Dragon Quest VII is a shining example of what JRPGs can be, thanks to its lovable cast of characters, impressive and intriguing narrative, and back-to-basics approach to gameplay.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Dragon Quest is a franchise that is near and dear to my heart. The combination of Akira Toriyama’s whimsical art, the charming writing, and the unapologetically basic gameplay have cemented it as one of my favorite franchises. Before reviewing this title, I had never played the original PS1 version of Dragon Quest VII, which meant I was going into uncharted waters. Thankfully, Fragments of the Forgotten Past is yet another stellar installment in one of Japan’s biggest RPG series.
The story of Dragon Quest VII is surprisingly complex. It takes an hour or two to get going, but the plot is full of mini-arcs and twists that will keep you intrigued for weeks. As a young boy on the world’s only island, you and your friends will have to find fragments of ancient tablets around the island that open portals to different times, and islands. As you hop between the past and the present, you’ll find yourself slowly changing the world for the better.
One island is too caught up in superstition to notice that their enormous volcano will soon erupt, destroying everything. By defeating the monster at the base of the volcano and saving the island, you change history, making the island appear once again in the present. This adds a feeling of weight to all of your accomplishments, as every rescued island provides you with a new area in the present. This also means you can see how the island has changed since you saw it in the past, leading to some emotional moments. Hearing about the legends of “heroes who saved the island from destruction,” and knowing that was you is incredibly satisfying, and in some cases, moving.
The characters in Dragon Quest VII, from your party members to NPCs, are well-written, and incredibly pleasant to interact with. Whether it’s your trope-breaking buddy, Prince Kiefer, or the wolf-turned-young boy Ruff, every character fits right in with the game’s atmosphere, and is a joy to interact with. I found myself getting incredibly excited over recruiting new party members, as I couldn’t wait to see what made them stand out. This overall camaraderie that fills Dragon Quest VII‘s world makes you truly want to save these islands, as the people that inhabit them all have their own lives and stories.
The game’s length is nothing short of astounding, even for simply the main plot. Widely considered to be the longest Dragon Quest main title, Fragments of the Forgotten Past can easily provide over 100 hours of play-time, with the expansive plot and plentiful side-quests. This is something that has been missing from the games industry as of late, so it’s refreshing to get an RPG that can last for ages while still maintaining its appeal.
Dragon Quest VII‘s gameplay is exactly what one could expect from a Dragon Quest title. Moving between islands, talking to NPCs, and accepting quests are all standard fare for the franchise, but they work well and do their job. Quests are normally fun to do and not too difficult, meaning you won’t dread helping any of the citizens in need. While traversing enemy-infested areas, you can now see the monsters wandering around. This change from random encounters to ones you can avoid is welcomed with open arms, as it makes travelling far less stressful.
Battles are from a mainly first-person perspective, where you’ll select commands for each of your units, and proceed to watch them play out. Though some could, understandably, find this to be too basic, it’s the simplicity of the system that stands out. There are no real gimmicks or diversions to deal with, as what you see is what you get. You’re able to focus 100% of your energy on taking down enemies using skills, magic, and thought-out equipment choices. The job system is also a highlight, as the diversity between classes provides neat variation and an extra layer of strategy to an already strong battle system.
Dragon Quest VII‘s visuals are magnificent, especially in comparison to the original. While the PS1 version of the game has blurry, outdated sprites, Fragments of the Forgotten Past boasts a colorful and diverse 3D world, full of expressive detail that sucks you straight into the world. Every part of the world has a distinct look to it, as do characters. I’m a sucker for Akira Toriyama’s art-style, so the Dragon Ball faces and clothing are all as charming to me as the characters that have them. The monster designs are all unique and fun to look at, with some being just as iconic as certain Pokémon.
The music in Fragments of the Forgotten Past is exquisite, with tracks that cover the entire emotional spectrum that the game sets out to convey. Towns all have their own tunes that compliment their appearances perfectly, while the sprawling landscapes you travel have songs that give off a more grand and adventurous feeling. Battles and boss fights have some especially great music, as they balance the tension of a fight with the light-heartedness of the game in a way that works better than it has any right to.
The Final Word
Dragon Quest VII is the pinnacle of classic JRPG remakes. Fragments of the Forgotten Past mixes together an enthralling and lovable world, whimsical visuals, and a masterful soundtrack to create what could be considered a benchmark for RPGs. Though it’s a bit slow to start, Dragon Quest VII more than makes up for it in every way, and is a game that deserves the attention of all JRPG fans, both young and old.
– MonsterVine Rating: 5 out of 5 – Excellent