Piecing Together our Past, Present, and Future
Approximately 16 years ago, Enix, classic RPG mogul, released Dragon Quest VII for the PlayStation One. My 12-year-old self foolishly thought the game to be a parody of Final Fantasy VII; after all, the characters on the cover were faintly reminiscent of those starring in Squaresoft’s masterpiece. Believing such, I never purchased the PlayStation copy until I reached college (perhaps during my senior year).
What I found from the experience was nothing similar to Final Fantasy VII, which was okay, but more importantly, it was my first foray into the Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior saga.
This September, Square-Enix re-released this classic experience with updated visuals on the Nintendo 3DS (a trend they’ve been pursuing).
For those not in the know, Dragon Quest is a series as chronicled as Final Fantasy, and it was, at one point, a direct competitor. Where Final Fantasy took turn based combat (generally in a zoomed out view of a horizontal field, where your characters and the enemies faced off against each other), Dragon Quest maintained the first person turn based combat.On the 3DS, however, Square-Enix opted to show the characters attacking animations rather than simply showing a slash on the screen to indicate an attack like the original.
On the 3DS, however, Square-Enix opted to show the characters attacking animations rather than simply showing a slash on the screen to indicate an attack like the original.
In Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, you play as your own named character, a child of Pilchard Bay’s most respected fisherman, garbed in a monochromatic green. You’re friends with the king’s son, Kiefer, who, together, wants to fix up an old vessel in order to sail off their secluded island. You see, the land of your childhood is allegedly the only island in the world—or so you’ve been told. But you and Kiefer don’t quite believe those stories, and so you set off into an old ruin that you learn how to open. Within, you are given your quest: obtain all of the fragments of the past, which seem to teleport you to distant and foreign lands.
One of the coolest aspects of the Dragon Quest series that I’ve always enjoyed is the dialect. Each land that you’re teleported to has its own way of speaking. What’s special about Dragon Quest VII is its ability to properly convey each land’s dialect without any spoken text. Where Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below thrived on its excellent voice acting and portrayal of each distinct dialect, Dragon Quest VII succeeds on text alone, which is pretty neat.
Combat, as described earlier, works as intended. I’m not the biggest fan of the first-person, turn-based perspective, but Square-Enix has perfected the formula. Each turn begins with the player selecting an action and targeting a group of enemies (one of its biggest flaws is that I don’t believe you can specifically target any one enemy, just the group it’s in) or ally and commencing.Each character takes his/her turn, and the enemy responds in kind. Fortunately, Dragon Quest VII provides numerous enemy types (even though many are repeated enemies with different skins) and increases the difficulty level often; for the most part, I didn’t find myself totally bored with the battle system.
Dragon Quest VII also incorporates a distinct but familiar soundtrack. Fans of the Dragon Quest/Warrior soundtracks will find comfort in knowing that the shared tunes are still present, and the soundtrack itself chugs along with the game. I do believe, however, that the soundtrack, like most Dragon Quest games, doesn’t quite feel right. In Dragon Quest VII, the juvenile soundtrack fits the child characters well, but it doesn’t always encapsulate the vibe I get from, say, each town I explored. The sound effects were solid, too.
If there’s one thing to be said about Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, it’s that there is plenty of gameplay. The PlayStation One version of Dragon Quest VII last for well over 100 hours, and Fragments of the Forgotten Past for the 3DS isn’t too far off of those original numbers. Sure, the game is an updated version, but just about all of the original content is still within.
With that said, you really don’t start to get into any action or battles until about thirty minutes into the game. For the first 30-60 minutes of Dragon Quest VII, you’ll have to navigate yourself around your town and island in order to advance the story.
And this brings me to my biggest pet peeve: a lack of direction. I love when games make me think; I enjoy a good puzzle. Conversely, I hate when games offer no direction, instead relying on me to question every NPC I come across (which has always bothered me, as I hardly talk to strangers in real life, so why would I talk to them here?). The game allows players to choose a ‘talk’ option in the menu, but it doesn’t always direct the player where to go. I often found myself doubling through any given area because I either didn’t speak to the right NPC in the proper order, or I forgot to speak to an NPC before attempting to advance the plot.
While these things cause me frustration, none of my issues with Dragon Quest VII for the 3DS harm the overall product experience. Sure, I may spend extra time wandering a map, but I often found myself properly leveled by the time I reached the boss. Watching the plot fall together, while not the most sensational of stories, is oddly gratifying. It’s nice to see Square-Enix bring lesser known classics back to its forefront, and the 3DS is a great platform to drop the charming RPG.
With its updated visuals matching the majority of aesthetically pleasing RPGs on the 3DS (its style heralds Dragon Warrior), Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past gives fans the RPG experience they’ve been searching for while baptizing newer gamers into the Dragon Quest/Warrior family. And for only $40, Dragon Quest VII is a steal when considering the 100-plus hours that could be spent playing the game.