Review by YusakuG
"Warning: This game will kill your social life"
Way back in 1986, Enix introduced a little game for the Famicom called Dragon Quest to the Japanese public. It was the first console RPG ever, and needless to say, history was made. Thanks to the talent behind it, including writer Yuri Horii, famous music composer, Koichi Sugiyama, and one of Japan's most famous manga artists, Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball and Chrono Trigger fame), Dragon Quest quickly became one of the most successful games released for the system. The console RPG was born, and led to the creation of Square's Final Fantasy series. The inevitable sequels to Dragon Quest followed, each one out-selling the last. (In fact, there's a law in Japan that Dragon Quest games can only be released on a holiday or weekend, since there was a problem with people skipping school and work on the day the new games came out.)
In America, however, it's been a slightly different story. Nintendo released the original game (re-titled Dragon Warrior) for the NES in 1989, and even though the game had a loyal following, sales were less than spectacular, and Nintendo wound up giving away most of the extra copies of the game they had lying around to new subscribers of Nintendo Power. This did not stop Enix from translating and releasing the 3 NES sequels in the US, however. Unfortunately, the series disappeared completely from the US market during most of the 90s, as the Super Famicom sequels and remakes remained in Japan only.
Now, almost ten years after the last major US Dragon Warrior release (not counting the Game Boy Color remakes and spin off games), Enix releases Dragon Warrior VII for the Playstation. (Which, by the way, is the most successful Playstation game in Japan's history.) And while long-time fans of the series will find a lot to love, people new to the series, or new to RPGs, will probably wonder what the big deal is.
The game's story follows the adventures of a young boy who lives in a quiet fishing village on the island of Estard. The boy someday dreams of being a great fisherman, like his father. Until he's old enough to join his father on his travels, however, the boy enjoys exploring the ancient ruins nearby his village with his childhood friends, Kiefer, the prince of the royal family that rules the island, and Maribel, a young girl from the boy's village. Estard Island sits alone in the middle of a vast ocean, and as far as the people of the island know, they are the only continent on the world. That all changes when the boy and his two friends venture deep into the ruins, and discover an ancient power which allows them to travel back in time to another land they have never seen before. Miraculously, when the three adventurers find a way back to their own time, they discover that a new continent has mysteriously appeared in the ocean, and it is the same place that they had visited when they traveled back in time. What is the secret of the ruins' power, and what caused these other islands to disappear over time, only for them to be re-discovered, due to the time traveling adventures of the boy and his friends?
Gameplay remains unchanged for the most part, so anyone familiar with any of the previous Dragon Warrior games will feel right at home. You travel these lands in a traditional RPG overhead view. Battles are menu driven, and are portrayed in a first person format with the enemies before you, and your characters off camera at the bottom of the screen. In battle, you can choose to have computer AI for your party members, or you can manually give them orders. Later on in the game, a Job System comes into play. You can assign a large variety of jobs to your characters - everything from a fighter to even a jester. Each job has it's own strengths and weaknesses, and they can build in levels with each successful battle.
For the most part, the gameplay is fairly simple to get the hang of. However, there are some minor complaints. Sometimes, battles seem a bit too frequent. You can sometimes finish a battle, walk one or two steps, then get in another battle. Also, monsters seem to be kind of stingy with the experience and the gold at some points, so it can make building levels and saving up money to buy the best equipment a chore. The amount of time you spend building up your characters and job levels, plus the many mini games and side quests you can tackle really add to the total game hours. This game is long, probably one of the longest RPGs ever made. The game can easily last around the 80 to even the 100 hour range if you want to do and see everything this game has to offer.
The graphics, while livable, are easily the worst part of the game. The characters are tiny and almost 16 Bit in appearance, with very limited animation. Although the backgrounds are colorful, and can have good lighting effects, like torches flickering, they are for the most part very blocky. Even in battle, the backgrounds look very chunky, and not smooth at all. Apparently Enix finished the game's graphic engine back in 97 or so, and did not bother to update them when they finally released it in August 2000. The main highlight of the graphics are the enemy sprites when you're in battle. They are large and very detailed. Thanks to the artwork of Akira Toriyama, they look like they could have stepped out of an anime or manga. The monsters also have very fluid animation when they do their attacks. The monster sprites obviously got the most attention from the game's graphic artists.
Music has always been a strong point in the series, even back on the 8 Bit games, thanks to the compositions of classical composer, Koichi Sugiyama. Dragon Warrior VII continues this tradition with a very orchestral-sounding score. The music is always pleasant to listen to, though none of it really sticks in my mind after the game is turned off. The sound effects, on the other hand, are less successful. Enix went for a ''retro'' approach, by re-using many of the old sound effects from the earlier games. Every time you whack an enemy with a weapon or climb up stairs, it sounds almost the same as it did back on the NES. Long time fans of the series will probably smile at this fact, but anyone else might find it annoying.
In the end, it all boils down to is this - If you are a patient RPG fan who has a lot (and I mean a lot) of time on their hands, or are just a big Dragon Warrior fan, you will most likely enjoy this game the most. I'm not a long time player of Dragon Warrior, but I enjoyed the game's old school approach, fun quest, and interesting storyline. People who are expecting a fast paced, cinematic RPG like Square's recent Final Fantasy titles will most likely be left scratching their heads, wondering how the Japanese can love this series so much. This game is very slow paced, and challenging. You'll have to spend a lot of time building up your characters if you want to be successful. The patient gamer who sees this one through will be rewarded, however, by a long, satisfying quest. Not only that, if you replay the game after beating it, new bonus dungeons will be available the next time around.
Dragon Warrior VII will hardly have half the impact here that it had in Japan, but I'm glad Enix brought it over here, nonetheless. If you're looking for an old-style console RPG in the tradition of the old 8 Bit NES games, look no futher than Dragon Warrior VII.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/05/01, Updated 06/09/03
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