Released in Japan in 2000 as Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, this PlayStation exclusive JRPG was re-titled as Dragon Warrior VII for its North American English language release in 2001. It was developed by Heartbeat and was the last Dragon Quest game to be published by Enix, before merging with Squaresoft in 2003 to form Square Enix.
Dragon Warrior VII features 2D sprites overlaid over 3D backgrounds, but it otherwise follows the Dragon Quest template of adventuring, exploration, and turn-based combat.
You play a young boy, raised in a coastal fishing village, who becomes involved in a secret quest with the King’s son which transports him (and his friends) to another time/other worlds, inhabited (and ravaged) by monsters.
The hero, and his party of friends, move around the overword with the d-pad, and pressing the action button brings up a small menu that allows him to talk to other people, bring up an inventory, and also search for things. You can rotate the view using the shoulder buttons and also pick up and throw pots and barrels to find hidden items by pressing the context-sensitive ‘x’ button.
Dragon Warrior VII does have a rather tedious introductory quest that seems to last for a long time – before any combat takes place. The party gain access to an underground temple and must solve a number of puzzles before the game starts proper. This is basically a tutorial quest, but it is annoying because it’s lengthy, quite challenging, and also a little convoluted. After which the hero and his friends are transported to a distant world that they don’t recognise and can’t seem to get home from. Here they are immediately attacked by slimes and thrust into combat, which is where the game begins proper.
Combat in Dragon Warrior VII is similar to previous games, but with extra features that really help, like – for example – an ‘at-a-glace’ comparison system for weapons and armour that make it easy to see who can (and can’t) use what; and also whether equipping an item will increase or decrease attack and defence statistics. The combat in Dragon Warrior VII is excellent, though. It’s fast-moving, easy to understand, and well thought-out. Item management is also much improved over previous games. You have an overspill bag for items that won’t fit into your limited character inventories, which is helpful.
Criticisms I have include: movement around the overworld is a little twitchy at times. Your party can sometimes get stuck on the scenery and judder around uncontrollably. Also: I didn’t like the way that the backgrounds pixellate when a text box or menu comes up; it just makes the game look messy. If the developers had wanted to indicate a different display they should’ve used either a darker colour, or done it some other way. But these are just a minor criticisms and they don’t affect the gameplay adversely; it just makes the game look unnecessarily janky at times.
Overall: Dragon Warrior VII is a fine game. It’s absorbing, challenging, lengthy, and fun, and has some real laugh-out-loud moments that I wasn’t expecting. The animation of the monsters during combat is pretty spectacular, and the music is top quality too.
There’s much more to the game than combat and grinding, although if you are prepared to grind a bit then you’ll find the game a little easier. The difficulty curve is gradual and the game is relatively easy to begin with, but of course it does get much harder later on.
Dragon Warrior VII is not the best game in the Dragon Quest series (I’d say that Dragon Quest VIII is), but it is a PlayStation classic and should not be missed by anyone who loves Japanese RPGs. It was also re-made for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013.