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Dragon Quest VIII 3DS – First Impressions

Previously I’ve talked about the mobile version of Dragon Quest VIII, while visually more impressive than the original game on the Playstation 2, the touchscreen nature of a 3D game was kind of awkward. On top of that, it seemed like the text in the battle sequence was squashed together to fit the aspect ratio of the phone screen. Now we have a “true” handheld port of this game on the 3DS.

For those who were salty over the lack of voice acting missing in the mobile version, the voices are back in this version. My only confusion is that they couldn’t get Jessica’s actress back, though maybe the actress from Dragon Quest Heroes is the new canon actress. It’s sort of like how the voice for Chie Satonaka in Persona 4 got replaced, and they’re sticking to it.

Another missing feature, is the beautiful orchestral music. This is probably due to the space limitations of the cartridge format, and also the original Japanese game never had it. While definitely not a deal breaker, it would be a nice feature, but we’re happy that Square actually wanted to release a Dragon Quest game in the US based on the delayed release of both DQ7 and 8.

As for the actual gameplay, it plays very comfortably on the 3DS. The game does play better on a New 3DS, as the second stick makes camera control a lot more at home. Using the trigger buttons are fine when you just rotate the camera left and right, but using the D Pad for camera control is pretty awkward.

They did take something from the mobile port. They took the exclamation points for interactive items. While not a necessity, it’s probably there to easily identify for new players what you can and can’t interact with. While a neat feature, veterans probably won’t pay it any mind.

One of the biggest features in this port, is something Enix has been using in the series since DQ9, is that random encounters are replaced with enemies generated on the field. While the original game didn’t have a crazy rate of random encounters, like say Final Fantasy 2’s PS1 version, or Digital Devil Saga, it does encourage exploration more when you don’t feel bogged down with random encounters. It definitely isn’t an unwelcome modern addition to this game.

Another change taken from DQ9, is with the alchemy pot. Instead of having to walk for a certain number of steps, waiting for your concoction to be done, it not instantly creates your items. A feature that I highly doubt much of anyone is going to complain that’s missing.

One new feature unique to the 3DS version, is that they added in a feature where you can take pictures. Probably added in for the Street Pass feature of the 3DS, it adds a social aspect to the game. Also with this, a guy named Cameron Obscura (real clever Enix), asks the player to embark on a series of picture related missions. You earn stamps, like when you partake in quests in Ni no Kuni, and you might earn some items from it. Not sure really, as I haven’t gained enough stamps, or care about the feature much.

Dragon Quest VIII on 3DS is definitely a great port on a portable device, and you’ll definitely enjoy it for fans new and old alike.

Dragon Quest VII Remake – First Impressions

About a year ago, I reviewed the original Dragon Quest VII, and is a game I quite enjoy. It’s a game that’s infamous for its length, though apparently a game very few people have actually seen the end of. It’s a game that’s fairly difficult for keeping people’s attention to the very end. The game also takes a really long time for you to level up, while it does artificially inflate the time, it’s still a really long game regardless.

15 years later, I finally get my hands on what I hope is the definitive version of the game. The graphics in the original were a bit dated for being a late release on the original Playstation. The remake looks very good. It’s nice seeing the characters moving their mouths when they’re talking, including the NPC’s. While the music isn’t orchestrated, the midi soundtrack sounds pretty good so far.

What might be a drawback for those who loved the inaccessible aspects of the original games, would be how aspects of the game feel a bit streamlined and toned down. A lot of the beginning was cut out to get you to the action a lot faster. In the original game, it was a good two hours or more to go through the beginning dungeon, and you finally get to your first battle. In the remake, I was 90 mins in, and already on level 5. What this also means, is that leveling up doesn’t seem to take as long, well so far at least.

The beginning of the original game did do a good job at making you curious at the mystery in that shrine, it does seem odd to have a scavenger hunt to get you to the dungeon, and an even longer time going through a lengthy dungeon with lots of puzzle solving. Most RPG’s try to get you to the action in the beginning to introduce you to the battle system, which is what you’ll be dealing with a majority of the time. The original game? Nah wait 3 hours.

