Skip to main content

Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake might divide retro and modern RPG fans

An RPG party stands in a throne room in Dragon Quest 3: HD-2D Remake.
Square Enix
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

After a long wait, Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is finally coming to PC and consoles — and yes, that’s its official title. The NES revival launches on November 14 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC. An HD-2D remake of Dragon Quest 1 and 2 is set to follow in 2025.

Ahead of its release date reveal during today’s Nintendo Direct, I got a deeper look into all the changes coming to the game, as well as a bit of hands-on playtime. Along with making some key quality of life tweaks, the remake also features some radical changes to story and structure that will bridge it to the first two Dragon Quest games (both of which happen after 3, chronologically). Those modern touches are paired with very faithful decisions that leave the core combat of the original surprisingly untouched – a move that may divide purists and newer RPG fans.

Modern meets retro

First revealed in 2021, Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D remaster is a project from Octopath Traveler 2 studio Team Asano and Artdink. We already knew that it would give an NES classic a fresh look thanks to Team Asano’s signature HD-2D art style, but details on the game have been scarce over the past few years. That seemed surprising for a remake like this, but it turns out that the project is much more ambitious than originally advertised.

Prime Day Focus
These Razer Blade Prime Day deals really pack a punch [in gaming power]
Secretlab Prime Day deals: Build your ideal work-from-home or gaming station
Amazfit Amazon Prime Day deals dropped: Save up to 40% off smartwatches today
Send it! This HoverAir X1 Drone can capture your adventures and it's $120 off

First, there’s the expected quality of life tweaks. There’s now an auto-save system, which brings more checkpoints and save points to the game. Players can make combat a bit faster with a speed toggle and they even have access to auto-battle tools. In my demo, I was able to either pick each party member’s moves every turn or issue commands to them that they’d follow every turn. Those include having characters focus on healing, liberally using MP-draining spells, defending, and more. Vocations have been modernized too, though Square Enix will go into more depth on those changes at a later date.

A grassy environment appears in Dragon Quest HD-2D Remake.
Square Enix

For those curious about performance, Square Enix also confirms that it’ll run at a smooth 60 frames per second (fps) on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Nintendo Switch players will be locked at 30 fps, while PC players can switch between the two. I played on a PS5 and I saw some consistent performance, with fast, smooth movement.

The other changes here are much bigger, though. Scenes from the first game have been reordered to create a more cohesive narrative. More crucially, the team has produces entirely new story “episodes” created by the legendary Yuji Horii. That new content will help fill in some of the gaps between the Erdrick, the first trilogy of Dragon Quest games. While it may not be a full trilogy remake as fans believed, it’s a major overhaul (though its bizarrely straightforward title leaves me wondering if there’s another surprise in store before release).

While lots has been changed to make the classic RPG more playable by today’s standards, the team wanted to leave the core combat system mostly unchanged. Players still pop into encounters with a troop of four heroes, pepper enemies with attacks, spend MP to fire off spells, and carefully choose when to heal and defend. Players don’t target individual monsters, but rather clusters of the same breed. So if four slimes appear in a random encounter, any attack against slimes will randomly hit them. Otherwise, the new details are subtle; when my mage shoots off a fireball, it comes from where she’s positioned behind the camera.

A party of heroes battle foes in Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake.
Square Enix

Potentially polarizing decisions

That faithful design could prove polarizing for those looking to get into the series for the first time. When I began my demo, I approached it like a modern RPG initially. I popped over to objectives (now clearly marked on my map) and fought enemies as they came at me. That proved disastrous. The original game requires players to grind out in the field before reaching certain areas and punishes them for not doing so. If you don’t have early spells, like Crack, before heading into the first dungeon, you’re out of luck. I wasn’t expecting the remake to still hold on to that design, which led to a lot of frustrating deaths before I recalibrated.

