Perhaps the nicest thing about being a prequel is that players won't necessarily have to be experienced with the source material to get the most enjoyment. Dragon Quest XI was where players first got their introductions with the Luminary and Erik (Camus in the Japanese version), among other party members. Part of Erik's motivation for joining with the Yggdrasil's chosen hero is to take care of (and recover) his sister Mia, the two of whom have survived being in the stead of Vikings for much of their younger years. Dragon Quest Treasures picks up years before the calling of the Luminary and Mia's fate that sets Erik off on his journey to save the world.
As youths, Erik and Mia still had the calling of treasure hunters and an innate nose for loot. Dragon Quest Treasures opens with the young siblings aboard a Viking vessel as a party rages on. While sneaking out, the pair stumble across a duo of caged beasts that have to be freed with a slingshot in hand. After a brief tutorial on the workings of a slingshot, including the various ammo types that can be launched, the pair break these mystical creatures free and venture off for their first real taste of treasure.
After slipping off the boat and discovering a cave of possible bounties, the pair discover a matching pair of magical dragon daggers. Along the way to that first major piece of loot, the game slowly introduces players to various mechanics, including swapping between the two siblings to bypass pressure plates and the doors they guard. Once the pair finally make it to those fabled daggers, a portal opens up that swallows the pair, those monsters they set free, and all.
Only then does the game open back up and allow players to play the role of Mia for the rest of the introduction. She shortly befriends her first monster, a fashionable Slime by the name of Oozabella, and seeks out her first few pieces of basic treasure to prove her capability as a treasure hunter (and escape a pirate camp that won't let her free until she acquires a certain heirloom). That innate sense of treasure comes from visions of a basic resting place. Fleeting visions of buried treasure offer the player some guidance to seek out the location. When standing in the right spot, a context prompt appears to dig up the treasure, so feasibly players could just wander aimlessly and stumble across hidden items (unless, of course, that precognitive vision is required for the treasure to appear in the first place).
When it comes time to engage in combat, Dragon Quest Treasures takes a strange hybrid approach. In some ways, it feels like an earlier version of the Mana series that Squaresoft was known for during the Super Famicom era. Mia has limited combo strings but can also dodge around to evade oncoming attacks; strangely, the same button that's used to dodge roll can also be held down to heal. She can also have free movement to shoot her slingshot at enemies from afar without having to worry about taking a dragon's tail swipe up close. As she attacks, the monsters she journeys alongside will also attack on their own. Colored arcing lines show enmity and designated targets so you can see who might need some emergency healing in a moment. A lack of a proper lock-on (clicking in the right analog stick only resets your camera) and even gyro aiming for the slingshot means that there's going to be some extra work needed to manage ranged shots and melee combat in tandem. On the bright side, there was a healthy amount of auto-aim when it came time to use the slingshot.
When out of combat, the monsters that Erik and Mia accompany can be used to offer a traversal tool to reach otherwise out-of-reach locations. Every monster that was available in Dragon Quest Treasures' introduction could only be used to jump higher, even Admiral Mogsworth, but there were hints of some other skills that could be later unlocked including, among others, Glide, Sprint, Scan, and Stealth.
During my hours-long preview of Dragon Quest Treasures, I did notice a few oddities that may or may not be ironed out ahead of the full release. Whether in handheld or docked mode, the actual performance on Nintendo Switch left much to be desired. At times, heavy aliasing is present and the frame rates dipped well below 30 frames per second, which was surprising considering that the far more graphically intensive Crisis Core I played just moments prior took full advantage of the hybrid Nintendo hardware. Another strange oddity was the fact that Erik's Japanese voice had been recast for Dragon Quest Treasures, while his sister Mia's voice actress remained the same. I doubt that will see any changes ahead of release, but I would be curious to hear the reason for the recasting.
While there are still two months to go before Dragon Quest Treasures is ready to be unearthed, perhaps the performance issues can still be ironed out. As the segment I played only briefly set up through the introductory credits roll and teased the lands beyond and three biomes to explore, I was offered hints of an ultimate goal to pursue: seven precious Dragonstone gems. In the words of Erik, they aren't going home until they can grab every last piece of treasure they can find. For those that can't wait for a piece of the action, Dragon Quest Treasures will be arriving on December 9th exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.