Review by Russell Cox
"Dragon Warrior VII -- Worthy of its Predecessors?"
Almost nine years have passed since a Dragon Warrior title graced our shores. In November of 2001 Dragon Warrior VII was finally released on US shores. Was the game worth the wait? Did it live up to the hype? Was it a worthy successor to Dragon Warrior IV?
Yes and no.
Story: The setting is very different from what one normally expects from a game. There is no war being waged, no princess in great peril, and no evil demon to go slay. It is extremely peaceful, with only one or two caves full of monsters and the normal hindrances litter the sea. You’re the son of a fisherman. You and your friends discover a way into the ruins to the north and discover it’s actually a time-warp to the past. Going back and forth through time you discover that the Demon Lord sealed off the regions in the past, and you’ve got to liberate them. Sound familiar? Well, it should since Enix worked with Square for Chrono Trigger.
Along your quest you learn that in a fateful battle between God and the Demon Lord Orgodemir, God disappeared. Some believe that God simply grew tired of the fight whilst others fear he was destroyed at the hand of the Demon Lord. Your task eventually evolves into awakening the Hero (which, strangely, isn’t the main character), resurrecting God, and finding out exactly what happened on that fateful day between the two entities.
Story sounds great on paper and in my honest opinion it is a wonderful concept. It’s poorly executed. The story starts off strong all the way through the discovery of what the ruins do. After that, the game divulges into a game of “select a region, go to the past, save the people, go to the present, and visit the new island.” Lather, rinse, and repeat about twenty times. It gets extremely old, exceedingly quickly. The story picks up right after the last region has been freed, but if you play the game right and don’t use a cheat device, that’s literally over one hundred hours later. By then you’re so sick from repeating the same motion over and over and over that you almost miss the story trying to regain your attention.
Nice plan, horribly execution.
Gameplay: The game is no different from any of the past Dragon Warriors. The only difference from DWIV is that the triangle button now initiates talking and action, so entering the monotonous menu screen is limited. I have never been a fan of the DW menus as they are clumsy, ugly, and unnecessary in most cases. Granted, there is no more “Stairs” to waste time and the triangle button handles snooping around and talking, but the menus have not changed at all since the beginning.
95% of your time in the DWVII world will be spent in battle, so be prepared to be bored. Surprisingly, the AI that controls your characters is extremely intelligent. I literally went through the whole game letting the computer decide what my characters do and it never gave me any problems. In fact, sometimes the computer was my only saving grace by healing me when I wasn’t paying attention. However, you can always switch to manual for all characters and have complete control.
Fight, use skills, cast spells, run, or parry -- it’s the same as all of the previous Dragon Warriors and nothing has changed, aside from the fact that a horrendous blob of color is your background instead of the black screen of the NES days and that the monsters are animated when performing a function. The battles, like all RPGs, are tedious and boring, but absolutely necessary. The monsters will seem easy in almost all regions until you get to the boss. He will literally hand you your rear on a silver platter and hit the reset button for you. Thus, you’ve got to go level up some more, which takes forever as most monsters (even later in the game) give miniscule amounts of gold and experience.
The job system returns from DWIII (Note: I have not played either DQV or DQVI so the previous DW is IV). However, unlike its predecessor where it was revolutionary, fun to use, and optional, the job system in DWVII is boring, tedious, and downright uninspiring. You *MUST* use it if you are to survive in the world of DWVII, but the execution of ‘leveling up’ in a character class is horrendous. Enix could have offered Job Points to distribute evenly among everyone to level up in your class, but they decided to have the player fight horrendously large numbers of battles. You have 54 choices to choose from in your jobs -- some of those are monster classes and some are Advanced and Master Classes, which can only be obtained by mastering certain Beginning classes.
Movement in the game is eight directional. However, it becomes annoying when going through a dungeon and your character misses a stair because he wasn’t lined up perfectly to stop onto it. The controls are clumsy in most cases, but your characters move very quickly throughout dungeons. The movement is much slower on the overworld map, but that’s to be expected because the area you’re traveling is much larger.
Very faithful to its predecessors and unoriginal.
Sound: Here’s my problem -- SOUND! Koichi Sugiyama has always been one of my favorite composers, my liking of him even going so far as to influence how a few of my own songs sound. However, the sound of Dragon Warrior VII is inexcusable. It is horrendous, ear grating, and an insult to Sugiyama’s talents as a composer. The General MIDI loaded the soundcard of most computers AND the synths of the SNES sound better than the in game synths. There is no excuse why Enix could not have offered orchestral renditions of the soundtrack or upgraded their synths.
From what I understand, Enix has done better financially than Square so there is no argument of there being not enough room in the budget. It is a painful reminder that music is always the last thing to a project in any multimedia venture and never gets the credit it deserves. The songs themselves are excellent compositionally and never let anyone tell you otherwise. However, they sound so terrible in game that this is the first game I turned off the game sounds and turned on my surround system that was playing the symphonic suites to all of the games.
The sound effects are no better. They are unchanged from the NES days in most cases and sound horrible. Many claim this is an attempt to maintain nostalgia but it is not that. It is cutting corners in the budget and cutting costs to raise profit. The statement that sound isn’t everything in a game is false -- the game is a sum of all of its parts so one horrible part will ruin the entire gaming experience.
Graphics: Here we go -- the biggest debate about the whole game. There is no other way to state it but to say the graphics are horrible, horrendous, disgusting, and any other harmful adjective you can think of. There is no excuse for the lack of attention given to this department at all. Enix made a game and to market the game you have to be willing to catch everyone’s eyes. If the look of this game catches anyone’s eyes it will be to deter them from buying it. The only halfway decent visual in the game is the monsters’ animations. They are fluid, smooth, and gorgeous -- especially the final boss’s transformations. However, you only see them when they are attacking and more than likely wiping the floor with your entrails.
Does the game have FMVs? Oh yes it does! However, Enix proves that even FMVs can be ruined by laziness. They are *HORRIBLE* in every sense. Be glad that there are only four or five extremely short ones. Again, people can claim that graphics and sight isn’t everything, but the game is a sum of its parts. Frankly, this part is the worst of the lot.
Replay Value: There is none, unless you want to waste another 200+ hours of your life. I finished the game with 276 hours and 31 minutes on my last save before fighting Orgodemir. I had all four characters with a Hero - Chosen One status. The highest level was 59 I believe and the lowest was 53.
Overall Score: 3/10
Is the game horrible? Depends on what you go for. If you want a true RPG experience with full control over your characters then this is your game. However, if you’re looking for a game with an engaging plot and gameplay along the lines of the Final Fantasy series, look elsewhere. The game has far too many cons to outweigh its pros. You can not rent this game and have a hope in hell-or-high-water of finishing it. You either buy it from a store, EBay, a friend, or don’t.
Reviewer's Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Originally Posted: 06/16/03, Updated 06/16/03
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