I’m sure old-school players will appreciate that, but I can understand why new ones would be peeved. The remake looks modern thanks to its gorgeous pixel art that provides more detail and gorgeous lighting. The quality of life touches, like reworked UI and proper tutorials, further build on that idea. Yet those new touches can feel at odds with an older battle system designed for the NES. For instance, random battles seem to happen more infrequently based on what I’ve played, but that means that players are more likely to wander into areas woefully under-leveled with no way of gauging where they’re supposed to be at (it looks like the game may at the very least include some difficulty options that’ll help).

A large manor appears in Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake.
Square Enix

That tension pops up further in sound. The music feels modern thanks to a newly recorded score by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony. Sound effects, on the other hand, are plucked right from the old game. Doors still open with a chunky, digitized sound, while NPCs bleep and bloop. Those are two very different directions for a remake, which left me with a bit of whiplash while getting the hang of its approach.

Based on what I’ve played, Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D seems like it’ll be a bit more niche than other recent remakes I’ve played or HD-2D throwbacks like this. It’s taking a lot of liberties with the original game, but still feels like it’s being careful not to anger Dragon Quest purists too much. I know that those who dig what it’s doing will completely fall in love with it, but I wonder how its opening hour will land with newcomers trying to grasp where it lies on the modern-to-retro spectrum. The best-case scenario is that it encourages newcomers to learn more about the original NES release and come away with an even deeper appreciation of Dragon Quest 3’s history.

Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake launches on November 14 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Dragon Quest 1 + 2 HD-2D Remake will launch in 2025.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
This is the perfect moment to buy a Meta Quest 3 for gaming
The Quest 3 and Touch Plus controllers appear in Meta's charging dock accessory.

A person is enthusiastically enjoying a game while wearing the Meta Quest 3. Meta

At this point, you're probably bought in to VR gaming or you've not. The tech has a notoriously mixed reputation among gamers, some of whom have embraced VR as a gaming option and others who still reflexive sneer at it. I've been a supporter ever since the original PlayStation VR launched as I've played plenty of great games using the four headsets I've owned over the past decade. So believe me when I tell you that this Prime Day is the perfect time to grab a Meta Quest 3, which is .

Read more
Best Samsung Prime Day deals: TVs, phones, monitors and more
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 on a flat surface with the purple Galaxy Buds 2 Pro TWS Bluetooth earbuds on the side.

Samsung is one of the biggest tech conglomerates in the world, and it has one of the biggest ecosystems around, so it makes a lot of sense to go with other Samsung products if you're already one of its users to get that extra integration. Luckily, while Samsung isn't always pricey, there are a lot of Prime Day deals that bring down prices even more, so you can get really affordable stuff, whether you want a new TV or a new smartphone. To that end, we've rounded up our favorite deals across various Samsung product categories and put them for you down below.
Samsung TV Prime Day deals

Samsung is one of the best TV brands, so there will surely be high demand from shoppers for Samsung Prime Day TV deals. However, while Samsung is known for its top-of-the-line TVs with all of the latest technologies, it also offers budget-friendly TVs that are going to be even more affordable during the shopping holiday. Stocks are expected to run out fast though, so if you see a Samsung TV that you want to buy for Prime Day, it's highly recommended that you push through with the transaction as soon as possible.

Read more
This new Xbox Deadpool butt controller raises a lot of questions
A closeup of the Deadpool butt controller. It's red and the back looks like Deadpool's butt cheeks. The text on the image says "Designed by Deadpool xoxo"

Is an Xbox controller with a butt on the back actually comfortable to use? Somebody is about to find out. Xbox announced a limited edition controller on Wednesday that promotes the upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine movie. It's designed to look like Deadpool's backside, complete with a "perfectly rounded tush," according to a post on Xbox Wire.

The accessory is very over the top. The front looks like a mostly regular red Xbox controller with a unique, ridged surface. The two handles, which resemble Deadpool's legs, have straps on them, and if you turn it around, you'll be treated to a pair of prominent buns.

Read more