Back in the glory days of the 90s and even stretching as far as the 2000s, localization was a spotty thing. It wasn’t uncommon to receive certain entries of a game series while others languished; the classic Earthbound, for instance, is well known today to be the second in the Mother series, the first of which has only recently been available in localized form and the third of which has never been officially translated.
That’s less common these days, but it still happens at times; we’re taking a look at one of those games today, actually, with 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, the fourth in the long-running 7th Dragon series of dungeon crawlers. While the lackluster first game and the fantastic second have both seen fan translations, this is the first to be officially localized.
There’s a hot new VR game in town developed by the Nodens corporation, so you and your pals show up to try it out! You’re pretty talented at it, as it turns out…and it also turns out that Nodens has seen The Last Starfighter, so your gaming skills apparently translate to real-world military application. Nodens quickly recruits your group to work for them: they need people to go back in time and battle dragons, y’see. It’s a pretty big step up from checking out the latest Oculus Rift game.
Like the other games in its series, Code VFD is a high-quality dungeon crawler; the past few generations have showed us that this type of game thrives on handhelds, and this is no exception. It’s a combination of short-term and long-term gameplay experiences that work together to build on one another. As we’ve seen in games like the Etrian Odyssey series, there’s a lot to be said for being able to pick up the game and grind for twenty to thirty minutes on the go before making the big push through a dungeon once you’re home.
You’ll definitely need to grind, too, as Code VFD is tough. You’ll design a party of three dragonslayers out of eight different classes, each of whom have a unique design and specialty. I’m particularly fond of the Duelist, VFD’s take on the mage archetype, which is presented as a Yu-Gi-Oh style card battler whose spells are fueled by the cards they draw. Proper party design is key to victory; you’ll want someone able to take a hit and serve as your team’s anchor when the going gets tough, but that sort of character will need a healer, somebody to buff them and someone to do heavy damage to back them up. Trying to cram all that into three party slots isn’t easy, but creating characters and playing with classes is a lot of fun, especially since you can customize their appearance and voices.
Gameplay is fairly standard dungeon crawling fare. You’ll wander around various locations in various time periods thanks to your employer’s time-travel technology, with your overarching goal being to eventually collect data and samples which you’ll use to bring down the titular head honcho dragon. There are plenty of other dragons to take on as well, of course, and these serve as sub-bosses and bosses; careful use of your characters’ abilities is vital to success here.
Again, this isn’t an easy game, and you can fully expect to take at least two tries against most bosses with the first serving as a sort of trial run to learn what the boss can do. Careful use of buffs, debuffs and synergistic attacks is absolutely cruical, unlike some RPGs where simply spamming your most powerful attacks is all it takes. Code VFD plays out a little like Shin Megami Tensei in that way, which is bound to appeal to fans of that series but may irritate others.
There’s plenty of other things to do as well, like inter-party dating and an entire system revolving around building up Nodens’ headquarters. Meanwhile, the sci-fi aesthetic makes the game look and feel fresh compared to the usual fantasy staples that are common in the genre. In particular, while the in-battle SD character sprites might look a little goofy, the dramatic movement and attack animations make combat a pleasure to watch. Other reviews have mentioned that there’s no stereoscopic 3D in this game, by the way, but I’m not capable of using that feature so I can’t really comment.
All in all, 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is an excellent and extremely expansive dungeon crawler that fits nicely on its platform. It’s also likely to go under the radar for scores of gamers since the other 7th Dragon titles are only available in English via fan translations. You’d be wise not to pass this one up, though; there’s plenty to see and do as a dragonslayer and it’s all a pretty good time.