One aspect of the remake that I feel makes things less annoying, is the tracker for the shards. In the game, you collect shards to unlock pedestals to access further places in the game. The original game had you search every nook and cranny in the hopes to find them. The remake makes that a lot easier, there’s an indicator that flashes one is nearby. I’m sure somebody out there enjoyed that the original game had you search high and low for them, but honestly, it makes it annoying to backtrack in the hopes of finding a shard. This is one of those cases where making it easier is a lot helpful.

The remake of the game so far is very promising, and honestly, I’m not sure how they could really mess it up. ArtePiazza’s remakes of other Dragon Quest games are very faithful and very good remakes, so there shouldn’t be any way they could ruin this remake.

Dragon Quest VII (aka Dragon Warrior VII) Review

Released in Japan in 2000 and in the US the following year as Dragon Warrior VII (keeping with the naming of the previous titles in the US, also keeping with tradition, it wasn’t released in Europe), it was the highly anticipated addition to the legendary role-playing series Dragon Quest and went on to selling over 4 million copies making it one of the best selling Playstation games. Especially when it’s boasting that the main story takes at least 100 hours to beat.

Well, it was only highly anticipated in Japan and the vast majority of those sales were from Japan. It went a bit under the radar in the US and became sort of a cult classic.

Are the Japanese and US audience that widely different?

To explain how this happened, we should start with a quick history lesson. Dragon Warrior IV was the last title released in the US before Enix decided to stop releasing games outside of Japan. So while Enix released 2 new games, and remade the first 3 for the SNES, the rest of the world was left out of the blue. It wasn’t until 2000 when Enix finally decided to release games in the US.

So while Enix started with releasing remakes of the first three games on the Gameboy Color and were critical successes, commercially they weren’t impressive. So by the time Dragon Warrior VII came out, there wasn’t a massive hype like the latest Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda title, because we missed out on 5 releases, and there’s a nine year gap between DW4 and DW7. So a possibly successful series was made more or less forgotten by the general gaming community.

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Dragon Warrior VII also had two more things working against it: the Playstation 2 was already out, and so was one of the biggest titles in the entire library, Final Fantasy X. So not only was the rival series already on the next generation console, Dragon Warrior VII’s graphics were also pretty lackluster for a late PS1 release, so in presentation alone, it couldn’t compete against even the previous Final Fantasy title which was released the year before and looks several times better.

So enough on the history lesson, let’s actually review the game:

Story:

DQ7 is the first standalone game in the series as the first 6 consisted of two trilogies, though the second trilogy barely has anything to do with each other.

The game takes place on an island, the only island in the entire world while the rest is wide open sea. In keeping to the tradition of Dragon Quest games, the silent hero has no default name. This time you play as the son of the fisherman Borkano in the small fishing village blandly named Fishbel. You have two childhood friends: Maribel, the bitchy and bossy charming daughter of the mayor of Fishbel, and Keifer, prince of the neighboring city of Estard, well the only other town in the world.

The game begins with you and Keifer exploring the forbidden ruins to the east of town with Keifer wanting to figure out the secrets of the ruins. The two of you finally reach a strange set of rooms with several mysterious pedestals. You realize one of the pedestals has a stone slab in the middle of it and you piece it back together with some of the pieces lying around. Sadly it’s missing a piece and you walk back home empty handed. The following day, shit happens you guys come across the final piece and Maribel talks you into letting her join you into the ruins. When you guys finally completed the tablet a strange flash of light engulfs the trio. The three of you wake up in a strange forest and discover you’re in a foreign village in the past, so finally the quest begins.

So when Enix is boasting that this game takes about 100 hours to beat, they weren’t fucking around. That was the entire opening sequence and that takes 2 hours and then you finally run into your first battle and the actual quest begins. Most other Dragon Quest games (hell RPG’s in general) your first battle takes place the instant you leave town. This is one of the biggest gripes that American gaming critics had with the game.

