"Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is shaping up to be a must-have RPG for anyone who owns a 3DS; it's a wonderful title to kick off the upcoming influx of RPGs for autumn and winter."
I have a confession to make: I've never played a Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest game, aside from last year's action-oriented spin-off, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below. I know, I know — how dare I work for RPGFan without having played such a famous series that's so integral to the entire genre! I could blame it on only being 21 or even on my long backlog, but no matter what excuse I try to come up with, the fact still remains that I've missed out on a lot of important RPG titles. So when I was given the chance to review the 3DS remake of 2001's Dragon Warrior VII, now titled Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, I positively jumped at the opportunity.
For those unfamiliar with the title, the setup is rather simple: You are the Hero, son of a fisherman, whose royal best friend Prince Kiefer is next in line to the throne of your island's kingdom. What's special about your island is that it's the only one in existence; people everywhere, including your father, have searched far and wide for any sign of other life, but Pilchard Bay is the only mass of land. Neither the Hero nor Kiefer believe this, though, and the pair set off on a quest to prove otherwise.
When trying to unlock the secret to a forbidden shrine on the island, they accidentally find themselves, along with their slightly obnoxious (yet highly endearing) mutual friend Maribel, traveling to a new land after piecing together fragments of a stone tablet. Once they finish solving this newfound town's monster problem, the trio find their way home...only to discover that a new island has risen from the depths of the ocean, and it happens to be the same one they just got back from! They soon discover that not only did they travel to a new location, but to the past itself. They freed the town and its island from the past by solving the town's crisis, and this revelation sends them off on a journey to piece together more tablets and bring the world to its rightful state.
Though you do find an overarching story the more you advance through the game's plot, you're mainly playing through vignettes. Each location has its own problem, its own dungeon, and its own boss. These vignettes vary in tone, from the funny (one town I visited had an unfortunate curse put upon it that transformed all of the townsfolk to animals and all of the animals into people), to the sad (a town with a curse that turned its residents to stone, and has a poignant conclusion), to the dramatic (a kingdom overrun by killer robots, resulting in around 90 minutes of compelling war-related melodrama). Because no newly discovered location explores similar themes, I found that I couldn't wait to find more fragments and see what was in store for my next trip to the past. Yet, at the same time, I was never bored by the current vignette; how could I be, when the script is written so well? Every NPC has something to say, giving all of the residents a real sense of personality, and locations even have their own dialect and accents. It truly feels like you're exploring different parts of a larger world, slowly bringing them together to form something unified.
There's also a plethora of side content in this game. You can befriend monsters and send them off to find items called traveler's tablets for you, which then let you explore special randomly generated dungeons; you can find monsters that have disguised themselves as humans and tell them of the Haven, which you help build from the ground up and can watch expand into a thriving town of its own; there's a casino for you to distract yourself with; and you can hunt down mini medals and give them to a certain character to collect rewards. On top of these extras, there's also an extensive class/job system in the form of vocations, of which there are over 30. After a dozen hours sunk into the game, I've yet to gain access to this system, so be sure to look for my thoughts on it in my upcoming review.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is shaping up to be a must-have RPG for anyone who owns a 3DS; it's a wonderful title to kick off the upcoming influx of RPGs for autumn and winter. To say that I'm impressed with what I've played so far would be an understatement. From its wonderfully localized script to its gorgeous, clean and stylized character models, there's so much to love about this game, which has completely stolen my heart. Though I was initially fearful of taking it on due to the original Dragon Warrior VII's infamous length, I feel extremely lucky to be reviewing such a special title.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past will be available this upcoming Friday, September 16th. Look out for our review in the near future to read my full thoughts on the game.