Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past Review

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Game Title: Dragon Quest VII Fragments of the Forgotten Past
Developer: Heartbeat, Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
Download: 11,632 Blocks
NA Availability: Retail | Digital Download
EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download

Back in the days of the PS One and Nintendo 64, there were two major Japanese RPG franchises that kept making their way to the west: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Today, both series are associated with a single company: Square Enix. However, this wasn’t always the case. Before Square and Enix did their merger, the franchises were the same type of game but on opposite sides of the RPG fight.

Back in those days, Dragon Quest was an Enix series and Final Fantasy was a Square series. The former also had a different name: Dragon Warrior. There was also a bit of a reputation about them both. While the 7th entry of the Final Fantasy series was known for bringing 3D visuals to the franchise and on its way to becoming one of the most popular RPGs of all time, Dragon Warrior’s 7th game was on its way to becoming one of the first JRPGs that passed the 100-hour mark for its main quest.

On the Nintendo 3DS, JRPG fans are eagerly awaiting the release of the remake of Dragon Quest VIII. To satisfy their thirst, however, Square Enix has just released a remake of that seventh entry. So, here is my review of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past.

Story

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The premise of Dragon Quest VII is pretty simple. There is only a single island in the world. You take the role of a silent protagonist, a young prince of the only kingdom in the known world, and the daughter of a small town’s mayor. The three friends soon discover that there used to be several islands in the world, and disasters befell each one. After being chosen in an ancient shrine, they’re given ancient tablets that let them travel to the past to right history’s wrongs and restore the world to its rightful glory.

The story of Dragon Quest VII is a pretty decent story. You get a lot of character background on each playable and guest character, the story goes into several arcs, and seeing an island in the past and what it changes after you save it is a really interesting part of the game.

Gameplay

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Dragon Quest VII is a turn-based RPG set in a standard console RPG feel. You can run around on the world map, explore towns and dungeons, and you end up fighting off enemies and bosses in turn-based battles.

Since this is a remake, there have been some things changed and added. Most of what was added is in the form of new dungeons, an extra playable character in post-game, and equipment you can buy and use. The bulk of the game is the same as it was before.

Progression in the game is pretty simple. During story arcs, you can freely travel between the present and the past, and your goal is to activate story events to “Save” each island you travel to in the past. Once that is done, that island appears in the present, where you can explore it and proceed towards unlocking the next island via ancient tablets that enable time travel. You then repeat this over and over again until the entire world is restored and you move towards the latter parts of the storyline.

Fixing the world will mostly be in the form of doing side-quests and fighting through boss fights. Each world requires something specific in order to change history. In the first island, it’s just a matter of going to monster hideouts and taking out the boss to rescue the village’s population. In later sections, though, it gets to the point where you’ll need items from different time periods in order to save the day. So, you will inevitably have to jump back and forth between the present and past to be able to do everything right to restore each island.

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In regards to combat, there are a couple systems to go into. First of all, there is a Class System that is introduced as you play the game, allowing you to learn new skills and move towards certain types of play styles. While you do learn skills before that is introduced, this significantly deepens what all you can do and access as you play.

Combat, itself, hasn’t changed a lot. When you go into a battle, you take part in turn-based battles, entering commands and watching those commands play out. One thing I personally feel is nice is that this game’s combat is a mix of first and third-person battles. The original Dragon Warrior VII had first-person battles. You put in commands and it all plays out in first-person. Kind of like battles in Etrian Odyssey. In the remake, though, the camera zooms out to show a third person perspective when commands are being played out. So, if you really hate first-person battles, this is something to help keep you interested.

One thing I will want to talk about is the length. If you’re new to Dragon Quest, it is highly advisable that you know this before starting. The 3DS remake is just as long as the original, so expect to spend more than 100 hours just in the main story campaign. That is huge, even by JRPG standards. Most handheld RPGs nowadays are between 20 and 40 hours, and this is over twice that.

Another thing is the pacing. In the original, the game set itself up extremely sluggish, requiring you to wait a good 3-5 hours before you even got to the tutorial battle. It’s not as long in the remake, but you’re still gonna be a good 2 hours in before you get to your first battle, and well over 20 hours into the game before you are introduced to the class system. If you don’t like slow buildup, the first couple dozen hours of the game are gonna be a sluggish bore. Even by JRPG standards, this is pretty daunting and ridiculous.

Controls

Controlling the game is pretty easy to do once you get into the game. You can use the D-Pad or the Circle Pad to move your character around the world. The L and R triggers are used to move the camera around, so you don’t need to worry about using touch for that.

The face buttons are pretty simple as well. The A button lets you interact with people or menus, and B can either cancel menu options or actively speak to your party members to remind yourself of what you need to be doing. The X button is used to pull up the menu and that’s about all you need to know.

Presentation

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Visually, this is a true remake. The original game was 2D in the manner of other PS1 games of the title like Star Ocean 2. On the 3DS, everything is cell-shaded and in 3D. If you’re a veteran of the original, it’s like playing a completely different game, and that’s one nice thing about it. This also does wonders for showing off the Dragon Ball-like art style the game has to offer, all the way down to the way faces are designed on NPCs.

Other parts of presentation I don’t have any issues with, aside from the exceedingly-long “Character joined the party screen”. Dear Square Enix, we don’t need the game to take 10-20 seconds to make sure we know someone joined the party. We understand.

But, back on topic. Load times are nice and short and the frame-rate is pretty smooth. You see a couple blemishes in the frame-rate when running around on the world map, but nothing of consequence.

Summary

Dragon Quest VII is a game that does credit to its original while trying to fix its faults. While the sluggish pacing and setup is still a problem in this remake, it’s an in-depth journey that hardcore RPG fans can really get into.

9/10

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