Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on 3DS is a remake of a PlayStation 1 game that came out in 2000 and it boasts improved graphics, sound and a re-translated script. Originally, this game was to be released exclusively in Japan, where this series is a huge deal, but international fans made such a fuss that the remake eventually got an international release in September 2016.
Kickin’ It Old School
I never played the original and, in fact, the only game I played in that whole franchise was the very first Dragon Quest game, which released in 1986. The only kid on my block with a NES console had a copy and we used to play all the time, despite having no clue as to how the game worked or what we were supposed to do. I can’t compare Dragon Quest VII to the original but I can tell you that this release is very much a RPG in the mold of the old NES/SNES era. The battle system will be familiar to gamers who played those old games and the story, where a bunch of feisty kids save the world, is pretty standard. It also includes gameplay aspects from the series, such as the enemies showing up on the world map and the rotation of party members depending on where you are in the story.
Spruce It Up
On the technical side, from the screenshots I’ve found, it seems like the graphics got the biggest boosts. Characters and NPCs are now 3D models and the animations are well done. Cut scenes use these sprites to show the story scenes. The music and the sound effects add to the general good quality of the game’s presentation. There’s one snag that I noticed: sometimes the framerate seems to drop when there’s a lot of stuff on the screen. I’m not sure if it’s an optimization issue or a limitation of the 3DS itself but I noticed it when entering more complex towns.
Taking It Way Too Slow
The story is where you get to the weaker aspects. It’s pretty basic (which isn’t bad): your hero lives on a single island in the middle of an infinite ocean. You and your childhood friend open up a mysterious temple that allows you to travel back in time to other islands. As you resolve problems on these islands, they show up in the present, confusing everyone. I like this kind of thing, where you can sort of explore little self-contained stories which then join the overarching plot. They also gave all the inhabitants various accents, as if they had all really been isolated from each other. The bad part, I found, is the first 2-3 hours of the game. No combat, no excitement, no nothing, just a long series of dialogues separated by running around on the same small island, often back and forth between the same locations trying to find specific people to talk to. There’s no way to speed any of it up; you just need to go through the motions until you can unlock the temple.
The story isn’t the only slow build in Dragon Quest VII. The combat is a pretty standard turn-based affair but you eventually unlock a system where your characters can choose classes and unlock new abilities. Somewhat strangely, this system actually appears late in the story. You go through 8 islands before you encounter it. I had a week to review this game and, real-talk, I didn’t get to that eighth island. In 9 hours of play, I’ve completed 3 islands (I did get lost at one point because of the save system, to be fair). Had I not checked the internet, I never would have guessed that this game has such a mechanic.
You might be saying: well that’s your fault for not playing enough, to which I would answer that the problem is that the combat is not very interesting in itself. It’s your classic Fight-Magic-Items-Defend menu and every combatant takes their turn performing their chosen actions. At the beginning of the game, you really don’t get that many options. Leveling up rarely adds abilities. It’s often a perfectly acceptable strategy to just choose ‘Attack’ with all characters. The class system probably adds a lot of these missing options and you get the customization from choosing which characters gets which abilities. It’s just a bit weird that you play over 10 hours without any of this.
These two aspects make for a slow starting game that might not hook a player in. For me, it was the diversity of the islands that kept me playing Dragon Quest VII, but I would often just mash the A button through the battles because they were generally easy. I read that this is temporary as the game gets much harder later on.
Overall, I enjoyed this remake. It allowed me to play a 15-year old game I would have otherwise missed. A lot of effort was put into bringing that title to today’s technical standards while also making it available on a handheld console. If you missed Dragon Quest VII, and/or would rather not play it on a PSOne, you should take a look at this port. However, keep in mind that there’s somewhat of a ramp-up before you get to the meatier parts of the game.
DISCLAIMER: Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past review copy provided by Nintendo of Canada. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.