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Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai Review (PS5)

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Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai is a game of two halves: a surprisingly simplistic action RPG and an endless barrage of static, visual novel-style cutscenes. It bears the name Dragon Quest and is published by Square Enix, yet it feels entirely barebones; with basic gameplay and a poorly presented story, we’re left confused about who this one was for.

But first, some background. Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai began as a manga series in Japan in 1989, based on the mega-popular Dragon Quest video game franchise. It was a hit, and there was an equally popular anime adaptation in 1991. Fast-forward to 2020 and the anime series is revived, with an action RPG announced to be in the works because of the infuriating ubiquity of transmedia storytelling. Infinity Strash is that action RPG, and it retells the first 42 episodes of the revamped anime, which is 100 episodes long, leaving plenty of room for a sequel.

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Game Studio and KAI GRAPHICS collaborated on Infinity Strash, which is, in essence, a series of extended cutscenes pulled from this newest anime series bolted onto a combat system. When not staring at stills from what we have to imagine is a better-paced narrative, players will be blasting through bland environments full of enemies pulled from the larger Dragon Quest universe, occasionally punctuated by a boss encounter, which are reused to an unfortunate extent.

We weren’t expecting Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age quality, being a spinoff and a subseries. But the Dragon Quest Heroes and Dragon Quest Builders series are well regarded enough, so seeing such a barebones effort from the storied publisher is surprising. Technically speaking, It all works, and it even looks nice enough — but there is so slight variation in gameplay that apathy quickly sets in.

Significantly of its era, the story at the heart of Infinity Strash is simple, full of confusing characters with names that may or may not sound infinitely cooler in Japanese, in classic Akira Toriyama fashion. We’d hate to spoil anything, but it follows the titular Dai, a boy with a mysterious inner power who dreams of becoming a hero. When destiny calls, Dai begins to train under the famous Avan and becomes one of his Disciples. Along with the other Disciples of Avan (Popp, Maam, and Hyunckel), they journey to save the world from Dark Lord Hadlar and his master, the still more powerful Dark King Vearn.

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The worst of both worlds, Infinity Strash manages to simultaneously feel like a rushed retelling of a much larger tale and a series of interminably long cutscenes entirely unsuited for the medium of video games. There is no world to explore; you select a chapter, sit through a series of cutscenes, and occasionally play through a main stage to progress the story. These gameplay segments are generally just hallways full of chaff enemies, culminating in a boss encounter. As a treat, you will unlock free stages, which are repeatable opportunities to fight those same enemies to grind out character levels.

Some scenes stretch on for as long as ten minutes straight, with multiple bridging the gap between each brief oasis of gameplay. It just goes on and on, and we can’t stress enough that these sequences are simply stills from the anime with a sepia filter over the top, full of characters yelling extremely basic exposition at one another. If you thought classic Shonen anime like Dragon Ball Z or Naruto moved slowly, then Infinity Strash winds things down to tectonic speed. We can’t imagine actual fans of the source material would be happy with this bastardised retelling, by the way, or that players of the game would want another serving regardless of format.

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There’s a universe in which the story stuff could be forgiven (or at least skipped, a hell of a conundrum for the player to be in), provided the gameplay was solid enough. Sadly, what’s here is serviceable if relatively shallow and fairly stiff. Each character in Infinity Strash has their own set of basic attacks and unique abilities and magic, unlocked at specific moments throughout the story. While you can grind levels to increase base stats like HP, Attack, and Magic in classic fashion, meaningful additions to the player’s moveset are imprisoned behind still more cutscenes.

You can take a party of four characters into combat and freely switch between them in battle. The AI manages the others, and there is mindless fun to be had just laying waste to everything in sight. If you were wondering, Strash is like Dai’s version of Goku’s Kamehameha — a special attack you will use repeatedly. Each character can have three special abilities equipped at once and will eventually unlock Coup de Grâce super attacks, which necessitate filling a corresponding meter.

There is a light upgrade system in the form of Bond Memories, essentially equipable cards commemorating major story beats that can be upgraded for minor statistical gains. It’s unnecessary, but a separate roguelike mode housed in the Temple of Recollection offers more combat for those who want it. Each run has the player’s party starting at level one, separate from the base campaign, where the material to upgrade Bond Memories, as well as spells and abilities, can be farmed.

Conclusion

We can’t imagine who Infinity Strash: Dragon Quest The Adventure of Dai is for, as it mostly boils down to being a worse version of an existing IP, with some fairly bland gameplay tacked on for good measure. Newcomers will be lost, and enthusiasts won’t appreciate the corners cut, so while technically — and mechanically — sound, it leaves very little to recommend.


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