Available On: Nintendo 3DS
Back when the original Dragon Quest VII (called Dragon Warrior VII in the US) was released for the Sony PlayStation in 2000, it was already dated. The old-school 2D sprites were a big step backward compared to Final Fantasy VII’s fully 3D polygons. This new 3DS remake brings a much-needed graphical facelift, improved translations, and streamlined additions to entice turn-based JRPG fans to one of the genre’s forgotten gems.
Back in Time
Dragon Quest VII is all about time travel. Your hero and some childhood friends open an ancient shrine on your home island – the only island in the world. The shrine contains portals to other islands in the past. Each new island brings new characters, quests, monsters, and dungeons. The islands then appear in the present for even more monster-slaying content.
Time-travel requires assembling the tablet portals from fragments you find scattered throughout these islands. The main story focuses on exploring new islands, righting the wrongs of the past, and defeating Dragon Quest’s colorful array of enemies.
The fully 3D islands are fun to explore and nicely varied, including castles, towns, deserts, mountains, and volcanoes. Treasure chests are often hidden behind scenery, requiring you to rotate the camera using the L+R shoulder buttons. Traveling is far less frustrating with random battles thanks to enemies roaming right in front of you. This gives you some control over picking your battles, though enemies respawn frequently in cramped dungeons.
Early on you receive a handy fragment finder – an orb on the touch screen that glows when a fragment is nearby. The touchscreen also functions as a helpful minimap of the islands and labyrinthine dungeons, and allows for more visual space during the traditional turn-based combat.
The classic job/class system has been rebuilt from the original. Each character can choose to advance in basic classes like Warrior, Mage, Martial Artist and Shepherd. Classes change a character’s stats and equipment. Each class is leveled up individually, rewarding new skills and abilities.
Much of the fun of the job system is mixing and matching various class skills together. DQ7 supports this even further through intermediate and advanced classes. By maxing out specific class combinations, characters can unlock powerful new classes. Spend enough time as both a Priest and a Martial Artist, and you can become a Paladin.
The big change from the original is that while you can still mix basic class skills together, advanced class skills can only be used by those classes. This promotes diversity and unique builds, rather than turning everyone into the same amalgamated superhero.
It’s a fun system that does require a hefty amount of grinding to really get the most out of it. But it takes an annoyingly long time to even unlock basic classes.
The beginning gradually introduces you to the game’s structure (island – town – dungeon) as well as the wealth of side content, such as finding hidden monsters, gathering bonus dungeon tablets, and even unlocking spiffy new monster classes. But that lasts over 15 hours, and includes a lot of annoying running around and lame fetch quests.
Though the game is rated E for Everyone (10+) it contains a bunch of notable qualifiers, including Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol. Strong reading skills are required as there’s no voice acting and plenty of dialogue.
The Dragon Quest series isn’t exactly known for its brevity. DQ7 scoffs at your 50 hour RPGs. You’ll be 20 hours in before you even begin to discover the fun of the job system. It’s an incredibly meaty game, but its staggering 80+ hour length may scare away more casual RPG fans. If you have the time to dig into it this 3DS remake should easily become the definitive version of Dragon Quest VII.