95 hours later and I've finally finished this game. I don't think I've ever played a game as blatantly nostalgic as this one. From the music cues, set-pieces, short vignettes, and character designs, so much of this game was an homage to the series' history (ESPECIALLY DQ1-5, plus a little 8). That's not necessarily a bad thing - I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff - but I do think some people might take issue with it. I'm still letting things settle, but I'm a little more mixed than I was expecting to be. Mechanically, this is easily the best entry in the series with probably my favorite battle and character building systems. I do think the crafting system (introduced in DQ8) hurts the central progression loop since it almost negates the role of shops in town, but I also have literally never liked a crafting system in a game before so I recognize I'm viewing that with some baggage. Really, my main issue with this game comes down to the "not really a post-game" post-game. Spoilers below: I think the whole justification for the final chapter of this game is narratively bankrupt, undoing essentially all of the character development that has happened, which is pretty dang egregious given how strong the cast had been up until that point. Off the top of my head, you negate all of Serena, Veronica, Sylvando, and Hendrik's growth, as all of their arcs were entirely dependent on the sequences in chapter 2. This could have been somewhat remedied with a short campfire scene after the party re-unites where you essentially just tell everyone what happened, but I also think it's entirely unnecessary. The original "ending" is lovely and bittersweet, allowing the characters to save the world having grown from the sacrifices they made along the way. The only possible justification for the post-game is to tie up the "hero's star" storyline that was thrown in randomly near the end of chapter 2. However, in a game that is already as bloated as this one can be at times, I truly believe that the game would have been better served by just cutting those arcs and characters, or at least incorporating them more naturally into the original story arc. In the end, it really felt like the main reason the creators went down this route was to shoehorn in a big old nostalgia-baiting prequel storyline for the original trilogy of games (albeit after fighting a boss clearly inspired by the design of the final boss from DQIV). I know I'm in the minority on this, but that final reveal fell completely flat for me, and is just not why I play these games. Despite my gripes, I still really enjoyed this game and couldn't stop playing it. 5 is still easily the best in the series for me, but I think this is at least better than 8 for me. Can't wait for XII in 2025!