|PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox Series X|S
|September 28, 2023
When I hear Dragon Quest, I have a certain set of expectations. There should be slimes, an engaging story steeped in anime tropes, engaging combat, and a slew of characters drawn by Akira Toriyama. Infinity Strash covers the story of a well-known Dragon Quest anime and manga of the same name. It’s just too bad their focus was on retelling the story as a game instead of making the game itself fun in any respect.
Violence: Adventure of Dai has animated cartoon violence. There is no blood or gore.
Sexual Content: There is no sexual content of concern here.
Drugs and Alcohol: There are no drugs or references to alcohol in Adventure of Dai.
Language/Crude Humor: There is some mild vulgarity. The words d*** and b**** are present.
Dark/Spiritual Content: The game features magic, and major dark force of evil, and many evil minions helping his cause.
I went into Infinity Strash with the ignorance of someone who’s only played a few of the Dragon Quest games. My first exposure to the franchise was the 2005 release of Dragon Quest VIII. The cute, slime-filled JRPG won my heart with its bright, cartoony graphics, standout characters, and excellent gameplay. Despite being a fan of anime and some manga, Infinity Strash somehow never made its way into my field of vision as a cultural entity. Knowing both standard Dragon Quest and anime tropes, I’d probably enjoy the anime. As a fan of Dragon Quest games, however, this title has done the IP no favors. If anything, I believe it’s quashed any interest I might have had.
The game flows from mission to mission, delivering the story of Dai and his companions while interspersing some combat encounters. Some missions are literally just story beats while others offer a fight at the end of the cutscene. That might have been forgivable if the story had been done with in-engine cutscenes (since the character models and effects look fantastic), but what we have are just story beats being fed through still images from the anime. They could have at least given us actual scenes from the show! Unfortunately, the gameplay mechanics are, somehow, just as tedious as consuming the story is.
From a gameplay perspective, The Adventure of Dai may be the most boring, lifeless action RPG I’ve played in some time. The combat is monotonous and repetitive with little reprieve. The vast majority of what you’re doing is attacking with a melee weapon a few times and mixing in a couple of skills on cooldown when possible. In between, you’ll be timing blocks and dodges. Oh yeah, you can charge up a super meter to use for heavier damage on occasion. Those look cool, but they’re unskippable and it gets old pretty quickly.
That’s it. You’ll earn a few new skills as you progress through the story, but the core loop is always there, looming over you like a teacher making you repeat your multiplication tables straight through recess…and you really wanted to play dodgeball today. It sucks the fun out of what could’ve been an exciting, dynamic offering. Given the frustrating state of the combat, it’s sad that the most exciting aspect of the game is a grindy dungeon-crawl mode that lets you earn upgrades, too.
While the gameplay and storytelling are cumbersome, The Adventure of Dai is a gorgeous game. The beautiful, vibrant monster and character designs the franchise is known for deliver here in spades. I really wish the story could have been told in this engine. The game, sparse as it is, feels like its assets were pulled out of a brand-new anime with modern computerized animation techniques. It makes me want to see Dragon Quest XII that much more. It also makes me balk at the decades-old stills of the anime they use in the game’s storytelling that much harder.
I don’t actually understand why Infinity Strash: DRAGON QUEST The Adventure of Dai exists as a modern video game in the state it’s in. It feels like they took an IP few would be familiar with and gave it to a team that was just trying to familiarize themselves with a new toolset. The gameplay is simplistic and boring and the story, which they force-feed every beat of, is told through FAR too much exposition which the dated anime stills do nothing to alleviate. Given its glaring flaws, Infinity Strash is a hard title to recommend, even to the most diehard Dragon Quest fan.
Review copy generously provided by Square Enix
The Bottom Line
Infinity Strash brings the story and visual flare of the beloved Dragon Quest manga to life with one of the most mediocre repetitive action RPGs in years.