Review by Moogle1211
"A fine way to spend 90+ hours, if you have them..."
The Dragon Quest series has always been a hit in Japan, so much so that there are legal restrictions as to when they can bring one out.
The seventh installment in this long-time favorite series has several weaknesses, but they are generally overcome by the myriad strengths of the game.
The graphics of the game are most definitely its weakest point. Despite fine artwork and design, with Mr. Akira Toriyama again in his role in character and monster design, the presentation is fair, at best.
That is to say, aside from the addition of a third dimension to the world, the graphics could probably be handled by any of the systems from the 16-bit era. Character sprites are small, with few animations and little personality. There are no character portraits. The expressions of the characters are left entirely up to your imagination. The character design on the few FMV scenes was poor at best, frightening at worst. Fortunately, there are fewer FMV scenes in the game than digits on a hand.
Negative points aside, the monster sprites are extremely well done. Most foes you will meet have several animations for different attacks (sometimes different animations for the same attack), and are colorful and have lots of personality. The various locales you will explore are varied and well-done.
If you need cutting-edge visuals, you will not like this game. If you can see past this flaw, you may find a fantastic game beneath it.
Music and Sound--8/10
The sound and music are technologically behind the times, but their careful use helps to make up for this.
Yes, you will spend a great deal of time listening to tunes which could probably be produced by your Super Nintendo. Fortunately, the music is very well-done, with ambient, atmospheric tunes for lonely dungeons and more upbeat songs for bustling towns. There is a bit of repetition in the songs used, but not nearly as much as is common.
The sounds of battle are simple but get the job done. Different attacks and different weapons have different sounds, and monsters' attacks' sounds vary widely. Each is appropriate and fairly well-done.
The gameplay here is nothing new, but this is not a bad thing. Traveling is simple and quick; there are no complications making it difficult to get around. Dungeon crawling is also simplistic; there is little adornment to the traveling system-- there is no climbing, no sneaking, there are no action sequences. Dungeons are of good length, not too short, but not too long. Each requires a reasonable time commitment, and several might require several expeditions. None of the puzzles are too hard, as good hints are usually provided, but each requires enough thought that they do not become tedious.
The battle system hearkens back to the old days of Dragon Quest. The system is minimal--very little adornment is present, but there is a great deal of content. Many abilities and different ways to put them together, along with some very hard random encounters make fighting monsters in DW7 engaging more often than not. A bit of level-grinding is often required, but not too much.
The pace of the game is contemplative and slow. Those looking for a fast-paced story will leave this game in the dust. Rather, DW7 encourages the player to take his time, enjoying the vast content of the game, and delving deep into its system for character customization. My first playthrough of the game ended up over 90 hours in length, and I did not complete every piece of content the game has to offer.
Character customization is handled very well by a class system which encourages the player to experiment and build a stronger party. Many classes, including a large number of monster classes exist for the player to build a dynamic and powerful group of characters. The system has the occasional drawback, in which unprepared characters are (very rarely) stuck in an area with little chance to survive, but such occasions are products of a defective plan for growth, rather than a deficiency in the system itself.
Story & Character Development--10/10
As stated above, DW7 is extremely slow of pace. However, the slowness is used to develop interesting characters well and to tell a great, quite unique story.
Without going into detail, the story starts with the exploration of ruins by children controlled by the player. The player may spend upwards of three hours before even reaching his first battle. These hours, and many other in the game, are spent developing a variety of characters in a minimalist but effective way: by showing their reactions to a variety of occurrences, the characters develop a baseline depth which is built on for the rest of the game.
In addition, the introduction of a talking system to the battle enables the player to initiate conversations with party members in battle. A large number of conditions contribute to the large number of potential conversations. Repetitions occur, of course, but enough conversations exist to add layers to the characters which help to flesh out their personalities very well.
What begins as a story about kids playing around in an essentially safe and peaceful world evolves into an adventure by which these children change the world, both in positive ways and in negative.
The Final Word--8/10 with qualifications.
There are significant barriers to liking this game, depending on your temperament. Those desiring new gameplay and cutting edge graphics will be disappointed.
Those willing to ignore cosmetic flaws and dig deeper will be rewarded with an excellent story, interesting and well-done characters, and an expansive world to explore.
My final statement of 8/10 is my attempt at an objective look. For players demanding action and fast-paced storytelling, the number might dip to 3/10 or lower. There is, truth be told, a lot it does wrong.
But for myself, and perhaps for others with similar desires in a game, as well as a strong love for the "old-school" element, I say this game is one that I am not exaggerating in calling one that I will remember fondly for all time. I may even play through the whole thing again, which, for a 90+ hour game, is possibly the best praise I could give.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/26/07
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