Dragon Quest Treasures Is Too Big A Departure From Dragon Quest Monsters

Dragon Quest Monsters is one of my favourite series of all time. It easily surpasses the mainline Dragon Quest games and, as far as monster-catching games go, is up there with Pokemon and Shin Megami Tensei. It’s for this reason that Tose developing a new Dragon Quest Monsters game had me incredibly excited, unbearably so for anyone who would talk to me about it. And then we got a look at it.

Dragon Quest Treasures might have started out as a Monsters game, but somewhere along the line, the tracks changed and the development train steamed on ahead into unknown territory. The ghosts of early plans still remain in monster allies and the childish heroes recruiting them as they travel to different lands, but the soul of DQM has been ripped from the game. It’s not just that Dragon Quest doesn’t translate well into an action RPG, or that mechanics like crafting and cooking feel like they’ve been cribbed from Recent Triple-A Game 4, it’s that it made the biggest mistake it could have made – it neglected the monsters.

Despite the departure from the Monsters series, Dragon Quest Treasures is still a monster-catching game. That cannot be denied. You collect monsters and you fight alongside them. The thing is, monster-catching games work best when their worlds revolve around those monsters – everyone in a Pokemon game has something to say about their critters, Digimon games have those digital monsters taking the spotlight even in the more human-centric narratives, and Monster Sanctuary is a game about a monster sanctuary. In Treasures, monsters feel like a tacked-on mechanic or an uncomfortable legacy that, while not the focus anymore, cannot be erased.

Instead of scrapping Monsters elements entirely, Treasures finds an uneasy middle ground between the old and the new, and suffers greatly for it. The transition from turn-based to action-based leaves behind complex and satisfying strategy and brings a clunky, mindless button masher. The removal of complicated breeding and skill inheritance possibilities reduces team planning to picking your favourite monsters in your favourite colour. Worst of all, the change in focus means the variety of monsters you actually fight might be the most narrow in scope since Dragon Quest changed from Dragon Warrior in 2005. There are fewer than 20 different monster models to encounter, with the bulk of the game’s roster being made up of palette swaps. I know it doesn’t have the word ‘Monsters’ in the name anymore, but come on. Comparatively, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 Professional came out in 2016 for the 3DS and had over 750 different monsters in it. It remains to this day the best experience I’ve had with a Dragon Quest game, despite playing it with a clunky fan translation.

I can’t blame Tose for heading in a new direction, the Monsters games were never the biggest hits – half of them never made it to a European release and the most recent one didn’t even get a localisation – but knowing that Treasures is what I have instead hurts my heart a little bit. Monster-taming games never go out of style – we get Pokemon releases every year, the indie scene is booming with them, and Digimon still exists, despite… everything. That Tose didn’t exploit Dragon Quest 11’s widespread success to revive a beloved spin-off is a bitter disappointment. For me and the 17 other people who care.

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