Review by Roto_Arel
"A Great Game for Old School RPG Lovers"
Dragon Warrior 7 or Dragon Quest 7 is part of one of the most lucrative RPG franchises in Japan but the DQ craze has not really caught on in America. Most Americans are familiar with the first Dragon Warrior game and its NES sequels but many have not played the DQ series beyond that point. DQ also has a poor reputation in America for having too much grinding and very little story development. Although this may be true for the unpolished NES versions which were much older, the newer games and remakes are not that grind intensive and they tend to have a more complex story.
The story starts off simply enough with the Hero, who represents you and lacks any dialogue in the game, and the Prince of Estard Castle, Kiefer, exploring the ancient fane on the small island they live on. The island is surrounded by water and it is widely believed that this Estard Island is the only land mass on the planet. One day, the Hero and Kiefer manage to open the temple at the fane. Later on with the help of the Hero's childhood friend Maribel, the three young heroes find some shards and are able to assemble them on a pedestal at the fane. Once they do this, the three are transported to a forest in another world where they end up helping a village defeat some monsters so that the women, which were being held ransom, would return. Once they complete that quest, they return to the forest and see a portal. They enter the portal and they are back at the ancient fane in their own land. Back at the Hero's hometown, Fishbel, they hear rumours of another island being discovered. Anxious to see this for themselves, the heroes board a boat that Kiefer has been keeping and they visit the island which had been the village that they had saved from that other world. They realize that they had changed the course of time and altered it so the same village would appear in the present and they also find more shards that can be used at the fane! But the heroes wonder, why was that village sealed in the first place and would it be possible to unseal more villages? So as the story continues, the heroes visit the past and help many people in various villages solve specific problems. Not all of these problems can be solved just by fighting monsters; sometimes talking with other non-playable characters (NPCs) is required to solve the problem. Most of the plot is actually told through the eyes of various NPCs which makes the story telling in Dragon Warrior 7 unique. Will the heroes ever find out who is behind sealing all of these villages and why it was done in the first place?
Dragon Warrior 7 is a standard JRPG where you choose your commands from a menu. You receive a first person view and you do not see your party physically attacking but the monsters do all have little animations when they attack, but when they are idle, their sprites do not move. The game engine consists of a job system which is unlocked usually after 15 hours of gameplay. From the beginning you have a choice 10 jobs and when you select a job, you learn skills that you will keep forever. You can change jobs at anytime to learn a different set of skills but there is a 30 fight penalty when you do so. That is, you have to complete 30 fights so the subsequent battle experience goes towards the new job you selected. Switching from certain jobs to other jobs will gain you some unique skills as a bonus after you reach the half-way point for total experience for that job. For example, if you are half-way towards mastering Warrior and then you decide to switch to Dancer and once you reach the halfway point for total experience for Dancer, you will learn the very powerful skill called Sword Dance. Also, as you master certain jobs, new jobs become available. There are also monster jobs that can be equipped if you find monster hearts. They learn their own skills and spells, some of which are unique to that monster class. Overall, there are hundreds of skills and spells that you can learn for each character. Mastering every skill possible can take over 200 hours of gameplay!
Unfortunately, the graphics are quite dated for today and at times they can look fairly awful. The sprites are 2D and the environment is a 3D world. You can also rotate the point of view with the L1 and R1 buttons. The sprites are not exactly very detailed either which is somewhat disappointing because the cover art is fairly good and the manga based off of Dragon Warrior 7 has superb artwork. However, the monster art in the actual battles is vibrant, original, very detailed and often humourous. Even if you are not a fan of the way Akira Toriyama draws people, you will probably enjoy the way he draws monsters whether it be the infamous Slime Knight or the final boss itself. The music is also wonderful. Whether it is a village melody or an up-tempo monster fight, the music will draw you into the game.
I would highly recommend this game to any old school RPG fan. I don't consider it to be the best Dragon Quest game in the franchise but it has enough charm, originality, and challenge to stand on its own. I have to mention that this is one of the harder Dragon Quest games, mostly because some of the bosses can be quite difficult. Beating them doesn't require a ridiculous amount of grinding but it does require some ingenious strategizing and even a little bit of luck. You also need to invest a lot of time in this game. If you wish to experience everything in the game, including the two post-game bonus dungeons on your first playthrough, then you are looking at approximately 80 hours of gameplay. Yes, this is the longest Dragon Quest game in the franchise. There is grinding in this game, but you only really need to do in three places. Firstly, a bit at the beginning then once you have access to the jobs, you will need to do a lot of grinding to build up your skills for a tough boss fight, and then you will have to do some grinding near the end of the game. A few characters come and go from your party, but you gain access to them all eventually, so none of your job experience for your characters go to waste. However, if someone new does join your team and his or her skills aren't up to snuff, then you may need to grind a bit in order to give them a better skill set. Finding the shards is very important in the game because without the new shards you cannot continue your quest. There is some little in-game help but the hints the NPC gives you can be vague at times. For a first playthrough, I would highly recommend a walkthrough or a strategy guide. Based on Dragon Warrior 7's merits and flaws, I would give it an 8/10. Although the graphics can be quite irksome at times and even though the game has some annoying and tedious parts, the overall quality of the story and the customizable job system compensate for its flaws.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/15/09, Updated 09/07/11
Game Release: Dragon Warrior VII (US, 10/31/01)
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