The world we live in is obsessed with nostalgia, remakes and reboots. Fortunately for JRPG fans, this trend presents a great opportunity to either play Dragon Quest VII for the first time, or relive it 15 years after its initial release. The new 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII doesn’t cut any corners; this is a top quality remake, built from the ground up. It’s evident that a lot of love and hard work has gone into bringing new life to this classic.
All the standard tropes of the Dragon Quest series are present and well represented. There are familiar monsters, a turn-based battle system, customisable classes and a huge adventure to go on while exploring the world. Oh, and when I say this adventure is huge, I’m serious — this is one of the biggest RPGs ever. The main story will take around 100 hours to complete and that’s only if you’re not wandering around outside of the main story too much. If you’re a completionist and want to do everything this game has to offer, that will add another 20 or 30 hours to your play time.
I really want to stress the length of the game because it’s both the best and worst thing about the title, depending on what you’re like; it should be the number one thing you consider when your deciding if you want to purchase it. A lot of people will see 100 hours and simply say, “no thanks” and move along. Personally, I love how massive it is and I’m sure plenty of fans of the genre will agree with me; it’s a reminder of the way things were for RPGs 15 years ago when a story lasted 70 hours on average. Ah, nostalgia.
I think I’ve successfully established this game and its story are on the large side, but if you’re still on the fence let me put you at ease. The progression through both the narrative and the game itself is segmented into much smaller pieces. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into detail, but rest assured these chunks of story and gameplay are a naturally occurring side effect of how the world is explored.
This is possibly the most clever aspect of DQ7 — it helps to break down the gargantuan story into smaller, more digestible pieces that can be enjoyed in different sessions. Add the portable nature of the 3DS into the mix and you have the perfect match. Too often with a big game like this you get lost or forget what you were doing, but each of these mini-chapters are mostly self contained and really promote the idea of playing for an hour or two, leaving the game and picking it up later for the next quest. It feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon in structure than a game, but it works really well. There is also obviously a major overarching story to follow; it’s very subtle at first but latter will involve a few big twists so your not likely to forget whats going on.
In that same vein there are so many ways for you to make sure you don’t forget whats happening or have no idea where to go or what to do next. There are several separate hint systems to guide you to the next part of the story. You can straight-up ask a character that you talk to all the time, ask people in your party what they think you should do or just ask for a hint in your menu for the next important key item. There’s also a log of everything you’ve done and a “the story so far” option that will summarise your adventure up to that point if you need a refresher. It’s basically foolproof.
It may feel like a cartoon most of the time with the cutsey characters and monsters, but there is some heavy subject matter explored throughout the story. I’m not just talking about the standard “save the world from ultimate evil” shtick you’ll find in every RPG either. Some of this stuff is dark and it occasionally feels like its glossed over or just not addressed enough given the happy-go-lucky characters and NPCs. This is amplified by the fact that once you’ve finished in an area that has endured some major atrocity, you generally just move on to the next adventure rather than crying in the bathtub like a person. I guess these kids just have thick skins.
Dragon Quest VII is certainly not an easy game and there are steps in place to make sure you’re not stronger than you should be. Grinding early will make levelling your character classes tough or impossible but many of the dungeons and boss fights are hard when your at the right level for the area. Most of the time this isn’t too big of a problem and it kind of refreshing to take on some of the more difficult areas without a game holding your hand constantly.
There is one section of the game however that felt completely overwhelming. At a certain point you’ll temporarily lose access to most of the arsenal you’ve become reliant on, making every battle a chore. There are a bunch of boss fights you have to loose to progress any further followed by a fight that you have to win that fells just like the unwinnable battles. If When you lose you’ll have to traverse the entire dungeon again until you either luck out and the boss is just an idiot or you grind for a few hours to increase your chances, I did both. Even after grinding it’s an uphill battle and the whole thing feels like it’s full of cheap deaths. If you have the patience to make it through this nightmare of a section you’re rewarded with normal gameplay and a general happiness inside.
If you’re willing to take on the commitment of this outrageously big game your sure to have a blast. It’s a throwback to the way things were, perfectly recreated for today’s audience. I often like to sort games based on an impossible fictional scenario where I’m stranded on a desert island (presumably with a solar panel and a charger) and see if they would make the cut. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past would without a doubt make this exclusive list. Its may not be perfect, but its damn good and I know I would still be working my way through the story wrapped in a blanket on the rescue ship telling my saviours, “This game is huge — you can leave me for another week”.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past was reviewed using a promotional copy on 3DS, as provided by the publisher.
Review: Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past