Dragon Quest VII is something of a time paradox today as it was at the time it first came out. It was 2000 and the title signed by Enix followed closely games of the caliber of Final Fantasy IX, The Legend of Dragoon and Xenogears: while Squaresoft aimed to renew the genre of jRPG, Enix did not fall in the least from its privileged position.
After all, Dragon Quest had practically founded that genre, and at that time it was practically the most popular franchise in Japan, thanks also to the contribution of character designer Akira Toriyama, that is the author of Dragon Ball. Even in 2000, however, Dragon Quest VII had raised more than one eyebrow especially after landing in North America: while the Japanese players celebrated its extraordinary success, the Americans - and the Europeans forced to import the game - struggled to understand that what was funny about a graphically old jRPG in which hours passed between one fight and another. In a certain sense, history repeats itself even today. The remake of Dragon Quest VII lands in the West (including Europe) almost three years after the Japanese release for Nintendo 3DS and iOS. Not only that: Fragments of a Forgotten World comes in all its classicism after titles of the caliber of Bravely Default have tried at all costs to "disassemble" the jRPG genre, renewing it in almost every aspect. Highly anticipated especially because it is unprecedented in the Bel Paese, and unknown to the new generations, Dragon Quest VII bets against everything and everyone, winning hands down for a simple reason: it is immense.
Dragon Quest VII is the ultimate expression of old school jRPGs, for better or for worse
Let's put it this way: to get through the Dragon Quest VII prologue on PlayStation, you needed granite patience and the curiosity of a cat. Many gave up after a couple of hours, but those who persisted discovered a simply unforgettable adventure. Today, however, an introduction like the original one, without fighting or a precise direction, would not have been acceptable, and so Square Enix has made some changes to make the first hours of the game less distracting. Better this way, in our opinion.
The merit is also of the new localization - completely in Spanish, let's be clear - which is much more faithful to the goliardic spirit of the Japanese script and abandons the virtuosity of the first English adaptation: in an attempt to make names and dialogues more serious, the original translators had distorted the philosophy behind the game. Dragon Quest VII is not the usual epic adventure in which the chosen one sets out on a journey to save the world from who knows what supernatural threat. In reality there is also this, but the story doesn't start like that: it all starts with a stunt. The unnamed protagonist is a humble fisherman but also the best friend of Prince Kiefer of Estard, a brat who makes the whole royal family despair. The two have long been trying to sneak into an ancient temple that could hide the secrets of their strange world, a boundless ocean where only their island exists. The propitious opportunity arises when the protagonist's father finds the fragment of a strange tablet in the sea: after investigating, our urchins discover that by reconstructing the tablets and placing them on the altars of the mysterious temple it is possible to travel in time and visit the other islands. that dotted the sea before something or someone erased them forever. The plot of Dragon Quest VII will remind fans of the series that of Dragon Quest IX: The Sentinels of the Sky, since it is not a cohesive and linear plot but a carousel of almost self-contained micro-stories. Every time the hero and his friends manage to rebuild a tablet - an operation facilitated by the new radar that warns the player of the presence of fragments in the surroundings - new islands are unlocked to visit: each of them has its own problems that translate into puzzles , dungeons and fights. Having resolved the current crisis, you can also visit the island in the present to find out what has changed and find new fragments of tablets: it is a scheme that closely resembles that of Chrono Trigger and which guarantees a certain freedom, also because Sometimes our decisions can change the fate of some characters. Each island, then, enriches the mythology of this strange world, outlining the main storyline and the real goal of our heroes. Those looking for a guided, linear jRPG full of shocking twists may find the Dragon Quest VII formula to be disheartening to say the least., but as we have said it is a colorful adventure that still does not disdain some touching low blows and that offers a truly rare situational variety.
As we have already mentioned, Dragon Quest VII is an atypical jRPG in the sense that it doesn't give a damn about throwing the player into a fight as soon as possible to show them how cool and fun it is to beat enemies. It will be a long time before you can face your first Slime and when that time comes you may still be dumbfounded. Fans of the series will already know what to expect from the very first clashes, when the party can only physically attack, defend or flee, despite the interface anticipating the possibility of choosing between spells and special techniques of offensive and defensive type, but Dragon Quest VII's combat system really takes a long time to get going and the first few hours might feel not only boring, but frustrating as well.
