Published on March 18th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Dragon Warrior VII
Japan’s number one RPG series is Dragon Quest, a traditional turn-based fantasy RPG with character designs by Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama. Having already had Dragon Quests I- IV release in America under the name “Dragon Warrior” it returns to the west in its first outing on a 3D console, the Playstation, staying true to its roots with Enix opting to remain retro and have pseudo-3D for their 7th game in the series.
Unfortunately Dragon Warrior VII never came to the UK, but luckily that doesn’t stop fans like me from playing it. Having recently announced a 3DS remake in Japan, I decided to dust off my copy and have another jab at it.
The game starts with yet another nameless hero, with the epic title of Fisherman’s son. Playful mischief soon leads the Fisherman’s son (Dave in this case) and his friends to a ruin with portals to mysterious islands around the world.
Then it’s typical RPG fare of roaming from town to town and island to island, fighting in dungeons and helping villages with their problems in order to acquire “shards” to unlock further islands to the goal of restoring all of the continents of the world to their former glory.
The game’s story does more than other RPGs to influence the flow of the gameplay, with a heavier emphasis on adventure elements as the game expects you to explore and look again to find the hidden shards. There is a slight Chrono Trigger feel as the portals lead to past versions of continents of the world, that when fixed, will make the corresponding continent in the present time appear for you to explore.
The game features some changing party members and also utilises a job system where you can level the job to earn skills associated with it permanently. There are lots of jobs and new ones can be unlocked when learning certain sets of jobs. Special skills can also be learnt when one levels particular jobs consecutively.
This isn’t the first time Dragon Quest has used a job system as it was first employed in Dragon Quest III and later VI, however VII certainly boasts a more dynamic and expansive version vastly improving on earlier models.
Strangely the rather complex system is incorporated so late in the game it feels distracting to the flow of the levelling and consequently the pacing as a whole, ensuring what could have been a welcome addition to the game, to being an aggravation to your journey.
Unlike Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest isn’t famed for mini-games, however this iteration has plenty of extra sidequests to keep you busy when you’re not looking for shards.
The monster park is a place where you can send monsters after meeting them in the field, once they have decided to join you. It seems like it’s purely aesthetic as I could never get to the park nor did I earn any items for doing this. Blueprints could also be collected on your travels and given to the Park keeper to expand the park, whatever that means.
Immigrant town is a spare plot of land that you can make a town from when you recruit people to live there by finding them around the world mostly in bars and inns. The town is meant to change based on the kind of people you recruit, a farm when you recruit farmers and a bazaar when you find merchants.
Every item of clothing has a style score which a high one can be used to win you a place on the World Ranking Federation’s scoreboard, there is also one for strength and intelligence so levelling helps for these ones.
Finally the Mini-medal (or in this version Tiny Medals) quest is in this game like most Dragon Quest titles before it, where you collect the medals throughout the world and give them in to the Medal King, who’ll give you some neat gear in return.
I love all Dragon Quest games and they all have pretty similar features, but I did find this to stand out amongst the others and mostly not for great reasons.
The first is the horrendous translation job on this game, I hear it had thousands of pages of text that were translated by a rather small team with a quick turnaround time. I don’t think it’s much of an excuse though as all RPG’s suffer from this and so it’s not an exception, also although the game is long, with my playthrough clocking 100 hours and 33 minutes before the trek to the final fight, it’s hardly a wordy game either, as it doesn’t have huge essays of text in the story.
The other issue was the characters and the mish mash of not being completely aware of who was and wasn’t going to stay in the party, this ended up with me having spent permanent stat points on a character who, by the end of the game, had been out of my party so long she had become completely obsolete. Not just that, but the confusion of the perma-party also leads to a discontinuity with the expectations of the narrative as well as a shift in your perceptions of the characters relationships with one another, like trading a bar of gold for one of turd.
But in the end, the biggest issue for me was the sense of being lost whilst playing the game. Not lost within the world, but lost in where I was going and the purpose of my journey. There were many times where I didn’t know what to do and was mooching around aimlessly until I could happen upon the next trigger event, which usually ended up being completely unrelated to the previous event or just being a little counter-intuitive to the current situation. Everything felt so scattered, the world maps were all useless and it was hard to remember what and where things were, let alone navigate around and the interface was clumsy with menu management also becoming a chore.
I loved the game because it’s still a Dragon Quest game, with a huge beautiful world and charming characters full of life, but it’s also plagued with lots of small problems which are mildly irritating all the time. On the bright side, the remake is most likely going to fix all of the issues I have mentioned as they did with DQ’s IV to VI. They’ve already announced there will be a shard navigation system to better streamline finding the buggers.
So, here’s to the 3DS version and its realisation of “Dave and co” in stunning 3D, but also to the bittersweet memories of 2D Dragon Warrior VII, with its Metabbles, Tiny Medals and excruciatingly long load times. Cheers.