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With Persona 5 successfully living up to its hype in 2017 as the first all-new Persona game in nine years, the stage was set in 2018 for Dragon Quest XI to follow in similar footsteps as it had been nearly a decade since the last new main entry title came west. It’s safe to say that Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age lived up to the hype. As RPGamer’s top turn-based RPG of 2018, not only did it meet expectations, it exceeded many of those set by even the oldest of long-time Dragon Quest fans and is introducing the series to many new fans along the way. Traditional turn-based battle systems may no longer be as ubiquitous in the bestselling games, but they’re far from a dying breed.
Dragon Quest XI moved away from the “build your own party” mechanic of some previous entries and back to an amazing cast of memorable characters all fantastically written and voiced. While the cast is predetermined, the new skill panel system is a refreshing change for the series and opens up multiple avenues of party customization, not the least of which are special skills available when characters become pepped up in combat. Combat in Dragon Quest XI also feels fresh as it changes the round-by-round command entry of other western releases in the series to character by character commands allowing for instantaneous responses to actions in battle without having to rely on the AI, though it is excellent. Meanwhile, albeit strictly from a presentation standpoint, characters move about the field in battle instead of being arranged in a single line. All of these changes are implemented in such a way that Dragon Quest XI does exactly what series creator Yuji Horii intended: it pays homage to what has always worked in the past while pushing the series forward to the future.
The Alliance Alive appeared on the scene this past year as the spiritual successor to The Legend of Legacy. This entry received a focus on story and improved the battle system immensely by expanding parties to up to five members and adding systems to reduce the randomness of character growth. The Alliance Alive uses the old random SaGa system of stat gains and skill acquisition but adds in a Talent Point system to augment it, making party building and growth a more customizable and planned affair. There are hilarious party members, such as a large mechanical duck and an overconfident penguin, while turn-based battles move quickly and some stat grows or skill is learned in virtually every encounter. RPGamers will be encouraged to get into “just one more battle” multiple times to see what they’re rewarded with next as they traverse a world with many distinct realms by sea, land, or sky.
Pokémon fans have eagerly waited for the beloved franchise to make its debut on the Switch. The two Let’s Go titles are a nice appetizer until Nintendo releases a main entry in the series. Pokémon Let’s Go is a spiritual remake of Pokémon Yellow, taking place in the Kanto region, with the game’s original gym leaders and story intact. Random battles are gone this time around, with wild Pokémon visible on each route, caught with the Joy-Con motion controls. Catching a favorite pocket monster will require a good throwing arm, and a TON of Pokéballs. Trainer battles on the other hand remain the same. Splitting the catching and fighting mechanics is a welcome change to the series, no longer requiring trainers to waste resources on random fights. Battling other trainers feels immensely satisfying all the way through the gyms and Elite Four. Let’s Go also introduces Master Trainers that specialize in one specific Pokémon species. Offering a unique challenge for Pokémon veterans, trainers must have that specific Pokémon to challenge them. This fresh take on an old favorite is just what the Pokémon series needed while we wait for generation eight.
by Matt Masem and Kelley Ryan