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Dragon Warrior VII - Retroview

Thou hast done well in finishing this game

By: Paul Koehler


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 6
   Plot 8
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Average
   Time to Complete

75-95 hours

 
Overall
7
Criteria

Dragon Warrior 7
 

   Most console RPGs can trace their roots back to the original Dragon Warrior (known as Dragon Quest in Japan) for the NES console and for many years Enix kept up production of the series on both sides of the Pacific. Inexplicably, Dragon Quest V and VI, for the Super Famicom, were never released in North America, effectively giving other titles like Squaresoft's Final Fantasy games dominant in the console market. Dragon Warrior, though a cultural footnote in North America, is a phenomenon in Japan, and Dragon Quest VII remains the largest selling title in Japan for the PlayStation console. So how would its North American counterpart, Dragon Warrior VII, fare? The game is one of the longest console RPGs ever, perhaps unnecessarily. It might have done better if it weren't for its length, graphics, and archaic battle system, but it is one of the best values in a game for those who are willing to complete it and master it's extraordinarily large job system.

   This job system easily ranks as one of the largest of its type. Three tiers of classes are available for RPGamers, ranging from basic classes like the Cleric and Fighter, advanced classes like the Sage or Paladin. In addition, there are many monster classes which can be utilized by taking monster "souls". Each class has eight different levels which are mastered by fighting through a certain amount of battles, and many of these levels have different abilities which the characters keep, even after switching jobs. Obtaining the higher-level jobs is one of the most time-consuming things to do in the game, getting the top-tier human classes require over 2000 fights for the characters to survive in.

   Item management can be a pain at times, simply to the status menu's archaic nature. It's still retained the same basic design since the NES Dragon Warrior titles: pressing the triangle key brings up the status menu, which gives the standard options of Talk, Item, Search, etc. The item menu has a decent sort feature, which helps weed out many useless items for sale (money is a rare commodity in the game), but it takes a while to execute. Also in the status menu are AI settings, which can be used for all of the party members in battle.


Record keeping in the Monster Encyclopedia
Record keeping in the Monster Encyclopedia  

   Battles are as archaic as possible. Enix felt it best not to upgrade any of the features of the game too much, and in this sense - they went a little too far. This is a turn-based battle system at its most basic: enter in each character's commands (or let the AI do so), and watch the sequence play out. Even better is the game's grandiose introduction sequence, which can take up to three hours. Only after then do you fight your first battle - against three slimes!

   How is it possible to get such a large amount of plot out of the way before the first battle? Dragon Warrior VII is one of the largest RPG quests in recent memory, and the plot focuses on the adventures of the hero. He is a non-descript looking fisherman's son on an island that is seemingly the only island in the entire world. While adventuring with the local king's son in nearby ruins, they discover a huge complex of rooms with pedestals: each that can unlock a portion of the world. While sounding simple at first, the sheer amount of gameplay it takes to just unlock every portion of the world can be draining. Credit should go to the designers who cleverly linked some of the separate areas, as some quests require players to backtrack to previous areas of the game to solve certain puzzles. Unlike many popular games in the last few years, this title has the ability to make players think about their next move, without handing them the solution to the puzzles.

   It's too bad that unlike many popular games in the last few years, Dragon Warrior VII's graphics are pathetic. Yes, the monsters are designed by Akira Toriyama of Dragonball fame. Yes, the title was stalled in development for a number of years. Yes, graphics shouldn't be the only thing to judge a game by. Nevertheless, there are a large number of Super Nintendo titles that look superior to this game's pixilated textures. The game could have been better off staying 2D, much like the rest of the series. It wouldn't have lost much in the process, mainly because the graphics are so poorly done. Even the occasional FMVs in the game are a waste of space.

   Sound effects fall slightly in the same category; like many of the facets in Dragon Warrior VII, Enix felt it best to keep as much of the game's classic features untouched - including some of the sound effects (like walking down stairs). Fortunately, the game's music is of a much higher caliber. Some of the tracks are done particularly well, one of the better tracks takes place in the hero's hometown, and if there is one other name on the development team that deserves credit, it's Koichi Sugiyama, the game's composer.


This game's too long, don't you think?
This game's too long, don't you think?  

   The accomplishment is even more impressive when compared with the game's visuals, which deserved all the criticism given shortly after its release in North America. With the possible exception of the monster artwork and animations in battle sequences, many of the visuals look inferior to some later efforts on the Super Nintendo, which is inexcusable for one of the last RPGs on the PlayStation console. Enix also took the trouble to stick in a small amount of FMVs, all of which were unnecessary. While this is no reason to bash the game as a whole, it is a large one - and it hurt's the title's presentation as a whole.

Make no mistake, RPGamers will get their money's worth out of Dragon Warrior 7. While defeating the whole game can take anywhere from 75-95 hours of gameplay, there are a variety of mini-games to play. One of them involves collecting immigrants from the towns and sending them to Sim's island, where they build a city that reflects the profession of its residents (e.g. Farm, Merchant Town, Grand Slum, etc.) In addition, there is the World Ranking Federation, in which party members can be rated for their Power, Style, and Intelligence ratings. This, an extra two bonus dungeons, and the gargantuan job system can easily amount to well over 200 hours of gameplay, if one chooses to invest the amount of time in the game.

However, this proves to be difficult. Dragon Warrior 7, despite all the accolades it received in Japan, is a product that took far too long to develop and has been overshadowed by other titles in North America. Besides the graphics, the game's biggest downfall is its length: simply finishing the game is an accomplishment in itself, and it is something that many RPGamers will find to be a punishing experience. Enix felt it necessary to stay with traditional elements of the Dragon Quest series, like the battle system, to keep a feeling of nostalgia for RPGamers, many who were originally introduced to the series through the original Dragon Warrior for the NES. However, time and sales figures in North America should be an indication to Enix that it is time to catch up, as the game is the last of its kind - an echo of a bygone era. A warning to anyone who buys the game: it is worth every dollar, but make sure to have lots of free time.




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