Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG
Developer: TOSE, Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince – Review

Site Score
Good: Fun combat and monster collecting, Classic Dragon Quest design
Bad: Performance issues
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Dragon Quest is one of those franchises that is here to stay. With dozens of entries, both main and spin-offs, it’s hard to imagine the gaming landscape without this formidable JRPG series. While fans will have to wait a bit longer for the much anticipated Dragon Quest XII: The Flame of Fate, the wait will be much more manageable with the return of one of the most beloved spin-off series, the Monsters Series. People outside of Japan haven’t gotten their hands on a new entry since 2011, but now Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince brings the series back and serves as a prequel to the fourth entry of the main series.


Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince tells the story of Psaro, a young man who is the child of the demon lord and a human woman, making him an odd one out in both worlds. When he tries to take his father’s throne, he is cursed to not be able to attack monsters and is forced to live in exile in a small village. Here he is taught how to be a monster tamer, which is certainly a useful skill in his quest for revenge and search for a cure for his curse. So starts a journey through the underworld, befriending monsters and gaining notoriety in the coliseums.

This setup is a pretty interesting one for a monster-collecting game, trading in the typical tale of a young trainer trying to become the best there is for a personal tale of revenge. There is, however, a competition-like element in the story in the form of coliseums. There is both one in the human and monster world and it often halts the progression through the main story until you’ve beaten a certain rank. This is woven into the story pretty well but it also helps enforce a problem most JRPGS have: a pacing issue. The first 30 minutes of the game feel pretty rushed and deliver all the backstory about Psaro’s convictions at breakneck speed, to then drop into a slow progression in the next few hours. This is where the game’s structure becomes clear, with you exploring a new area, defeating its big bad, and doing it over again in a new location. After some time, the story will begin flowing and it delivers the quirky characters and emotional developments you can expect from a Dragon Quest game.

Dragon Quest spin-offs often tie into one of the main entries, exploring characters and events with a fresh gameplay style. This is the same for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, following Psaro’s early life and showing how he becomes the lord of the dark world. This means the game is somewhat linked to Dragon Quest IV, but there is nothing to worry about if you haven’t actually played the fourth entry which was originally released back in 1990. The story is also not connected to the other Monsters games, so there is no need to have played them either. There are however characters and concepts that will ring a bell with fans, just like how almost all the monsters are returning ones from the franchise. This makes the game a great experience for both veterans and new fans of the series.


The graphical side of Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is a bit of a mixed bag. The designs of the characters and world are great and rival any other entry in the franchise. The classical style of manga artist Akira Toriyama, known for creating Dragon Ball, is always a joy to look at. This can especially be said for the monsters you encounter, all of them bursting with personality in their design. The world also looks amazing, delivering vastly different locations that keep the game looking fresh.

The problem however comes with the performance of the game. Frame drops are very common and it is clear that the underpowered Switch can’t run the game how it is supposed to. Enemies and surroundings pop in and have very choppy animations when they’re far away. This makes the game look like a remastered PS3 game at times, while it is distributed as a full-price game. This isn’t a game-breaking issue, but it can take you out of the experience.


If you ever played a Dragon Quest game before, you’ll be pretty familiar with how they sound. Iconic sounds and tracks are often reused to create a feeling of familiarity, and this is also the case for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince. Leveling up a monster or encountering an enemy feels instantly familiar thanks to this, which pulls you instantly into the game. Since this entry is set in the same universe as Dragon Quest IV, most of the tracks are taken straight from this entry. On one hand, it’s nostalgic to revisit these tracks after so many years. But on the other hand, it would have been nice to have a few more new songs or at least some additional rearrangements.

Like many JRPGS these days, the game is accompanied by partial voice acting. All of the important cutscenes are voice-acted, while smaller ones are silent or feature one generic line. It’s sad to see that not all the conversations have gotten the same treatment, but it can be understandable due to the game’s length. There is an option for English and Japanese voices, which can be freely switched between. both of them deliver competent performances, but the Japanese voices just feel better at home in this type of game.


Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is a turn-based JRPG that plays fairly familiar to the other entries in the franchise, albeit with a big focus on monster collecting. You travel across the world and take your party of four critters into tactical battles.

The game’s biggest focus is the creatures you use in battle. Each of these has your usual abilities, like attacking and defending, accompanied by a collection of skills based on their skill trees. These can offer healing abilities, stronger attacks, or abilities that influence the monster’s stats. This will feel very familiar to players who have played a Dragon Quest game before. As a result, the combat is as fun as ever, especially when you’re combining spells and attacks to take down the strongest foes. How much you can control these monsters varies from battle to battle, however. During normal encounters in the overworld, you can choose all of their attacks like in any other JRPG. But once you enter the arena or certain boss battles, this free control is taken away and only tactics can be assigned to your creatures, like focusing on attacking or healing. This is a bit of an odd choice since these are the encounters you would use the most tactical approach. Speed-up and auto-battle features make these sections more manageable and also make grinding a lot less tiring.

Unlike other games of the monster-collecting genre like Pokémon where you will keep the same creatures around for a long time and create a bond with them, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince motivates you to keep your party ever-changing. New monsters can be acquired during battle by recruiting them, with the chances of this working being influenced by a collection of factors like level and damage. While this is a form of collecting you’ll do a lot and happens naturally when you enter a new location, the best way to get stronger monsters is with the synthesis system. This is a new feature for the series that lets you combine two creatures to create a brand new one, Persona-style. When two monsters are combined, you have the option to bring over specific skill trees and skill points that are spent, giving these level one creatures a head start by improving their potential. Including this mechanic was a great idea, since it brings a ton of depth to party building.

Outside of the battles are a ton of places to explore. Each layer of the dark world has a unique aesthetic that comes with its collection of unique monsters. A big element of this world is the fact the seasons change every 15 minutes, opening new paths or changing the monsters you encounter. These paths often only lead to new monsters or items, among which the iconic Mini Medals, but they offer a fun way to explore each location.

A new monster collector game also isn’t complete without an online mode these days. Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince offers an online arena where you can take on other players in ranked matches or tournaments. While this is a fun addition, there are definitely some balancing issues. In our time with the game, we never seemed to get matched with an even opponent, losing every match after getting hit by just one attack. This makes it seem that the multiplayer is only included for players that have reached the endgame.


Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is a love letter to fans. It tells a typical Dragon Quest story that takes some time to get going. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the game makes up for it with its fun combat and monster collecting. Especially the synthesis system is a great addition that will keep you entertained for hours. The game does however get dragged down by a ton of performance issues that will put a mild damper on the experience.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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