Review by Black Hayate

"Charming and Traditional"

Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest, in Japan) was created from the collaboration of writer Yuji Horii, comic book author Akira Toriyama and composer Koichi Sugiyama. What they had created became the most popular series of role playing games in Japan. The series didn't fare nearly as well overseas however but developed a humble cult following. Dragon Warrior VII is the first game in the series to be released for a home console in the United States for a very long time.

The plots in most Dragon Warrior games aren't all that complex and deep, but very idyllic and enjoyable. That's what gives the Dragon Warrior series its appeal. Same thing goes for the seventh game in the series.

You are the son of the most famous fisherman in Fishbel on Estard Isle (which is the only island in the whole world). Kiefer, the adventurous prince of Estard Isle is your best friend and a big brother figure. Maribel, the sassy daughter of Fishbel's mayor, is another childhood friend of yours. You and Kiefer spend a lot of time exploring the island, particularly the ancient ruins north of Fishbel, Maribel tags along time to time as well.

You and Kiefer soon start to find out more and more about the mysterious ruins as time goes by and begin to question why Estard Isle is the only stretch of land in the world. What started out as innocent explorations with friends grows into something much more worldly. Later on the plot tackles issues such as coming of age, religion, enslavement, liberation, time travel and a whole lot of other things.

DWVII is ripe with hilarious dialogue that keeps the story very enjoyable. The game was excellently translated; I could tell the translators had a lot of fun doing their job.

The game just like the games that came before it. It's a very long game and that's an understatement. A player can finish this game in 70-90 hours on average. To complete everything to the finest detail can take up to 120-130 hours at least. Dragon Warrior VII, in short, is a huge game.

Battles (random encounters as always) are in first person view and you can fight them manually or let the AI take care of things. It's wise to check drawers and pots for extra items such as herbs, money, tiny medals and sometimes equipment. Tiny medal collecting is back. If you collect enough, you can cash them in at a certain place to reap some nice rewards. Tiny medals are found throughout the your adventures.

Shards are found throughout your quest. You must collect these shards to advance your adventures. Many are obtained through story events and treasure chests. Some shards are well hidden and some can be used to unlock secret journeys.

A lot of the game is dungeon crawling, like all Dragon Warrior/Quest games. Expect to find a lot of treasure, fight a lot of monsters and many hours of training and leveling up. At the end of most dungeons lurks a boss. Some bosses require precise strategy and a bit of luck to beat and can really hand your ass to you if you neglect training.

Players will notice that weapons and armor are incredibly pricey in this game and not a lot of money is gained from battles or anywhere. A single sword can be a major strain on your wallet. But weapons and armor really don't affect the outcome of your fights, the skills learnt through character classes do.

The character class system also returns and it is a major necessity to master and change classes as you play through the game. You master a class or two to go on to more advanced classes (ex: Mastering the warrior and fighter classes can let you advance to the dragoon class). Like said before, you learn skills from each class and those are what are going help you win your battles for sure (especially later on).

There's a casino you can visit to gamble your gold and possibly hit the jackpot to win a wide array of fabulous prizes. It's a really fast but risky way to earn some gold.

Two big side quests are present. You can build your own monster park, which you can increase the population of by inviting monsters during battle by offering meat or using the skills of the Tamer class. Blueprints can be used to build new parts of the park (ex: mountain terrain, grasslands, etc.) and are found throughout the game. It will take dozens of hours to complete this as some monsters are very elusive and are difficult to persuade.

The other side quest is a simulation town. After some events in the game, you can build your own town where you invite people in all over the world. Depending on the number and kind of people you invite, your small town will expand into a bustling burg (ex: inviting a lot of farmers and animals will make your town into a large farming industry, inviting a lot of merchants will make it grow into a giant market based economy). Your fully developed city can produce a lot of powerful (but pricey) weapons and armor for you to buy.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Dragon Warrior VII has a chuck-load of it and keeps it traditional and fun. There's plenty to do while on a quest and even more to do while not questing.

Graphics are old-school and I mean old school. The character sprites are 2-D, resembling Super Nintendo visuals. Environments are in 3-D and can be fully rotated by camera, which is a plus. I surprisingly got past the dated visuals easily and was completely immersed by the actual gameplay. Monsters are in 2-D as well and have smooth and quirky animations as they execute their attacks. I liked them a lot. Magic animations are in 3-D, not too pretty at all but alright for a game like this.

Full-motion videos are rendered in CGI and are absolutely hideous. Akira Toriyama's drawing style wasn't well transferred to 3-D, not well at all. In my opinion, traditional, 2-D animation in the cut-scenes would have fitted the game better

Sugiyama handled the soundtrack decently. Dragon Warrior VII's music is entirely orchestral which adds to the charm of the game. The Dragon Warrior main theme never sounded any better. Thankfully, music for random battles and bosses are nicely composed, since you'll be hearing those most of the time. Tracks for the towns are very catchy and I found myself humming them time to time. Sound effects are of the 16-bit age, didn't bother me much, if at all however.

This game has serious replay value issues. I don't think I'll ever play this game ever again, albeit it's a good game but it's just too damn long. There's plenty to do before fighting the last boss, like finding more tiny medals, completing your simulation town and monster park, working with more classes and such. You would want to play the game at least once, maybe even twice but anymore than that—you seriously need to get out more.

All in all, Dragon Warrior VII is a great but flawed game with many positive qualities.

PROS:

+Varied gameplay, plenty of stuff to do
+Deep character customization
+Funny dialogue
+Charming, enjoyable story
+Memorable characters
+Monster animation
+A warm, touching ending

CONS:

-Very dated visuals
-Hideous CGI cut-scenes
-Some of the quests are tiring
-May feel a bit too long of a game at times


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/07/05, Updated 12/30/05


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