Enix sort of “cheats” with the story by not making it a continuous story. The game is largely episodic with the main story interspersed between the episodes. The main goal of the first disc is to go back in time and restore the various villages by stopping the problem that has plagued the past, and then the landmass around the village will be restored in the present. After it’s been restored, you must visit it in the present and stalk it for more shards to complete the pedestals to allow access to the other villages. That’s the entire first disc in a nutshell, and that’s the first 60 hours of the game.

Disc 2 itself takes another 40 hours of the game. While I would have been satisfied with the game just being disc 1, disc 2 is a nice addition and adds more to the story.

The story itself is largely depressing, and can get pretty dark at times. While you venture through the game, you’re going to run into stuff like racism, natural disasters, towns ravaged from warfare, multiple acts of genocide, and slavery. So if you’re someone who cries easily, get your tissues ready for this game.

Gameplay

The game is very similar to other Dragon Quest games by keeping to the traditional RPG mechanics, so there isn’t much to explain that would be unfamiliar.

While largely untouched from the previous entrees, they do introduce a diverse class system to create some variety to aid your strategies in battle. While the class system was first introduced and only used in DQ3, 7 has made many improvements to it. Unlike in 3, your class levels up separately, and at a faster rate. This is because once you max out the level of two classes, you can unlock a hybrid class to gain much stronger abilities. The slight downfall for some people is that only certain combinations unlock hybrid classes. A plus side to the class system is that once you change your class, all of your abilities transfer over, thus increasing your movepool which comes in handy the farther you get in the game. One aspect of the class system some might find tedious, is that you can only change your classes at the Dharma Shrine, and there is only one in the game. So every time you want to change your classes, you must treck back to it. Luckily by this point you have the Zoom spell which you can warp travel.

So for such a large game, the gameplay is a very standard RPG with the gameplay doing nothing special or new, so if you want a very unique experience, it only does so through its storytelling, not through the gameplay.

Visuals

While the graphics themselves are decent, it suffered in development hell for several years, so while it would probably have been impressive as an early PS1 title, its development struggles made it a late release which makes the graphics feel really dated when compared to late PS1 games like Final Fantasy IX, and even Persona 2. Like I also mentioned above, it also looked really poor considering that the PS2 was already out and, in the US, Final Fantasy X was lightyears ahead in the technical department. So while it does seem poor as a late PS1 title, it’s not to say the graphics are bad, they get the job done for the most part.

Like every other Dragon Quest game, the monsters and characters are designed by Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama. The graphics engine is also the template for the DS remakes, so there isn’t much to discuss that hasn’t. Though the game’s view is more isometric, instead of top-down like the DS games, and the graphics aren’t as good as the DS has better graphics than the Playstation.

Though while the graphics are a bit dated, but get the job done, the game does have some very awkward cutscenes. It seems like Enix wanted to catch up to Square’s PS1 RPG’s by having cutscenes to show off the Playstation’s prowess, they look so out of place when you compare the cutscene to the graphics from the rest of the game. It’s even more drastic than Final Fantasy VII where at least the characters in battle resembled the custscene depictions. The cutscenes in this game look nothing like Akira Toriyama’s artwork. It’s pretty much like playing Final Fantasy VI and throwing in Final Fantasy 7 cutscenes.

Though luckily if you exclude the opening and ending cutscenes, there’s only about 2 cutscenes at most, so DW7 at least spares you the misery.

Music

Returning to the series, series veteran Koichi Sugiyama returns to compose the music to the game. If you’re familiar with his music in the other games, there isn’t much to talk about as the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint. While not my favorite soundtrack in the series, it still gets the job done, and the music does help set the depressing mood of the game. Like every other Dragon Quest game, there is a fully orchestrated version of the soundtrack available.

Verdict:

Despite its dated graphics and monstrous size, it’s one of the stronger titles in the series, but this game isn’t for the faint of heart. So while it’s not a very recommendable title for casual RPG fans, or people becoming interested in RPG’s, it’s still a very solid game that’s a definite must have for RPG fans who want a very deep and engaging game. Especially for those who are looking for a game that will last them awhile.

Music: 7/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 6/10.

Story: 9/10.

Content: 8/10.

Conclusion: 8/10