This review mark the start of what I like to call: “The Black-List series”. I have a list of games that were hated by many people, even my closest friends, and in spite of that, I never got to try any of those titles myself, but the time has finally come! With that said, I proudly present the first item: Dragon Quest VII! This was a huge success when it was released back in 2000 in Japan for the Playstation 1, with nearly 4 million copies being sold. Which means I have nothing to fear! After all, 4 million Japanese can’t be wrong, right?
You control a little boy at the age of 16 with no specific name or personality (like you usually do in this series), but he got a name in the manga, therefore, for convenience’s sake, he shall thereby be called Arus. The young Arus is the son of the greatest fisherman of the Estard Island. Therefore, he have a very fulfilling life, getting many favors and high expectations from everyone in his hometown of Fishbel.The prince Kiefer, on the other hand, is not satisfied with living the path that was imposed to him and seeks a new destiny for himself. Something only him would be able to accomplish with his own hands (why isn’t Kiefer the main character, again? Ah! That’s right! He can talk! Silly me!). To do that, Kiefer often runs away from the castle looking for adventure/trouble, and he usually drags his best friend Arus together with him. Eventually, Kiefer decides to look for adventure on new lands, but it’s widely accepted that Estard is the only island in the whole world. Still, this is not enough to stop the stubborn prince, and he sets his eyes on a mysterious ruin and start investigating it with Arus. This would subsequently open a path for their adventure, but Keifer makes Arus promise to keep this a secret from everyone else.Since the young fisherman son has a bad poker face (which is a big lie, since he has no facial expression at all!), it doesn’t take too long for Maribel to smell something fishy was going on with her childhood friend. Just like Kiefer, she also wants to go on adventures, and even tried to sneak in the boat of Arus’ father, which is why she tags along with the boys. Little did she know that they would end up opening a portal to a distant land from a distant era, when the world was infested by monsters and demons.After they helped defeating the demons in that region, they finally were able to return to their own era in their own island, but with their arrival they got a big surprise: A new island was found! And it was the same island they were sent to.Now, this small party is involved in a sequence of events related to the revival of the Demon Lord. Will they be able to unfold the mystery behind the disappearance of all the other continents while putting a stop to this evil?
I never played a Dragon Quest game before in my life, but I watched Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken during my childhood, so I’m able to understand the charm of this series. That’s why me and my good friend Zebaca were pumped to play this game when it came out for the PSX. On the following day, we were playing Frisbee using his Dragon Warrior 7 CD (No! I’m not kidding! We actually did that!).I just watched he playing for a brief moment, so I don’t even remember why he hated it so much. Well, I played the remake for the Nintendo 3DS, but from what I read, the game is virtually the same, so I should be getting the same gameplay experiencHOLY FUCK!!! This game takes forever to start! No shitting! Here’s a warning for everyone who love this series and wants this to be localized: It takes about 2 hours to reach the first battle in the game, before that, you only walk around talking with people and solving some tedious puzzles. It’s the worst beginning I’ve ever seen in a RPG, and I’m pretty confident in my years of experience when it comes to this genre!There’s another thing you must know before trying to play this: The PSX version was highly praised by magazines because of its “revolutionary” job-system. What is so revolutionary about it, you ask? I guess it’s because anyone can become anything in the job list. This doesn’t look impressive now, but back then, most job-systems had many requirements and limitations for characters or genders. This system, on the other hand, has no such a thing, which opens the possibility for a party where everyone takes the most overpower job in the game. In other words: It’s broken as hell! Just like the Junction System (Ok! It’s not THAT broken!).So, if it takes 2 hours just to get to the first battle in the game, how long it takes to change jobs? Can you guess? 2 and a half hours? Immediately after the first battle? It’s 30 hours! THIRTY FUCKING HOURS!!! I had already forgotten completely about jobs at that point! I even thought it was only a joke when they first mentioned those!Even if the jobs were really great, what use would they have when the combat has nothing interesting going on? It’s just a regular turn-based battle system! Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the battles are bad! They even made some user-friendly measures (like how you don’t need to choose a target when there’s just one enemy to attack), but it gets boring really fast, since you have to battle A LOT! Specially because you raise the level of your jobs by the number of battles fought and not with EXP. Like most games in the series, grinding is a traditional element, but different from Bravely Default, they don’t deal with this in an intelligent manner and even the remake didn’t improve on that. In fact, they made it WORSE!The 3DS version no longer uses random encounters. The combat begin by touching the enemy on the map, which sounds great and all, if it wasn’t for the fact those monsters re-spawn endlessly and almost immediately. They are fast too, so it’s very hard to out-run them, and the escape command often fails , and you become a sad bag for every single enemy in battle for every failed attempt to flee.To make it EVEN WORSE, most dungeons are designed with very narrow corridors, which makes running from battles simply impossible! Actually, this is even more troublesome than random encounters, since in this case, you get into battles even when you’re perfectly still!Well, everything would be ok if the story-line was good, which is not the case. I must admit: The first quests are simple but charming. Some have dark developments to them, some others are long but engaging! Which is sad, because when it suddenly gets awful, the negative impact gets much bigger! It gets to a point where it feels like the writers were not even trying anymore! Like one quest where the demon army’s super evil plan to take over the world consists of poisoning the village’s well. There’s also one quest where some demons want to cut off a tree. There’s even a quest that feels like watching a soap opera, since there’s no battles and you only look at some NPCs talking.Events that are mostly talk with no action would be fine for me as long as the main characters are interesting. Unfortunately, THEY ARE NOT! The only character who wasn’t as bland as natural yogurt was Kiefer, but he leaves the party BEFORE you get the job-system and he never comes back! From there on, the quests become more and more uninspiring (It’s like I can feel the writers motivation disappearing with each new quest). Like it wasn’t enough, there’s a point where your playable characters simply stop talking forever. THAT’S RIGHT! You don’t get just one silent protagonist, you get a whole party of them! Once someone becomes an ally they also stop talking during events, with just an occasional choice between “Yes” or “No”. Not only those make no difference in reactions plot-wise, they don’t even make sense! (How did you guys get in here? “Yes” or “No”?).The only way to read a dialog from your allies is by using the “Tip” system, which is when you select the command to talk with your allies (you can’t choose who, it’s random) and one of them will comment their present situation, often giving you hints on what to do next, but most of times, all they have to say is “…”While seeing the world grow around you as you complete quests is a really cool idea, it was poorly implemented. The first 2 times you save an island, there’s a big reaction from the whole Kingdom, including Arus’ and Maribel’s parents, but they soon decide there’s nothing wrong to let you go alone on a journey to save the world with the powers of a mysterious temple. After this, the hero never has to go back to his house to rest or to talk with his family. There’s no change in the course of history, either. And it’s not like this was impossible for the Playstation 1, since there’s a very famous game called Chrono Trigger for the SNES!
