REVIEW: Dragon Quest VII

Monday, October 10th, 2016

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One of the more interesting aspects of the class system is that there are certain classes that are prerequisites to even start learning a more advanced class. That is true of the human classes, but it is also true of the monster classes. In general you will need to loot Monster Hearts from that monster type or from treasure chests in order to become that monster class. But there are also certain monster types that are special and can be unlocked by mastering others. All of the basic human classes, and most of the monster classes, will allow you to keep the abilities that you learn even when changing classes. Unfortunately, even though the advanced classes are much more powerful, you cannot keep the spells and abilities that you learn within that class. So once you are a Druid or a Champion or a Hero, you really need to make a difficult decision on whether you want to change classes. That also means you have little reason to master every advanced class.

Dragon Quest VII | Island

Almost as much island hopping and sailing as Wind Waker.

The world seems to initially be little more than one island in a never ending landscape of ocean. It’s a small wonder that the very title of the game features a ship in it. But it still doesn’t seem quite right to the residents of this island that they are the only landmass in the entire world. However, that certainly does help with the fishing hauls. Through the rampant curiosity of the hero and Kiefer, it is eventually discovered that the world was once much more populated by islands than it is now. How and why all these islands disappeared remains a mystery for a very long time in the game. In the meantime, you discover that by traveling back into the past and correcting problems perpetuated by a “Demon King”, you are able to make those islands appear in the future.

Dragon Quest VII | Town

This is one of the few towns that was not heavily scarred.

The story seems to be a bit disconnected for a while, as you are just making those islands appear to satisfy your own curiosity and because they will contain new map pieces to journey to the next land. But eventually it becomes apparent that there was a sinister reason why all these lands were cut off from each other. Much like many other Dragon Quest games, there is more than a little Semitic flavor to the religious undertones of this series, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with those things so it remains a pleasant experience. That being said, there are still plenty of tragic moments that will happen. In fact, some surprisingly dark events happen, and they will also not always be totally resolved in a satisfying fashion. You cannot always save everyone, even with time travel. And as frustrating as that can be, it is also a worthwhile story to tell.

Dragon Quest VII | Dynamic Battles

Battles feel much more interactive now.

Not only were the graphics upgraded, but along with that aesthetic change, they made the battles feel a lot more dynamic. They made the battles better in the DS upgrades of Dragon Quest IV, V, and VI, but they took this game a little bit farther. The battles in this game are almost as dynamic feeling as the ones in Dragon Quest IX. This is especially desirable because there are so many classes in this game that there are a ton of abilities that look much better with this new style. It’s also quite nice to see your characters when they are fighting (something that didn’t start happening until Dragon Quest VIII) because your character looks change drastically depending on your current class. And your weapons and shields will also change depending on what you have equipped (but not your armor). That amount of detail added into the game is very welcome and satisfying.

Dragon Quest VII | Dungeon Puzzles

One of the dungeon puzzles they couldn’t have done on PS1.

With the new power they have available on the 3DS, and the new 3D graphics style, they were also able to change some of the dungeon puzzles. Most of them they were able to just make more well represented visually. For example, seeing the actual objects move or change in real time. But other puzzles they changed entirely to have a new three dimensional style such as the one above, which couldn’t have been done that way on the PlayStation 1. That one is actually a geometric manipulation puzzle that takes a bit to get used to. And it adds a new style of dungeon puzzle to the Dragon Quest series, which has had almost every kind of classic dungeon style that you can think of.

That said, not all of those changes are for the better. They frankly made some dungeon puzzles so easy that they are pathetic, and even worse, they cut out many puzzles entirely. For instance, it took me about 2-3 hours to get off of the starting island and through the initial dungeon to go to the first locked island area in this version of the game. That took me over 10 hours originally. They cut everything out of that starting dungeon. While that was the most drastic example of cuts in the game (missing an entire dungeon), it was not the last.

Dragon Quest VII | Difficulty

Back in my day, Slimes were dangerous.

These changes were also apparent in the battles. The original game was far more difficult than this game was. The enemies seem to have around the same health that they used to, but they do significantly less damage. Also, your characters gain levels at a much more frequent rate than in the original game. Unfortunately that can work against you when it comes to leveling up your class ranks. Because a class will only raise ranks by winning a certain number of battles and those battles will only count if you are not significantly above the level of the enemies. I can understand the reason for this in the original game, but it becomes more of a pain in this game. If you grind away to earn the gold you need to purchase new weapons and armor, you will always be too far above the level of the local enemies to earn any points towards ranking up your class. Not only that, but the enemies will constantly start running away from you on the overworld map. You eventually will just have to start using the Whistle spell, to give you an automatic random battle.

Dragon Quest VII | Sausage

Those monsters stole all my waifus in this town.

Thankfully one way you have around this problem is that there is an exception to the level difference requirement with the Haven maps. Haven maps are earned from disguised monsters that you find around the world (this was also in the original game) and also from Streetpass or Online trades (which was not in the original). Unfortunately these random maps are not nearly as well realized as those from Dragon Quest IX. You are very unlikely to find any useful equipment in them, but you are likely to find nice Seeds for raising your base statistics. And you are also able to make use of maps that will give you a lot of XP and gold for grinding. Honestly, their most useful aspect for my play style was for grinding my class ranks, since the level difference issue does not apply for some reason. Still, this was a missed opportunity compared to the great random maps in Dragon Quest IX.

Dragon Quest VII | Final

Sadly Maribel did not change into Battlecat when I raised my sword.

Overall, I still enjoyed the game. I love that Dragon Quest style of old school JRPG. However, it was very apparent that they were not making this game for me. Every change seemed to be in the effort to make it more appealing to the modern, or more casual, gamer. Sadly that is not what Dragon Quest is for me, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. The music was slightly improved, and the graphics were drastically improved. The translation was also slightly better, but changed a lot. I say ‘only slightly better’ because there were some good changes and some bad. I ended up finishing the game in 120 hours, which may seem a lot but that is frankly almost half as long as it takes me to finish the PSX/PSOne original. That may seem like a plus for this version, but I consider that a minus. Yes, there is a lot less grinding in this game, but I wanted Dragon Quest, and Dragon Quest equals grinding (along with other things). So this is still a good game, and worth the $40 asking price, but it is not the definitive version of the game. This is prettier but the best version is still on the PSX/PSOne, in my opinion. That original game I would have given a full 5 stars to, despite all the old quirks. Sadly, they couldn’t just improve the graphics and leave everything well enough alone.

Review Score

Review Copy Purchased By Author

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.

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