It’s taken well over 3 years for the remake of Dragon Quest 7 to reach our shores. Fans have drooled over Japanese footage for so long and there were always pleads for a localization announcement at every event that SquareEnix was at. For a while, it would seem that we’d never get the chance to play this game, but it’s finally happened, and it’s almost in the hands of those that have waited years to play it. It’s been one hell of long time coming, but it was well worth the wait.
Dragon Quest 7’s story harkens back to a much a simpler time in JRPG history and in many ways it reminds me a lot of Chrono Trigger. There is no foreboding or dramatic prophecy setting up the story, instead, it begins on a fairly normal, if not slightly mundane note. You’re the son of a fisherman, in a town where the biggest event is a harvesting festival. You spend most of your time with your two best friends, Prince Kiefer and the daughter of the mayor, Maribel. Your town and the neighbouring one sits on what seems to be the only continent in the entire world, and strange as it may seem, it’s normality to everyone. One day however, you, along with your friends uncover the secrets of a nearby shrine, which whisks you away to an unknown land, triggering a string of events that would change the world.
As it would turn out, it’s not just a matter of where you were transported to, but when as well. The place you find yourself in is actually in the past and was long since sealed away by some evil force. Helping the denizens rid themselves of the evil afflicting their land will make it appear in the present time. So you will come to learn that your continent is not the only one out there and that the world was once whole, but now shattered and sealed away. Thus you embark on a journey to make whole the scattered fragments of the world.
The basic premise of the story acts as the driving force for pretty much the entirety of the game, and it’s the predictability and simplicity of the design that is the game’s biggest strength. As you progress through the game, you’ll find fragments of a tablet that represent the continents that has been sealed away and once you find all the pieces of a specific tablet, you’ll be able to go back in time and restore that land. For the rest of the game, you’ll be repeating the process of going back in time, saving the town(s), finding more fragments and revisiting that place in the present. While it may seem like an overly simple process, it allows the game to make each and every trip back to the past really interesting and memorable.
The focus on the story, world and characters really pays off in the end. Each town you visit when you go back to the past has a core problem that needs solving, from all the townsfolk being turned into animals to the entire continent being under threat from killer robots. The game does a good job of getting you invested in the current situation and making you care about the afflicted characters. Each town in the past has a core group of characters that the scenario revolves around, and somehow the game manages to make them all feel interesting by giving them entertaining and emotional story arcs, unique personalities, traditions and even accents. Even after dozens of hours of play I still remember the characters that I met in the opening hours of the game, and that in itself is quite a feat.
On the gameplay side of things, you’ll find an extremely traditional battle system driving most of the combat. By traditional, I really mean traditional, as there are no fancy systems to keep track of, or over the top super moves, it’s just plain and simple turn-based action. At the start you’ll gradually learn new moves and spells to use in combat with the only available customization options being able to change your equipment. After 20 or so hours (which is actually a really long time), you’ll gain access to the vocation system, which is just this game’s version of a class system and this is where things open up. Each vocation alters your base stats and provides a number of abilities that you can permanently learn, meaning that even if you switch classes, you’ll still retain them, allowing you to create customs builds the way you see fit. Mastering multiple vocations by way of simply engaging in battle, also grants access to more advanced ones, with powerful abilities to learn. It’s a really fun system, even though it takes quite some time to unlock.
The fact that the vocation system, a core mechanic, only gets introduced after 20 hours is telling of this game’s size. This is one massive adventure and everything flows at its own pace, which is something I truly appreciate. Nothing ever felt rushed and there was always ample time for both story and character development. You could easily spend upwards of 60 hours on the main story alone, without even touching the side content, of which there is a lot by the way. Dragon Quest 7 is sure to scratch that itch for those looking for a really long JRPG with tons of content.
I really have to applaud SquareEnix for the effort and care they put into this remake. Sure, some of the changes, such as the decreased focus on puzzle solving and name changes might not gel well with some of the most ardent of fans, but it’s undeniable though that they did an amazing job of reimagining this game for the current generation. As someone who played the original on PS1, I can say I don’t mind any of the changes (well besides renaming Gabo to Ruff), as they managed to mostly remain faithful, even right down to item placement. One change that makes the game so much better is the shard radar that lights up when you’re near a fragment. This almost eliminates the tedious and often aimless searching of fragments found in the original. The only issue I have is with the menu and UI, and yes, I know the menu layout is a staple of the series, but it doesn’t make it any less of a chore to navigate. It’s something you get used to though, so it never bothered me too much in the end.
The reimagined visuals and remastered soundtrack is amongst the best seen on the system. I am absolutely smitten by Koichi Sugiyama’s compositions and though there aren’t that many tracks to speak of, each one is memorable and perfectly suits each scene. Oh man, when To My Loved Ones plays during an important scene in the Roamer’s Camp (or Deja Tribe as it’s known in the original game), all those feelings I had when I first played the game came rushing back, and well, yes, I did kind of cry, just a little bit.
What an experience. Dragon Quest 7 manages to capture so much of what I love and miss about JRPGs. It’s easily one of the best games I’ve personally played on the system. SquareEnix needs to hurry up now with Dragon Quest XI as I think it’s time that this series gets some serious spotlight.
Last Updated: September 13, 2016