Dragon Warrior VII

Estard is the only island in the world, where a fisherman’s son occasionally explores mysterious ruins with his friend Prince Kiefer. One day, the two finally uncover the mystery of the ruins along with their friend Maribel, and ultimately find themselves exploring various lands that once inhabited their world, yet vanished due to strange circumstances. After about half a decade of development, Dragon Quest VII saw its debut on the Sony Playstation in Japan, and soon afterward found its way to North American under the title Dragon Warrior VII. Though certain aspects seem rushed, the game is enjoyable nonetheless.

A little over an hour into the game, players will start encountering enemies, with the general setup of battles largely resembling that in previous installments of the franchise. Battles are turn-based, with each character able to attack, use skills or magic, use items, or defend. The player can set individual A.I. options for each character other than the hero, or manually input commands. After the player inputs commands for all characters, they and the enemy naturally beat up one another in a round; as usual, turn order can irritatingly vary, and the escape option doesn’t always work. Still, battles are fairly fast-paced, especially if the player sets the battle text option to the fastest setting.

Somewhere over ten hours into the game, players gain access to the vast class system, where each character can select a variety of classes to master after a certain number of battles, gradually gaining new skills and spells; mastering certain classes can unlock upper-level classes. Players can also occasionally gain monster hearts from certain foes, which they can use to change into monster classes, which work the same as normal classes, and can allow access to upper-level monster classes depending upon the mastered monster classes. Though it can take over a hundred, and in some cases hundreds, of fights to master certain classes, it actually isn’t too difficult to do so, and late into the game, mastering classes is actually easier, since any fight then will count towards class mastery.

Depending upon the classes the player chooses for his or her characters, the difficulty of Dragon Warrior VII can vary; certain class skills can literally spell the difference between victory and defeat against several bosses, and the fact that some really useful skills cost no MP by no means makes the game a cakewalk. Overall, the battle system and especially the deep class system are perhaps the main draw to the game.

The interface is mostly efficient, with easy menus, although shopping for multiple items can be a bit trying, given the number of confirmations while doing so. Players must also be meticulous in their search for shards to unlock additional lands to explore, since missing one just might send players on long searches just to find the shards needed to advance (though a class skill can show how many items remain on the current map). Since the player typically unlocks new lands one at a time, however, the structure of the game is somewhat linear, so finding out how to advance the main storyline isn’t terribly difficult. Overall, interaction doesn’t detract too heavily from the game.

The main driving point of the storyline, the quest to unlock lands mysteriously sealed away with shards, is what mainly sets Dragon Warrior VII apart from other RPGs and its predecessors. It does borrow elements from its predecessors, though, such as the general structure of combat, and even most of the class system from Dragon Quest VI, although monster classes are a unique addition, and overall, the seventh installment has plenty going for it in terms of creativity.

Story has never been a strong point in the Dragon Quest franchise, though the idea of making lands that mysteriously disappeared in the past suddenly reappear in the present does make for some interesting possibilities, such as the many substories as to why the lands disappeared in the first place, most of which are interesting, to say the least. Still, character development is thin at best, and conflict doesn’t really play a part in the plot until late into the game. The translation, while more than adequate, does contain some glaring errors and misspellings, but certainly doesn’t detract from the game. All in all, while the story certainly isn’t the best of the genre, it is one of the better ones of the Dragon Quest franchise, and can be a driving factor.

The music is up to series composer Koichi Sugiyama’s standards, with plenty of solid classical pieces, except perhaps for the main boss battle theme, which sounds like it came out of the campy ‘60s version of Batman; the sound effects could’ve used some diversity, as well. Still, Dragon Warrior VII is fairly easy on the ears.

Though Dragon Warrior VII was one of the last RPGs for the Playstation, it looks more like one of the first. The 3-D used in the environments looks fairly pixelated and blocky, and the sprites are simplistic at best. The battle visuals don’t fare any better, still retaining a first-person perspective, where the scenery is equally blocky and pixelated, although Akira Toriyama’s monster art is nice as always, as are the few FMVs. Still, considering that the seventh installment was in development for half a decade, the visuals could have certainly showed it.

Finally, the game is fairly lengthy, taking as little as fifty hours to complete, or, if the player wishes to accomplish everything there is to do in the game (which includes two extra dungeons), somewhere up to around a hundred and fifty hours. Overall, Dragon Warrior VII is an enjoyable game, with its battle system and music in particular sticking out, although it easily could’ve showed more for its half decade of development, since its visuals are at best an eyesore. However, players who can look past this shortcoming and don’t mind the length or pacing will likely have a fun time.

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