanced textures, and improved UI of Team Asano's recent work. This is a game that was constructed with series creator Yuji Horii's vision in mind with new hardware allowing for a better expression of the world without the memory limitations from the old consoles.

The "Remake" aspect of the title extends to numerous quality-of-life features. Players can play out turn-based RPG battles with new animations and options like adjustable battle speed and auto-battling. Tutorials have been implemented for newcomers, a drastic change from the old days, where the original game simply threw players into the proverbial deep end of the pool. This extends to a refined save point system, which reflects more modern Dragon Age games.

While Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake does feature a captivating musical score from composer Kogi Sugiyama, what's especially interesting about this 2024 remake is that it keeps certain elements retro. The sound effects are the same beeps, bloops, and warbles of the NES days. While NPCs will sometimes recite voiceover dialogue, player parties express themselves either through old-school sound effects or the occasional one-word expression, such as a Woosh wind spell being unleashed with an exaggerated "WOOSH!" from the character that cast it. Classic text windows, both in and out of battle, also make this game feel like it came out of a time capsule.

Turn-based battles in Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake

Source: Square Enix

The other thing to note about Dragon Quest 3 is that, for the time, it was an advanced RPG. While some of the aforementioned quality-of-life changes will lower the barrier of entry, Square Enix and Team Asano aren't messing around with the overall formula. Party members will have different personalities that can affect different attributes. These personalities can be adjusted with various items and equipment, so tuning a party member to your liking can be an involved, yet satisfying, process. Targeting enemies in battle also feels like the old days, in the sense that once a party member targets an enemy, that's their target. If an ally eliminates that foe before they strike, that party member will skip their turn. Then there's inventory management, which is a manual process. Party members each have their own inventory slots, so players must make sure they're equipped with healing and stat-boosting items prior to battle.

The last thing to note is that the original Dragon Quest 3 was an unforgiving game. While minor foes don't hit hard, they often attack in heavy numbers and repeated battles will take their toll. This is a tough game and while Square Enix is making it easier to access, that doesn't mean the difficulty is turned down. It is easy for careless adventurers to die, especially when navigating dungeons that are labyrinthine in design and the random encounters start to pile up. Chimera Wings (or the Zoom spell, which is unlocked down the road) can help players escape to a town in a pinch, but overall, this is a dangerous journey, one befitting a hero.

One aspect of Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake that left me curious for more is exploration. A day/night cycle is in place with certain shops and events tied to times of the day, while parts of the world are locked off during the early adventure. There's a lot to check out and we look forward to seeing all of it when Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake comes to PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch on Thursday, November 14.


This preview is based on an early PlayStation 5 build played outside of Summer Game Fest in Los Angeles, CA. The final version is subject to change.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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