Dragon Warrior VII - Review

Something Old, Something New...

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 4
   Plot 7
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

80-100 hours


Dragon Warrior VII

   In the heyday of the NES, the Dragon Warrior series was practically synonymous with RPGs. While this dominance still holds in Japan, the series has been absent from the western world for nearly a decade. It now returns in the form of Dragon Warrior VII, yielding an interesting mix of nostalgia and freshness.

   The most familiar feature in the Dragon Warrior VII is the library of sound effects. Every familiar sound found in the NES games, from the slash of a sword to the gaining of a level sounds just like it always has. Some of the music also strikes a familiar chord, particularly on the title screen. The rest of the game's songs are for the most part very standard PSX fare, making these nostalgic touches all the more noticable.

   Thankfully, the archaic menu system of the earlier Dragon Warriors is not dusted off in this fashion. While players may be disturbed by the fact that pressing the X button brings up a menu of commands, further exploration will reveal that the interface is in fact essentially the same as any other modern RPG. It simply doesn't follow the standard conventions of button mapping.

More swirly time portals than CT.
More swirly time portals than CT.  

   While the sound effects seem to be the oldest aspect, the graphics seem to be the newest. Dragon Warrior VII uses the same blend of hand drawn sprites as found in such games as Final Fantasy Tactics while exploring towns and dungeons. However, it's in the battles that the graphics really shine. While monsters appear as the same detailed hand drawn images the series has always featured, when attacking or casting spells, they exhibit elaborate full animations. Although grandiose FMV sequences expected from modern RPGs can also be found in the game, they can be counted on a single hand and are less than astounding.

   These cosmetic features all bring their fair share of nostalgic appeal to the game, but the true strength of Dragon Warrior VII lies in the gameplay. Battles throughout the first quarter of the game offer up the same simple tried and true format featured in every game in the series, and indeed the vast majority of RPGs in existence. Roughly twenty hours in however, players gain access to the most rewarding class change system in history.

Enix and our Q&A host share a common interest.
Enix and our Q&A host share a common interest.  

   Classes range from mundane standards like mages and fighters to more bizarre selections like shepherds, teen idols, and sailors. As characters advance through these classes they gain new abilities which they keep forever, and fully mastering the right combinations of classes opens up more powerful ones. With over thirty classes to master in total, players can spend a full hundred hours completing the game and still not see them all. Those who wish to have a somewhat shorter experience will have to plan carefully to find effective combinations of these classes to survive the rather difficult bosses.

   Since addictive and challenging gameplay alone cannot hold a player's attention for the 80 or more hours it takes to complete Dragon Warrior VII, the game also offers up a decent albeit not particularly innovative story. As the game proceeds, new areas of the world are constantly unlocked, each featuring a new town or two in need of saving. While this episodic format has been found in countless RPGs, Dragon Warrior VII does it better than most, and maintains enough variety and plot twists in its sub-stories to keep from following into a predictable pattern.

Jigsaw puzzles open new lands.
Jigsaw puzzles open new lands.  

   While most RPGs send the characters on their merry way after cleansing an area of evil, Dragon Warrior VII more often than not forces players to re-explore each area of the game after beating a boss before moving on. This causes the tone to shift back and forth between grave drama and light-hearted fun constantly, and yields a translation to match. For every dry and dismal tale of woe, one can find a silly anecdote to balance it out, a number of which are actually quite funny. Unfortunately, while the inhabitants of the game will freely offer up information to aid one's quest, the descriptions of many combat skills are confusing and misleading.

While other RPGs may offer up more flash and experimentation, there is a good deal to be said for tradition done right. And with a full 80 hours worth of solid and engrossing gameplay, that's just the sort of experience Dragon Warrior VII offers up.

Editorial Note 11.09.01: RPGamer would like to add the following statement. Three staff members from RPGamer worked on the game, and will be found in the credits. We took every precaution to make sure this did not influence the review in any manner, but you, the reader, should be aware of this. RPGamer would like to apologize for not originally mentioning our involvement in this review.

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