Dragon Quest III HD 2D Remake hands-on preview — Using a Chimera Wing to return to the distant past

Remaking a classic game is a tricky proposition. When it’s a game with eleven entries spanning over 37 years, it gets even more tricky. What do you change? What do you keep? Do you update the combat to modern standards? What quality of life changes would you implement? The team at Square Enix had to answer these and many other questions to bring Dragon Quest to an all new audience. We recently went hands-on with the Dragon Quest III HD 2D Remake for about an hour, and I think Dragon Quest fans have a lot to be excited about.

First and foremost, while it is titled Dragon Quest III HD 2D Remake, this game is a complete reimagining of the Erdrick Trilogy – the first three games of the series. It encapsulates the major beats of Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest 2, and Dragon Quest 3. If you need a refresher (and who can blame you, it has been almost four decades), the narrative tells the story of the great hero Ortega.

Ortega, already a powerful warrior, sets off to destroy the villainous archfiend Baramos. Leaving his wife and child behind, he confronts this threat head on…and fails. You play as Ortega’s only son in Dragon Quest III. You’ve been summoned before the King of Aliahan on your sixteenth birthday. Your task is one you’ll inherit from your father – destroy Baramos and save the world. No pressure.

Dragon Quest III HD 2D Remake uses some of the same technology as another SquareEnix hit, Octopath Traveler, but don’t think this is a simple reskin. The game looks how your imagination preserved it in your head (which is to say, far better than it actually did when it launched on the original NES). It sounds like a modern game, with a sprinkling of tiny reminders of the original. For example, when you enter combat, the sound is a touched up version of the original combat entry ditty. Similarly, going up and down stairs is the classic “crunch crunch crunch” you might recall from those classic NES days. It’s delightful in a nostalgic way that puts a smile every single time I open a door or head down into a dungeon.

Graphically, the game is a fusion of pixel art and 3D rendered characters and backgrounds. New lighting and shading effects are absolutely everywhere, bringing the world to life in all new ways. Anywhere that the team couldn’t use the original assets, they rebuilt those renders, and all with the watchful eye of original creator Yuji Horii-san to help update it while still preserving the things we know and loved about the originals. The backgrounds have received a great deal of attention as well, with an awesome tilt-shift photography style that I absolutely loved. Gone are the flat and lifeless environments, replaced by incredibly detailed castles, caves, forests, and more. Frankly, calling it a Remake might be an understatement.

Due to the limitation of the hardware at the time, many areas of Dragon Quest’s map looked the same. There was little to differentiate some areas because the team simply didn’t have the memory to work with on the NES. Obviously that’s a thing of the past, even on the Nintendo Switch, allowing the team to finally provide the true representation of the various areas of Erdrea. Flat plains give way to shrubs, shrubs turn into densely populated forests that choke out the light from above. The lighting engine really comes to life here as shafts of sun peek through. I’m eager to see the other areas of the map if this small section is any indication of things to come.

One area where Dragon Quest III HD 2D Remake sees the most attention is in its quality of life updates. There are small things like little pop-up tutorials to teach you how to play this turn-based battler, or the pop-up map with buildings clearly labeled. There are bigger things like a detailed minimap, auto-saves, and church saves instead of having to head all the way back to the King to save your game. There’s a completely upgraded UI that matches the original feel, but with a modern look. A new auto-battle system allows you to select any of your party members (or all of them) to either “Show no mercy”, “Fight wisely”, “Focus on healing”, “Don’t use MP”, “Watch my back” or “Follow Orders”, the latter of which reverts back to the turn-based battles we are all used to from the original. Adjustable battle speeds, improvements to vocations and spells (like being able to multi-select foes), new special skills, being able to use the right trigger to run, and much more help blend modern ease of use with classic combat and difficulty. There are a lot of improvements here, and despite taking notes, I’m quite certain I’ve not even listed them all. In practice it made the grind much easier, allowing me to focus on enjoying the story and its characters.

Our demo wasn’t limited in any way, other than by time – we had 45 minutes to engage with the game in any way we saw fit. I wanted to gear up, so I headed to the nearby town of Reeve. Reeve is a small castle town north of Castle Aliahan, with a handful of shops and a place to stock up on things like Chimera Wings that would let me revisit any place I’d already been – a staple of the Dragon Quest series. With a handful of items and a group of four adventurers recruited, we set off.

Combat plays out precisely as you remember it. You see your enemy rush to the field, and then you see your team rush up to meet them. They face one another and you attack one at a time with your spells and skills until you or your foes are dead. Fallen team members have to be lugged back to a church for resurrection services, their bodies being represented as a little coffin that trails the team. Did I have one moment where I hightailed it from somewhere I shouldn’t have been, dragging three little coffins behind me? You bet. Dragon Quest III is a semi-open world, so you are welcome to get yourself in trouble if you are so inclined.

Another area that struck the nostalgia chord is the classic theme from Koichi Sugiyama as played by the incredible Tokyo Symphonic Orchestra. The music is warm, nostalgic, and instantly touches the parts of my brain that connected to my childhood.

After 45 minutes there was one thing I wanted – to keep going. I’d managed to get myself lost in a dungeon (why couldn’t I just follow the arrows? Why is my wanderlust always my undoing?!), fought monsters that almost wiped my party multiple times, grew their skills, and felt the time melt away. A tap on the shoulder told me that my time was done and my first question was “When does this come out?”.

The teams at Artdink and SquareEnix Team Asano have managed to resurrect a classic game, updating it where it mattered, while preserving the parts that serve as the soul of the series. I saw a lot of incredible games at Summer Games Fest, and many of them were incredible, but this one gets an automatic nod from me. I’ll be playing this when it hits PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Nintendo Switch on November 14th, 2024.

Stay tuned right here at for more coverage of Summer Games Fest, Dragon Quest III HD 2D Remake, and much more.

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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