It’s funny how the Nintendo Switch version of Dragon Quest XI has remained an enigma for so long. It was confirmed for the platform shortly after the game’s original announcement in July 2015, when Switch was still known by codename “Nintendo NX.” Since that time, the PlayStation 4 and 3DS versions were shown extensively, which together contained three extensive versions. The PS4 version was a fully-3D RPG whose presentation was reminiscent of Dragon Quest VIII’s, while the 3DS version contained two iterations: A 3D version with super-deformed characters reminiscent of Dragon Quest VII on 3DS, and a 2D version similar to the old Super Famicom/NES versions.
The PS4 and 3DS versions released in Japan in late-July, but Square Enix still hasn’t confirmed which version(s) the Switch version will receive. It’s left some Switch owners scratching their heads, but I’m sure some Square Enix employees are having a good time watching the gaming community continue to make guesses online. However, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii may have provided a significant clue about the identity of the Switch version.
Horii attended Epic Games Japan’s Unreal Fest East 2017 over the weekend, and discussed the development of the PS4 version, which ran on Unreal Engine 4. There, he directly mentioned that the Switch version is also being made using UE4. Horii subsequently wondered if he was actually cleared to discuss this version, but Square Enix programmer Mitsuru Kamiyama signaled that it was too late for him to say anything, indicating how this might be a genuine slip of the tongue. This wouldn’t be the first time, as Horii previously let it slip that DQVII and VIII for 3DS were being localized months before Square Enix confirmed it. He’s one of the most valued developers working for the company, so it’s unlikely they gave him any sort of punishment.
It’s not quite as large of a slip as that aforementioned example, however. Notice that Horii didn’t specifically say the Switch version will be based on the PS4 version, so this should keep some communities guessing. They could be porting the 3DS version over to UE4, and porting that to Switch, but that sounds like more trouble than it’s worth. It’s also still possible Switch will receive its own separate version that isn’t a port. But just because those scenarios are “possible” doesn’t mean they’re “likely,” and it could very well be the version everyone expects.
Square Enix has held off on revealing the Switch version DQXI to give the PS4 and 3DS versions breathing room in Japan. They want anyone who wants to play the game to buy one of the currently-available copies, since they apparently feel most of the desire to play them will drop the moment this version manifests. They could have a point: The 3DS version is still in the top 20 in the country’s sales charts, and the Switch version could be a competing handheld iteration. Also, plenty would have skipped the PS4 version in favor of a Switch version, given that Japanese players tend to prefer handhelds. But sales of the PS4 version have already slowed down, as its weekly sales have apparently dropped below 5,000. They’ve kept the audience in suspense for so long that they’ll want to announce this in at least a semi-grand fashion, perhaps as one of the bigger announcements on a Nintendo Direct installment.
Meanwhile, Square Enix also hasn’t said much about the western version. It was announced on the day it released in Japan through a special video featuring Horii, which confirmed the western subtitle “Echoes of an Elusive Age.” Neither the video or accompanying press release confirmed platforms, but the PS4 version was confirmed when the video was posted on Sony’s account. Though it was subsequently removed, it would be alarming if it wasn’t coming to PS4 outside Japan, given the system’s status worldwide. Perhaps the Switch version will be revealed alongside the confirmation of these platforms, so it and the PS4 version can be released simultaneously in the west. Square Enix previously claimed more info was coming in the fall, so they’ll have to say something in the next two months.
The chances aren’t good, but I still have my fingers (figuratively) crossed for the 3DS version — especially the 16-bit-style 2D version. The scripts are identical in every version, so it would depend on whether the cost of implementing the text and distributing the game is worth it. They’d have several buyers if they did, so hopefully they go through with it.
It’s been a little over two months since DQXI released in Japan, and plenty of players have had time to finish it and post impressions detailing how good it is. They aren’t making the wait for the western version any easier, and given how long it’s taking for basic release info to be detailed, it’s unlikely to release outside Japan before spring 2018. We’ll get a better picture of how the localization is progressing by the end of the fall, barring any delays.