Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – game review.
“I kindly ask for an excuse for my son on school days last week.” This is how I remembered the times of the first PlayStation. Back then, I was swallowing practically every new jPRG, spending hundreds of hours in front of the console and regularly writing excuses in my diary, for which I got in the ear many times. Dragon Quest VII had a significant share in this nefarious practice.
Can you believe that the seventh installment of the Dragon Quest series is already 16 years old? That’s approximately 5,844 days, 140,256 hours and 8,415,360 minutes. I mention the numbers at the very beginning for a reason, because if you want to face the new version of this iconic game, prepare yourself over 120 hours of free time. Even just completing the main storyline without sticking your nose in every corner is over 60 hours of fun. And you have to take into account the fact that the developers shortened some sections anyway and cut the most boring puzzles from dungeons. For example, the very beginning of the game, which in the prototype was mercilessly sluggish.
Fragments of the past
The plot of the game is not particularly complex, but mysterious enough to drag us into the whirlwind of adventure and constantly remind us of the scale of the world. We start the game as a fisherman’s son in a small port town on a picturesque island. as in the Dragon Quest series, the main character is “mute” and the player only occasionally chooses a dialogue option. It soon turns out that, apart from the breathtaking town, there is only the castle of the kingdom of Esthar and unexplored ruins in the vicinity. To make it funnier, the inhabitants of the island are sure that this is the only area existing on the planet. So how come we spend over 100 hours in this hole? The aforementioned ruins turn out to be hiding a secret that our brave son of a fisherman discovers together with the met Prince Kiefer and the saucy Maribel. After completing the fragments of mysterious maps and placing them in the ruins, our team travels through time and space, carrying out various missions in newly discovered areas and saving them from destruction. Thanks to this, in the present day it can restore lost islands and continents, slowly rebuilding the whole world. Who is behind the mysterious disappearance of the islands? What happens when we “bring” all the land? And why was it our seat that escaped extermination?
I will not write more about the story itself, but you must know that the story is a bit different from what we deal with in classic jRPG games. Instead of saving the world, we are slowly rebuilding it. Piece by piece. Although somewhere in the background looms the main storyline, laboriously discovering new secrets, each new world from the past is a different fairy tale in which we are more or less involved. We visit other cultures, observe customs, learn new languages and rituals. Some may, of course, not like this repetitive pattern. It looks the same every time. We complete the map, move to the past, solve the problem and see how a given area appears in a new, present version. So we visit it again, complete the map fragments and move to the next place. And so near Maciej. Fortunately, meetings with other “civilizations” are so interesting that, despite the repetition, we follow them like a good series. You can just feel the old school atmosphere of a great adventure in the game.
Slime’s funnel until it swells
The fights known from the original have been sped up, which also applies to the new attack animations. This makes everything smoother. If you were irritated by random battles every few seconds, this time the players got the option to avoid the monsters visible on the map. Unfortunately, sometimes the dungeons are so tight that we run into monsters anyway. For some reason, attacking enemies from behind does not give us any bonuses, which is probably some oversight of the creators. Another problem is the low level of difficulty of the fights when we make our way through the main storyline. If we have a healer in the team, we are not afraid of even bosses, and in most cases we can skip grinding.
Despite these shortcomings, the skirmishes still cultivate the old school and keep the turn-based division. At the beginning of each fight, we choose different commands that define what the members of our 4-person team will do. As in the Dragon Quest series, we make choices in the first-person perspective, while the derived combinations are already observed from behind the characters’ squares. In addition to regular attacks, we have spells that consume MP points, special abilities, the ability to change formation (the characters in front receive more damage), use items or adopt a defensive stance. A variation is the fact that if several enemies of the same type appear on the battlefield, they are treated as one target for some commands. Thanks to the experience we gain, we improve the level of characters, thanks to which we increase their statistics and learn new skills. It’s a simple but rewarding system. Until we begin to miss something in it all. That something is the class system.