Although this is only the beginning of the series, I’m already cheating my way out of what was one of the biggest problems with this game: It’s graphics! Since I played the 3DS remake that came out in 2013, I was spared to look at something like this:Good Lord! Look at this FUCKING SHIT! I forgot how ugly the graphics of the original version were! This is uglier than a SNES game! No, seriously! IT IS! Take a look at Dragon Quest VI graphics for the SNES:Not only that, but this came out in August 26, 2000. The PlayStation 2 had been released, already! What the heck went wrong? Apparently, Enix had many difficulties during development, and this let them with a team of only 35 people. This is one of the greatest RPG franchises in the world, what could they have done wrong? I don’t know, but if Square can make Spirits Within and FFXIII, it’s not impossible.Anyway! The original game was a visual torture and the few CGIs were nothing compared to the ones from Final Fantasy 7.It is also speculated that the graphics got worse than previous games because the PlayStation would be unable to run more detailed 2D sprites at the same time as the newly implemented 3D backgrounds, which is BULLSHIT because Grandia, Breath of Fire 3 & 4, Xenogears, etc…Now that I got the horrible PSX version out of the way, let me write about the 3DS version: It’s great! Now everything is made with polygons and the 3D models have all the spirit from Akira Toriyama’s work. It’s like I’m watching a Dragon Ball episode (the first one, not the Z series!). They have all that innocent charm to them when they move around just like an anime. Everything looks gorgeous and full of details! The colors are vivid and animations are smoothly! There’s no narration to describe actions here, when a character needs to do something, you see it happening, even if it’s something insignificant (like Arus father eating a sandwich).There’s only one huge problem when it comes to graphics in this game: The 3D models gets recycled constantly. You will see every single NPC over and over again at every new place you visit! If by chance there’s a character that has a unique design, when you finish his event, his 3D model will be reused together with all others. There are very few NPCs and they don’t even get a palette swap!One way or another, those are the best graphics I’ve seen on the 3DS! There are two things that made me endure playing this as far as I did. One was those graphics and the other one was…
The orchestral music tracks are fantastic! Those are the type of songs that can move you (like moving you to play a shitty game). It’s inspiring, well composed, beautifully performed! Simply one of the best OSTs for the 3DS system! And I even heard this is one of the weakest soundtracks in the series! FREAKING SUGIYAMA KOICHI! You are a true genius! It’s so good that I forgot how many times I’ve fallen asleep while listen to some of the more relaxing tunes…Granting, I probably slept because the rest of the game was really boring!
You know those silly scenes in films where children are playing on a modern console, but the noise coming from it is sounds like Atari 2600? Dragon Quest turns this into reality! All sound effects are from the NES era. At first some may find it charming, but it will soon become boring or even annoying.
There are none! DAMN! This could have helped this game so much! All you get here is the usual “pupupupupu” sound effect for men and “pipipipipipipi” for women. Yes, I shit you not: They have gender-specific “pupupu”s…YAY!
Summarizing: Gorgeous graphics, Fantastic music. Many recycled assets, awful encounter system, too much grinding, weak story, even weaker characters and the worst pacing any RPG ever had!
I can also give some credit for the more traditional fantasy setting. Their speech, architecture, clothes, everything in their culture makes sense, unlike some current JRPGs where you see silly stuff like Japanese Elfs and medieval-electric- guitars!It’s true, this series was a huge success. However! This success was only in Japan! It’s true that many U.S. magazines and sites praised the game as well, but the same happened right after the launch of Final Fantasy XIII, while nearly everyone who actually played that game was pissed off on the internet!
Right now, there are many people asking SquareEnix to bring this game to the west, but…just…DON’T! No, you don’t know what you’re wishing for! Trust me! You don’t want this game! Only crazy Japanese fan-boys are blind enough to like this thing! SquareEnix knows what is best for you! Now I respect them much more!
That guy from Game Informer was right: “four million Japanese can be wrong”!