Review: 7th Dragon III Code: VFD
Long name, simple premise.
7th Dragon is one of those fairly popular Japanese RPGs that had managed to pass me by, and for good reason – it’s never (officially) made it out of its home country. For some reason, Sega has finally decided to change that with the series’ third instalment — the very clearly named 7th Dragon III Code: VFD.
The basic premise is this: the 7th Dragon games occur in a world that has been overrun by dragons. Humanity’s survival is threatened by their rule, and each game tells the story of a group of individuals who set out to eliminate the beasts and free humanity of their tyranny. The first two games – 7th Dragon and 7th Dragon 2020 – take place in 2020 and 2021, and tell the story of humanity twice repelling the dragon hordes. Code: VFD brings you forward to 2100, a future where the looming threat of the dragons and their leaders, the seven True Dragons, is still felt.
A somewhat shady corporation called Nodens Enterprises has tasked itself with collecting samples and information around the True Dragons, to assemble a dossier that will allow them to destroy the seventh and final True Dragon – the eponymous beast with the code name VFD. The world of 2100 is devoid of information on many of the True Dragons, so Nodens hatch the most logical solution – invent time travel so they can find these draconic leaders throughout the time-space continuum. Obviously.
In practice, Code: VFD is a fairly traditional dungeon-crawling RPG – think along the lines of the Persona series or Etrian Odyssey, for reference. Here you will be roaming through pre-designed dungeons in the course of the game’s fairly limited story to hunt down both dragons and True Dragons alike, as well as the standardised random battle fodder. Battles are snappy and keep animations to a snappy pace, reducing the drudgery of fighting through trash mobs on the way to your overall objective.
While this may sound simplistic, in practice it’s fairly fun – your party of three is made up of non-specific characters, generated from a selection of character art models and palette swaps, and four initial class types. The more surprising element is the list of 40 different Japanese voice actors and actresses you can select from to map to your party members, helpfully listed by the actors’ names if you happen to know of a specific voice you’d like to hear spouting Japanese phrases throughout.
In combat, the class types break away from the traditional formats you’re used to in this style of game. While the fairly standard warrior and monk archetypes are present in the form of the Samurai and God Hand, they each take a twist on the formula. The Samurai’s skills are split between those for single and double bladed weaponry, with only the eligible abilities available depending on your equipment. While the God Hand relies on martial arts, their skills are designed to inflict levels of God Depth on enemies, with certain abilities only usable in succession – similar to a proper strike combination in actual martial arts. Add in the Duelist who can summon monsters from other dimensions and the Agent who ‘hacks’ enemies to turn the tide of combat and you have plenty of fun combinations available – even before further classes and character models unlock later in the game. Your party also eventually expands from three to nine, with backup members able to assist the primary three in combat to spice up the formula.
As you murder your way through the dragon hordes, you’ll also collect the in-game currency ‘Dz’ from your dragon kills, allowing you to expand your base of operations at Nodens HQ. Some offer gameplay bonuses – expanding the item selections at the shop or adding a dormitory to recover your health – while others are a bit more fanciful, such as the healing Cat Café. Almost every upgrade also increases the number of NPCs to interact with and side missions to undertake, adding depth and playtime to your 7th Dragon experience. The Skylounge in particular is a very Japanese bonus, allowing you to take characters on increasingly full-on dates, with there being a strong suggestion they end up doing the horizontal dragon dance – as well as giving you bonus items. Video games!
The side effect of being a game that falls into the double-A rather than triple-A title is minor but noticeable, depending on what you last played on your 3DS. While the game world is richly styled and interesting, the frame rate will chug as you enter the larger areas – it’s not game breaking, but you are going to notice the change. Interactions with NPCs can be a little slow to trigger, and the menus are pretty complex (though that kind be a positive or negative, entirely dependent on what kind of player you are). Then again there are benefits to not being too deep in the spotlight, as the dialogue in the game skews a lot more adult than one would expect on Nintendo’s handheld. Setting aside the flirty president of Nodens and her obnoxiously effeminate male cohort, you have the rabbit… monster… assistant thing Nagamimi, who cusses and disses in equal proportion, going so far as to use the word ‘shitty’ in the first few minutes of the game. I didn’t know the 3DS screen could even DISPLAY that word.
All in all, 7th Drgaon III Code: VFD is a fun dungeon-crawling experience with enough bells and whistles to set it apart from the pack. The base-building gives you a fun reason to grind dragons beyond simply levelling up your party, and the reward loop of loot and levelling keeps you interested at just the right pace. Barring the absence of a quick-save option for short burst play on public transport, it’s a great way to while away time as needed, and tells a goofy fun story along the way. But dang, someone get a swear jar for Nodens HQ. That little demon rabbit needs to calm the heck down before Nintendo NOTICES.
7th Dragon III Code: VFD was reviewed using a promotional code on 3DS as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.