It’s a pity that we unlock it only after some 20 hours of play, because it takes far too long. However, once we start playing with it, we will discover that each class offers completely different abilities, and the change has a diametrical effect on the statistics and appearance of the characters (different outfits). Bard, Dancer, Warrior, Fighter, Cleric, Mage, Jester, Thief, Idol, Pirate – there are several dozen professions. The more fights we have on the counter, the faster we level them. Once we have mastered a given class, the learned abilities stay with the hero. But that’s still not all. If we manage to max out the appropriate professions, we will unlock their new, advanced versions offering even better skills. And I have not mentioned a whole lot of special professions of monsters that we can develop by collecting items that fall from specific opponents. The stronger the class of a given monster (eg Slime), the better abilities imitating his attacks we learn. Contrary to the original, leveling up both “human” and monster classes is faster, which I consider a plus, considering the undemanding fights. It is also nice that the authors of the game have improved the balance of individual attacks and classes, which will be quickly noticed by the fans of the original.
Two screens are better than one
The lower 3DS screen allowed to place a map on it, so we do not have to stop the game to check the surroundings. It’s once. Two – if the fragments of the above-mentioned maps needed to unlock new areas are nearby, they will light up on the map. The state of the game can be saved almost at any time of the game thanks to the quick-save option or simply putting the console to sleep. A special diary is also a nice option, which tells us what has happened since the beginning of the game. So we can return to the fun after a long break and quickly remember who we kicked and who else is waiting for it. The game also offers a completely new translation, because it was a bit lame from 2001. Thanks to this, the heroes are more interesting, and all jokes are better “in”.
But this is not the end of the news. The “new” Dragon Quest is also a full-fledged remake in terms of technical issues. The graphics, which did not impress the reviewers at the time of the first PlayStation, were transferred to full 3D. This is practically a new game, but it has retained the assumptions and style of the original. The characters and monsters created by the creator of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama, have retained their unique charm, and new, effective animations give the setting its character. It is similar with moving around the world map with the help of an old boat or a flying carpet. Successive cities, castles, caves, towers or forests are a pleasure to visit, especially since the world map now resembles the one from Dragon Quest VIII. Of course, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t complain about something. She’s so grumpy already. I was bothered by the limited camera control in dungeons. In cities, on the other hand, it is set too close to the character, limiting the view. Throughout all this graphic splendor, the game also likes to slow down, not to mention objects drawing in front of our eyes. On the other hand, the fact that character models were repeated in completely unrelated cities. And not only the local Mietków who carry their woman’s water from the well, but also people who are pulling the plot forward. On the other hand, almost every event changes the lines spoken by NPCs encountered in the game, which makes the world alive and we feel part of it.
Maybe a game of Poker?
As for a game from the golden era of jRPG, the title was also filled with a lot of attractions. Players who have nightmares should invest in comforting suppositories in advance if they don’t discover everything in every location. Opening hidden treasures with various keys, filling the bestiary, collecting mini-medals for in-game achievements, exchanged for prizes or finally wasting time on mini-games known in the series. Yes, I’m talking about a casino where we’ll spend hours playing poker or a slot machine. While visiting the world, we can also recruit new people to our city. Depending on the number of immigrants and their profession, it will offer completely different benefits. Will we accept mainly buyers and traders under our wing? Over time, we will buy some of the best armor in the game in open stores. Will we bet on dancers, bartenders and cool women? A casino with unique prizes will be built in the city. Still other possibilities will open when the village is turned into a farm or a religious settlement (this is how the download of priests and nuns ends).
Throw in the taming of monsters (special candies and obtaining the Monster Master class help), which we can then send to Monster Park. Over time, we acquire new parts for its expansion, which allows you to download new types of creatures. What the hell for? We can send such a team of jellies and other foams to the caves in search of special tablets that give access to randomly generated dungeons and stronger and stronger opponents. And that opens the way to new items, weapons, and accessories, also exclusive to the new version of the game. The icing on the top of this cake is the StreetPass option, thanks to which we can exchange the obtained plates with other players and gain access to unique enemies, treasures or dungeons. Does anyone else doubt that in the world of Dragon Quest VII you can lose yourself for over 100 hours?
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is simply a very good remake. Created primarily for those who love and miss the old school of jRPG. It is a title that can tire you with its monotony at times, may initially reject it with a specific narrative and slow pace, but it will pay you back when you invest your precious time in it. A lot of time.