In this version for Nintendo 3DS, enemies appear on the screen and can be dodged, even if the corridors of the dungeons often lack room to maneuver and you end up remembering a little too often the age-old random ambushes. The problem is that from the beginning the party is often in the minority and the shortage of weapons, money and healing items makes every fight very challenging: you have to sip the magic points, understand when it is appropriate to run away and concentrate the efforts on the most dangerous enemies. If you lose there is no Game Over and you start over from the nearest church with half the money you had accumulated, but bear in mind that reviving party members also comes with a price, so you really need to be cautious. Everything is bound to change, even if it may take too many hours, but when the vocations are finally unlocked, Dragon Quest VII drastically changes its face and becomes one of the most complete, deep and fulfilling jRPGs you will ever be lucky enough to play. The system resembles that of Final Fantasy V or Dragon Quest IX, with characters that can change class at any time at the appropriate sanctuary. Fighting increases the level of the vocation on duty and when a character reaches a certain rank in certain vocations, he unlocks new and more sophisticated ones: warriors, paladins, priests, summoners, pirates, tamers of beasts ... whoever has more, more put. Each vocation increases different statistics at each level up, so it is possible to alter the predispositions of the various heroes and try an infinite number of different combinations, taking advantage of the synergies between the various skills in a game that greatly rewards strategy and caution especially in the advanced stages. adventure or random dungeons that players can spawn and trade through StreetPass. The last function - obviously exclusive to this edition for Nintendo 3DS - recalls the Treasure Maps seen in Dragon Quest IX, even if it is much less sophisticated: nevertheless, it clearly increases the longevity of a game that, for the avoidance of doubt, content. it is almost unrivaled. Between casinos full of minigames, monsters to capture and villages to rebuild and customize, it is easy to see how the hour counter can easily exceed eighty before reaching the end credits.
Enjoy the stereoscopic effect while you can, as it won't be in Dragon Quest VIII. Fortunately, here it is very pleasant and increases the involvement during the explorations; in addition, it is possible to choose two types of intensity to make the fights even more spectacular.
Although three years have passed since the Japanese release of Dragon Quest VII, the remake developed by ArtePiazza defends itself very well and offers an excellent compromise between what is offered by the Nintendo DS in Dragon Quest IX and the natural technical evolution of the series that we have witnessed with Dragon Quest VIII on PlayStation 2. In fact, The setting of Dragon Quest VII is very reminiscent of that of The Odyssey of the Cursed King: the world and the islands are divided into macro areas that we can explore in the third person, passing from the external fields to the cities and the interiors of buildings.
Generally it is also possible to rotate the camera around the vertical axis, even if often the dungeons prevent it from doing so for a matter of pure and simple level design. Despite some nasty pop-up effects during explorations, especially as regards the trees or structures that appear suddenly when we get close to them, the weird world of Dragon Quest VII perfectly returns that color and that enthusiasm that characterize its inhabitants and their stories, thanks also to the hand of the ever prolific Akira Toriyama: it is true that his characters are all a little alike, but they are funny and full of character. ArtePiazza also intervened in two directions to update the technical sector to modern standards. Firstly, once the combat actions are selected, the camera will retract or rotate to show the animations of our heroes, partially abandoning the first-person view characteristic of the series to embrace a model halfway between the aforementioned Dragon Quest VIII and Dragon Quest IX. Furthermore, when we have finally unlocked the vocations, we will find that the appearance of our heroes changes along with their classes, further defining them from a visual point of view: our protagonist could abandon the green tights to dress a real warrior armor with our great satisfaction. The same goes for the weapons, since they all have different polygonal models, even if the variety in terms of equipment is decidedly less than what we saw in Dragon Quest IX, also because in this seventh episode there is no system of " crafting "behind which to lose sleep. The excellent technical realization is flanked by the excellent soundtrack of the evergreen Koichi Sugiyama, historical composer of Dragon Quest who once again accompanies us on the notes of iconic, carefree or disturbing tunes if necessary. From a technical point of view, in short, Dragon Quest VII does not disappoint at all even if it already has a few years on its shoulders, but unfortunately we must admit that we would have definitely appreciated a rejuvenation of the menus and interface: slow, cumbersome and spartan, it perennially reminds us that the (Square) Enix series always walks in the balance between two eras, even if perhaps its charm is just that.
Dragon Quest VII: Shards of a Forgotten World is simply the quintessence of old-school jRPGs - a fascinating, colorful and challenging adventure that once again reminded us why we love this gaming genre so much. Despite all its merits, it is important to point out that the new generations raised on bread and Bravely Default may struggle to digest the slow and dispersed rhythm of the narrative, not to mention the clumsy menus and the fights that, at the beginning, offer very little variety. . In the end it is a matter of gritting your teeth a little: the tens of hours of gameplay to follow will definitely be worth it.
- It is a remake but it is very faithful to the essence of the original
- It is incredibly long and full of content
- The system of vocations guarantees an excellent depth
- The first few hours are a bit heavy
- The menus could use some updating
- Some game dynamics feel the full weight of the years