Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai Review – An Abysmal Adventure

    Title: Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai
    Developer: Square Enix, GameStudio
    Release Date: September 28, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Square Enix
    Genre: Action RPG

Dragon Quest is an impressive multi-faceted franchise in terms of its sub-series. For instance, aside from the mainline entries, you have the Monsters, Builders, and Heroes spinoffs. So, given the variety of genres, there’s something here for everyone. Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai is an interesting multimedia spinoff that has a manga and anime adaptation. Sadly, many in the West don’t know its characters and plot, but Square Enix has been looking to change that in recent years, which brings us to Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai.

This action RPG adapts select arcs from the source material so both fans and newcomers can experience all things Dai. But unfortunately, Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai is, without hyperbole, one of the worst games in not only the Dragon Quest library but Square Enix’s entire catalog. I can’t say I was expecting this experience, yet that’s the reality of the matter here. So, with that established, let’s dive into the how.

Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai attempts to adapt the first 41 episodes of the remade Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai anime series in the context of the player needing to piece together Dai’s memories following a battle with Dragon Master General Baran. The game presents these memories in two general ways. On a linear world map in a stage format, episodes can be cutscenes or playable sequences depicting specific parts of the anime. When it comes to these story cutscenes, players sit through Infinity Strash recaps of anime episodes with dialogue.

I should emphasize that the way Infinity Strash tries to tell its story is never entertaining. If you’re a newcomer to The Adventure of Dai, like myself, this is undoubtedly one of the worst ways to experience it. The selected scenes depicting the story, sans boss battles, are all just partially ripped from other media. You’re essentially viewing abridged versions of episodes that have no staying power or emotional resonance because they are not outfitted for a game experience.

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The recaptured story scenes here can be best described as reaching lengths just before they hit their stride. They try to cram so much information in so many short to moderately long scenes that the meaning of everything becomes unclear; I felt like I was reading poorly edited wiki pages. Plus, the way everything is presented comes off as a careless interpretation. Some of the in-game engine scenes had me dreaming of a scenario where the whole title was properly paced and told like this rather than stills with voice work. I can’t tell whether they were trying to tell the full story’s events in an understandable fashion or just give a brief overview. The team hits a middle ground here that satisfies no one.

As a result, I have no idea who the story is for. Newcomers may grasp a few general things but nothing substantial, whereas fans will already know all of this information, and I’m sure they would prefer more digestible recaps along with unique missions. Honestly, a completely original adventure or perhaps a leaner portion of the story should’ve been the focus instead, so it could all be captured in-engine. Thankfully, you can simply skip every story sequence, so that should theoretically rid the grievous faults for fans. Yet, that is unfortunately not the case because the gameplay of Infinity Strash is terrible.

During gameplay, there is no exploration, as it’s all wholly reliant on combat, which is perfectly fine if planned accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with such an approach, especially if the combat systems were enjoyable. However, that just isn’t the case, and we’re left with some head-scratching means of combat.

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First off, the movement in Infinity Strash is stiff. You can dash and block, but such actions aren’t immediate, as there are always delays preceding and after they’re performed. This is not a problem by itself whatsoever since, at least conceptually, this stiffness should serve as the catalyst for weight-infused swings, providing feedback when striking foes. However, performing attacks in Infinity Strash feels like nothing; that’s the best way I can describe it. No matter who you play as, swings and spells have no sense of impact carrying them. Everything just feels hollow. It’s a shame how smaller Square Enix releases like Star Ocean The Divine Force and Valkyrie Elysium have better combat systems than this to an excessively comical extent. Even the Dragon Quest Heroes titles feel significantly better with player feedback.

Combos comprise light attacks and specials that grow repetitive after about the first three or so missions. Speaking of repetition, that’s the best way you can assess the gameplay loop. Between humorously repeated boss fights in the story alone and the process of the Temple of Recollection, you’ll quickly find progression exceedingly dull. The Temple of Recollection is an area outside the bounds of the story where you traverse multiple rooms with your characters, starting at level one upon each visit. This can be seen as an arena mode of sorts where you re-battle enemies and bosses again, with the goal being the acquisition of enhanced Bond Memories, which act as gear that can be equipped onto each character that offers different stat boosts and, in particular cases, character-specific bonuses.

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There are a couple of issues with how the Temple of Recollection is handled that are tangentially related to the overall game design. For example, if you pursue the story missions and do the side missions once, you’ll still find bosses absurdly tanky to the extent of you dealing chip damage. This then incentivizes you to constantly replay previous missions for increased experience and re-enter the Temple of Recollection for better Bond Memories. The problems with such a gameplay loop should be evident, but it needs to be brought up.

Each mission in Infinity Strash is structured like it’s a mobile game. They last a handful of minutes at most, with only a few exceptions, and the necessity to grind on them repeatedly is undeniably characteristic of your typical mobile title. What makes this all even worse is how the Temple of Recollection prevents progression at select points if you haven’t made breakthroughs in the story, meaning that you have to restart the Temple, who knows how many times, if you want enough meaningful rewards.

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I suppose redoing the side missions is the less time-consuming alternative, though Bond Memories are integral for growing stronger, so you’ll have to do the Temple a bunch regardless. It’s such a mess. The Temple of Recollection also has a startling lack of visual distinction between its rooms and layers, meaning that even if you make it past a bunch of areas, it’ll feel offputting. Oddly, there’s some bizarrely quiet music that plays in the Temple, too, even during combat. I have no idea what the intention behind this was, as there’s no discernible tone that can be grasped here. No tension, excitement, nothing.

If there’s one facet of praise Infinity Strash deserves, it’s the presentation. When not taking the repetitive area design into account, the visuals are gorgeous, truly feeling like they were ripped straight from the anime itself. The character models embrace this notion, too, as they’re highly expressive and instill the surrounding world with some life. And the technical performance is passable, I suppose. It functions fine. That’s about all the praise I can muster.

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Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai is not an experience I recommend to anyone. Regardless of your familiarity with the series, I can promise you that this is not worth the time. Even fans who love the source material will get nothing positive from this title, as the miserable gameplay loop and surface-level storytelling will do nothing to initiate or enhance anybody’s love for the IP. What is here is more representative of a mobile game’s structure, with a console coating that’s mostly deceitful above all else.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.