Atlus and Sega's E3 booth has unsurprisingly been very busy this week. Fortunately, RPGamer's Zack Webster managed to cope with the crowds long enough to come away with some thoughts on 7th Dragon III Code: VFD.
I braved only two games at Atlus' booth, being the tightly-packed alley it was. One of these two games was 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, a first for the series in the West on the 3DS. The post-apocalyptic setting, which involves the awakening of the 7th True Dragon signaling the end of the world, follows the party as they jump through time in order to prevent the dragon's eventual coming. There may be an entertaining, classically-styled RPG somewhere in 7th Dragon but more so than any other game this show so far did I feel the limitations of what a demo can offer.
The demo was a four-story building with a baby dragon miniboss at the top, one I did not have the time to reach. My party, which can be built from eight class options, consisted of a pre-built one containing a Samurai, an Agent, and a Rune Knight. The party was fairly well-balanced and I didn't have trouble with too many of the fights, but I can see a lot of the appeal is building your own party, which is lost in a simple demo. Each class had its own gimmick: the Samurai had different skills and attack styles based on which weapon it had equipped, the Agent had a special status ailment that opened up even more devastating skills, and the Rune Knight served both as a tank and the class that handed out the party buffs.
Combat involved a standard turn-based system. I selected party members actions, they performed them, and then the enemies retaliated. Some interesting skills could play with the turn order a bit, but usually I attacked before the enemies had a chance to. The combat seemed fairly well-balanced, I died several times while overusing the auto-battle and afterwards started slowing down a bit to plan my turns out, after which I began having more success. Most of the available skills were either direct damage that targeted certain types of enemies more or healing. The exception was the Agent's ability to give the Hacked debuff to enemies, which allowed them to be targeted by more powerful abilities in his repertoire. However, the debuff failed to stick more often than not and I spent several restorative items worth of mana just to see the "Miss" icon pop up repeatedly. Still, the combat was functional, if underserved by the demo.
If anything, this demo was more defined by what was left out than what there was to demonstrate. Entire gameplay elements left intact by the UI were simply not present. For example, in the lower left of the battle screen there is a turn-counter with the word "Dragon" next to it. Apparently, this feature involves a dragon that inhabits the dungeon being explored. Initially the word appears green but as the dragon approaches, it gets closer to red. In battle, the more the turn counter increases and the more red the dragon marker appears, the higher the likelihood that the dragon appears in the fight currently in, changing up the battle in the middle of the fight and adding a time element to the battles. However, I can't comment on the effectiveness of the implementation as it wasn't there, same for the game's team up and super attacks, which required the use of a disabled overdrive bar.
What's left with a game after many of the unique aspects have been removed? An average game, which is the impression I got from 7th Dragon III Code: VFD. There are ideas that are a part of the full game that sound interesting but can't be discussed because they just aren't there. Again, this is just a demo for a game that seems to have a lot more going on, but nothing about the game stood out in any way for me except for the number of things that had to be cut to fit into a demo. Going solely off the demo, I can only assume it is an unremarkable if working product.