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

By Albert Lichi 11.01.2024

Review for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince on Nintendo Switch

Dragon Quest IV was truly a pivotal entry for the franchise when it came out in 1990 on the Famicom (1992 for Nintendo Entertainment System). It introduced the first time the series featured a defined antagonist who was a character in the story, rather than a nebulous evil overlord. In Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, Psaro the Manslayer takes up the role as protagonist in a setting that depicts his childhood, long before his descent into becoming a tragic monster. How does this new monster-catching RPG stack up against its contemporaries? Cubed3 investigates in this Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince review!

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet's low-quality visuals and bug-ridden gameplay were decisive missteps. In a market brimming with worthy rivals like Monster Hunter Stories 2, Shin Megami Tensei V and Ni No Kuni, Dragon Quest Monsters franchise has long been a reliable alternative, finding success on both DS and 3DS. With Dragon Quest XI already receiving a polished Switch port, one might assume Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince would follow suit, right?

Regretfully, The Dark Prince has more in common with the rough Pokemon sequels released in 2022. This game has the bare minimum when it comes to its presentation compared to what's available on the market and feels like it was made on a shoe-string budget.

The story and cutscenes are treated with spartan animation to convey the events. Characters and cameras rarely budge, resulting in scenes that feel flat and uneventful. This is especially bad for the monster characters, who have only one pose and expression and rarely deviate from these gestures, making them feel more like lifeless statues than living creatures.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince on Nintendo Switch

This is an ugly game for the most part. Textures are low-rez and usually poorly mapped to their geometry which results in some horrible-looking vistas. 3D models are very simplistic and character designs are plain, making The Dark Prince look less impressive than Dragon Quest VIII on PlayStation 2. The charm associated with this franchise is left threadbare and feels like a hollowed husk of itself. It boggles the mind how this was made with the same engine and assets as Dragon Quest XI, yet looks and runs much worse.

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince's plot shines brightly despite its uninspired production values. Driven by a desperate yearning to cure his fever-ravaged mother, Psaro stands defiant against his tyrannical father, Randolfo. Their clash is brutal, leaving Psaro cursed, unable to wield a weapon. Psaro's spirit remains unbowed. He embraces a unique path, forging bonds with the very creatures his father commands. If he cannot strike with his own hand, then the monstrous claws and teeth of his newfound kin will be his instruments of vengeance—or perhaps even the gentle maw of a loyal slime.

If Psaro wants a shot to avenge his mom, he will have to make like Ash Ketchum and become the best there ever was by raising an army of deadly monsters. The only way to do this is by entering colosseums and becoming a more effective wrangler. He needs to ace these competitions because the only way to
recruit more powerful monsters, is to win. It is best to think of these colosseums as achieving gym badges.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince on Nintendo Switch

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince follows a rigid structure where Psaro is whisked away to a biome where he can freely explore and capture monsters, get entangled in some plot development and maybe see something funny happen. It is like most Dragon Quest games with its tone and sense of humour that relies on word-play and puns, but in this case the presentation is so underwhelming its exhausting to get invested in anything. Most of the time expect to fight back the urge to skip cutscenes.

Unfortunately the lack of emotional investment in the visuals extends to the gameplay. Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince's combat is disappointingly passive, even by the series' basic standards. While regular battles offer some control over your monster party's actions, the most important and challenging colosseum battles leave players at the complete mercy of the game's unpredictable AI. This can be a huge liability when having a varied party with a large move set with a lot of possibilities. For the most part, the AI does a reasonable job at making the correct decisions, but the downside is that most crucial parts of the game become a spectator sport, thus disengaging players from the experience.

Thankfully, the enemy AI is dumber than the party's AI. This can lead to enemies wasting their MP on targets who have incredible resilience against magic. This will typically happen over and over again with the AI not adapting or changing strategies at all.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince on Nintendo Switch

The true depth of Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince lies not in battles, but in preparation. Building a diverse roster through exploration and monster breeding is the game's core strength. Luring wild beasts with enticing treats or hatching eggs to unlock new potential, all while adapting to the ever-shifting biomes that bloom and wither with the seasons, creates a constant and engaging puzzle. Each monster's intricate skill tree demands long-term commitment, as specializing in specific abilities becomes crucial; thankfully, mastering these skills isn't a dead end, as they permanently carry over when monsters are fused, opening up new possibilities. This emphasis on deliberate growth and strategic monster creation allows for an astonishing level of customization and experimentation, ensuring that no two monster armies are quite the same.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

There are over 500 monsters in Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, and over 40 hours of main story to trudge through. Fans will get a lot of bang for their buck, but expect to wince at the presentation which is embarrassingly low for Dragon Quest standards. The battles in the colosseums are a little tense to watch as the AIs smack each other around, but are otherwise tedious. The substance of Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is in being the coach to a team of cartoony-looking Toriyama monsters.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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