The Dragon Quest series is one of the longest running JRPG franchises, dating back to the original Famicom release of Dragon Warrior in 1986 in Japan. North American NES owners got their first taste of the franchise in 1989, and Dragon Warrior instantly became one of the staple RPG franchises in North America. Originally released on the PS1, Dragon Quest VII has been retooled and revamped for the 3DS as Dragon Quest VII Fragments of the Forgotten Past. So, should this game have stayed in the past?
Dragon Quest VII starts out on the peaceful island of Estard, which is allegedly a remote peaceful island in the middle of nowhere. An adventurous main character (you) joins the prince of Estard and a local girl. Bored with the home island, you set out on an adventure to find out if there are other lands beside the one you are stranded on. Eventually, you realize that there are indeed other islands, and they must be restored by visiting the past (hence the name). The story plays out a bit like a standard JRPG affair, but the writing and dialogue between characters is well done and thought out.
Considering this game was originally released in Japan in 2013 on the 3DS, you would think that the graphics might feel and look a bit dated. Surprisingly, Dragon Quest VII has some of the best character models and environments I’ve seen on the 3DS. Each character is highly detailed, environments are brimming with color and variety, and the game is pretty impressive. A keen eye will see lots of nuances and little touches in the background that really draw you into the world. One drawback to the high-fidelity of the towns and character models is on the over map, as it suffers from constant pop up of trees and whatnot. It’s a small trade-off, and since the game does feature visible enemies on the overworld, it’s a decision I’m okay with as I’d rather have that then no pop-up but random enemy encounters.
The audio in this game is mostly well down as well, with beautifully orchestrated music throughout the game. One minor quibble I had was the lack of a sound effect for footsteps. This may seem like a minor complaint, but it just felt a bit strange and made some areas and dungeons feel a bit hollow by lacking this.
Of course, all the graphics and music in the world can be great, but if the gameplay lacks then it’s a waste. Thankfully, Dragon Quest VII is a pretty straight-line JRPG with enough elements to keep it fresh. The main focus of the game is to find the missing fragments, which in collecting a certain number, will make another island appear in which you will visit. Defeating the dungeon on the island will bring the island back into the current world. Characters also can switch classes about 15 hours into the game when a certain island appears, and can then customize their experience more to their playing style. Since all enemies appear on the map, random battles aren’t a problem, and if you feel like grinding (which you will do a good bit of) you can do so at your preference, which is a feature I always enjoy in an RPG. Combat takes place in a first-person perspective, which is standard for the series.
Dragon Quest VII is a long game, but thankfully there is a nice mechanic that will keep your objective in mind. You can talk to the members in your party at anytime, which will usually give you hints as to what your next objective should be, so even if it has been a little while since your last playing session you will be right back in the mix of things.
While the game is mostly positive aside from the mild nuances I have mentioned previously, there is one one more issue that can be a bit annoying: the start of the game. The first hour of the game has you mostly getting back story, and contains no combat whatsoever. Surprisingly, this is actually cut down from the original PS1 release of the game, which was about double the time, but it still feels way too slow to get into the meat of the game.
Once you get into the meat of the game though, you are greeted with a fantastic JRPG experience that doesn’t deviate too far from the traditional path. While some people may not like the older sort of play style, I think it works great in this game. Couple that with a good story, mostly solid graphics, and an excellent musical score, and Dragon Quest VII is yet another “must-own” JRPG on the Nintendo 3DS. I’m glad this game finally got translated and brought stateside, and I think a lot of JRPG lovers will enjoy the game as well.