7th Dragon III: VFD - Review  

Mostly Worth the Wait
by Mike "Wheels" Apps

7th Dragon III: VFD
40-60 Hours
+ Great class and party system
+ Entertaining, over the top story
+ Fantastic soundtrack
- No dub
- A tad too linear
- Time travel plot does not stand up to logic
Click here for scoring definitions 

   It certainly has been a long time coming, but finally a 7th Dragon game has been localized in the form of 7th Dragon III: VFD. A series created by the same director behind the Etrian Odyssey series, with similar character creation and skill mechanics, JRPGamers have long pined to see an entry come to the West. Seemingly a bookend to the series, or at least the current version of the series, it manages to tie together the events of the previous games while not leaving newcomers to the series confused. This is important, since the previous games never left Japan. Featuring an impressive selection of character classes, incredibly solid turn-based combat, and a strange and entertaining cast of characters, 7th Dragon III manages to entertain throughout. Some hiccups such as the general linearity of the proceedings, the lack of a dub, and some overwrought plot moments  do manage to hamper some of the fun. It's a fine way to make players wonder about the previous games in the series.

  The game takes place in a somewhat futuristic Tokyo, some years after the events of 7th Dragon 2020 and 7th Dragon 2020-II. At the start, players take a team of player-created characters through a virtual reality game, fighting some dragons from the previous games. After defeating them all, players find out the game was a Last Starfighter-styled experiment to find those capable of being dragon slayers. Working for the "Nodens company", players set off on an adventure through time to get samples of six true dragons in order  to prepare for the impending arrival of the seventh, and final, true dragon. The premise is over the top, and plays pretty loose with the rules of time travel, but somehow it works. The tale is largely entertaining, even though the time travel elements will cause headaches when logic is applied to them.

  Supporting the dragon-slaying narrative is a colorful cast of characters, including a talking bunny whose nature is never really explained. Though emotional scenes with some of the supporting characters can feel a bit overdone at times, they largely provide a good emotional backing to all the dragon-slaying. Optional quests even provide the opportunity to learn more about these characters if a player so desires. With plenty of twists and turns as the time-travel dragon exterminating adventure proceeds, 7th Dragon III's story isn't a masterpiece by any means but proves to be thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. The only major downer to the story is the game features a fair amount of voice acting that does not include a dub.

The game's cast of
                                        characters is colorful and
                                        entertaining. The game's cast of characters is colorful and entertaining.

   Despite the quality of the story, turn-based combat and class mechanics are where 7th Dragon III truly shines. The game includes some typical fare, such as a monk type and a mage type, but for the most part the classes feel fresh and interesting. Many of them most likely originate in previous series entries of course, but for Western gamers they will be new. These include an Agent, adept with guns and hacking, a Duelist class that uses magic based on elemental cards drawn, and a debuff specialist that can use powerful abilities when enemies are afflicted with ailments. Each archetype features a variety of skills, and players are free to apply the skill points gained from combat to learn skills of their choosing. Though some classes do have healing skills, the primary source  of healing is through items. This frees players to use any mix of classes they so choose, leaving lots of room to experiment.

  Further helping this is the multi-party system. Players are free to build a roster of characters similar to Etrian Odyssey, though initially they can only venture out with one three-person party at a time. This eventually expands to two, then three parties. The nice thing about these multiple parties is that the characters not participating in combat not only provide occasional help to the active party in battle, they still gain full experience. This means there's no extra grinding required to build up other characters. Parties can even be swapped at will outside of combat, giving players fresh troops to make trips into dungeons much longer and more productive.

  Though the random encounters peppered throughout the game are quite breezy, it's the titular dragon battles that provide the game's most challenging encounters. Similar to Etrian Odyssey's FOEs, dragons visually roam the game's dungeons. Players are free to try and maneuver around many of these encounters, but considering they provide good XP and a special dragon currency used to purchase things like an increased item selection at the shop in town, participating in many of them is a must. Players have a wide number of status ailments they can inflict on enemies to help in these tougher battles, perhaps even more than enemies have access to. Successfully mixing and matching character classes and skills in search of synergies is essential to navigating the game's difficult battles, especially the small number of true dragon battles, which are brutal tests to see how well players have figured out the game's mechanics.

Get ready to see plenty of
                                        these through the course of the
                                        game. Get ready to see plenty of these through the course of the game.

    While 7th Dragon III is primarily a linear game, going from dungeon to dungeon as the story progresses, the game does a nice job of hiding this fact so as to prevent players from feeling constrained. Part of this is the design of the dungeons themselves, which provide side paths with treasure and many twists and turns to prevent most places from feeling like a straight line. In general though, the game just doesn't pressure players much in going to the next story point. Previous dungeons and sidequests are constantly open for players to venture to. The game even provides a helpful menu option where the party can be directed to the next story location, in case such side activities have distracted the player for awhile. While it does distract from its linearity very well, it can't be completely ignored. With such a fine class system it feels like the game could have used more optional dungeons and challenges, which it sadly lacks.

The music and graphics in 7th Dragon III are some of the best players will find on the 3DS. The chibi character art style mixes well with the colorful and varied locations and enemies. Attack animations, both for PCs and enemies, are colorful and exciting, but thankfully rarely long enough to make combat long and tedious. The game does not use the 3D effect, presumably meaning it is able to get a bit of extra oomph out of the 3DS's graphics processor, as there is never any stuttering or slow down. The soundtrack is by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro of Streets of Rage and early Ys fame, and is understandably quite fantastic. Mixing all kinds of sounds, from vocal tracks to electric guitar and synthesized tracks, the music matches locations and events almost perfectly. A good pair of headphones are an absolute  must for this game.

It took far too long for an entry in the 7th Dragon series to reach the West, but it was worth the wait. 7th Dragon III doesn't try to break new ground or provide a deep meaningful story. What it does do is entertain players thoroughly through its lengthy adventure and a plethora of classes and skills to toy with. Its tale of illogical time travel is solid entertainment, so long as you can suspend disbelief somewhat. Though it ties together the previous games, 7th Dragon III makes sure no prior knowledge of the previous games is required. Even so, missing out on the previous games does make the story feel lacking on occasion, when recurring characters and locations from them show up with more impact clearly intended than comes through to players without such knowledge. Even with this and a few other small gripes, the end result is a  splendid adventure that no 3DS-owning RPG fan should pass up.

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