This Square Enix RPG remake is a beautiful game with smart improvements — and it's launching later in 2024

Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D remake hall
(Image credit: Square Enix)

A heal from my party's Priest just barely keeps my Hero alive, ensuring he can land one more hit on the last enemy in this fight. I pull it off, and we're victorious, healing up and and finding a treasure chest with some new armor. From one random encounter to next, having my party members wait their turns before hurling fire bolts at Slimes and Batterflies has never looked better. 

While I was in L.A. for the Xbox Games Showcase 2024 and Summer Game Fest 2024, I also got to check out about 45 minutes of Square Enix's upcoming Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake behind closed doors. From my time hands-on, this beautiful remake updates the original game for modern hardware, with some smart decisions that file down the rough edges while preserving the intended experience. 

Best of all, I learned players won't be waiting for a long time in order to play it. Here's my thoughts.

The Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is absolutely gorgeous

A world of adventure awaits. (Image credit: Square Enix)

Before beginning, Square Enix explained to press that this game is being remade because it's the start of the entire Dragon Quest journey. While it is the third game, it's chronologically the first entry in the "Erdrick Trilogy," meaning the team felt it was the right place to start players off if they are newcomers, while presenting the best possible way to revisit the experience in a new way for any long-time fans. 

The story setup in this turn-based RPG is classic and simple: As the child of the hero Ortega, players must complete their father's failed quest to defeat the Archfiend, Baramos. You'll gather companions and grow in power as you try to save the world. Exploring the world for key items will lead your party to villages and towns with helpful NPCs, as well as finding dark forests and dungeons that are packed to the brim with deadly enemies. 

My demo started extremely early on in the game, with Square Enix telling me and the others playing it that we were some of the first to ever try the remake. Built by Artdink (who previously worked on Triangle Strategy) alongside Square Enix Team Asano, it feels like a ridiculous understatement to say that this game is gorgeous, but I'll say it all the same. This game is gorgeous. 

A moment of calm around a peaceful spring. (Image credit: Square Enix)

As the game's name clearly spells out, the Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is rendered in the "HD-2D" graphics style that Square Enix has pioneered over the last few years. This technique has previously been used in games like Octopath Traveler, Octopath Traveler 2 and Triangle Strategy to great success, marrying the 16-bit pixel art of SNES-era titles with 3D graphical detail that more advanced hardware can now render.

The detailed castles, forests, party members, and iconic foes all look simply wonderful, and over the course of my 45 minutes or so hands-on, it was sometimes hard to stop staring at background environments in villages or ruined castle hallways, as there's plenty of detail despite the simplistic beauty. Seriously, they look amazing. Running on a PlayStation 5 — the game is also coming to Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, and Nintendo Switch — there's never any framerate drops or loading stutters as I navigated across the world. I really wouldn't have expected otherwise, but it's still nice to note.

The teams at Square Enix and Artdink have poured a ton of effort into the visual quality of this game while working hard at preserving the intended art direction, as everyone involved wanted to honor the late Toriyama-san, whose work on the Dragon Quest franchise was legendary. 

Combat can still be unexpectedly brutal. (Image credit: Square Enix)

As you explore, you'll encounter groups of enemies that have to be fought in turn-based combat. You can set your allies' AI to different strategies, such as being more aggressive or to focus on defensive measures, which can be extremely useful as they learn different abilities after leveling up. There's a lot of random encounters, so the adjustable battle speed and auto-battle settings are wonderful additions. Outside of combat, I found further quality-of-life improvements, such as the Heal All ability, which saved me from tedium after a particularly rough fight. 

That doesn't mean you're on autopilot though. If you're not careful, you can fall, and while the rougher parts of the experience have been sanded down through tweaks, battles can still be difficult. At one point, I lost one of my party members thanks to a gnarly encounter with multiple Batterflies, requiring a trek back to a Church in order to employ the service of a priestess to resurrect my mage. The setback was made slightly more amusingly bearable by the hilarious, classic image of the coffin being dragged around with the rest of the party until said resurrection could be paid for. 

While the development team is being intentionally vague in order to avoid spoilers, Square Enix does note that the narrative has been "refined," with a few changes and expansions to the story that are meant to enhance the overall experience. 

A classic adventure returning this year

There are secrets buried everywhere. (Image credit: Square Enix)

I loved my time with the Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake, and 45 minutes flew by in the blink of an eye. This remake isn't sacrificing the challenging experience the original game offered, but has smartly modernized it for a new generation. I'm eager to get back to it, and I can't wait to see what secrets are hidden away in this charming world.

Fortunately, I won't be waiting for a very long time in order to get my hands on this stunning remake, and neither will anyone else. The Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is scheduled to launch later this year on Nov. 14, 2024 worldwide. It's another multiplatform game from Square Enix, and I hope it finds success, because it'll be well-deserved.

This won't be the end though, as Square Enix is bringing the rest of the Erdrick Trilogy to HD-2D as well! Dragon Quest 1 HD-2D Remake and Dragon Quest 2 HD-2D Remake are slated to launch in 2025.

As Square Enix previously confirmed, the Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake is coming to Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.