I’ve mentioned it before, but just for posterity: there was a time right before the great Games Are Art debate where critics decided that the real problem with the industry was Japanese RPGs. If you dared to localize a JRPG, chances are you’d eat a couple points off the top of your review score just for the audacity of featuring turn-based combat or anime-styled graphics. These were rough times for all of us, but today the eternal debate’s moved on to other things and we’re generally pretty cool with JRPGs. I mention this because Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is the most JRPG of JRPGs…and it’s actually pretty damn good.
You control an unnamed hero in a goofy outfit who, along with his friends Prince Kiefer and Maribel, goes on a journey to discover the titular forgotten past of their world. The kingdom of Estard, where our heroes reside, sits on the only island in the entire world, which probably doesn’t bode well for genetic diversity and the future of humanity. I don’t think the game ever really touches on that, but fortunately it doesn’t need to, because it’s not long before Hero and friends start finding out what happened to the rest of the world’s landmasses.
Sure, they’re gone, but it’s possible to bring them back! By searching for mysterious stone fragments, our heroes can journey into the forgotten islands in the past. Once there, chances are there’ll be a problem to solve, like an upcoming human sacrifice or something like that, and upon solving that problem the island in question will return to existence in the present. At that point all you need to do is repeat until the whole world is put together again!
Naturally, this isn’t going to be a cakewalk. There are plenty of goofy monsters out to try and stop you from getting all the pieces back in place. You should probably beat them up! Take turns in battle to do so, selecting stuff out of menus in one of the more traditional iterations of the standard JRPG combat system we’ve seen in some time.
This is probably a good time to mention that this is a very, uh, expansive game. I’m serious here: this might be one of the longest JRPGs ever made. That combat system I just mentioned won’t come into play for the first hour or so of your time with Dragon Quest VII, for instance. It’s also all you’ll get for the next ten hours or so after that. This is a long, long, long game.
Eventually, though, you’ll unlock the ability to give your characters new jobs to use in a system akin to something like Final Fantasy V. This is a nice addition, since by this point you’re probably getting tired of bog-standard turn-based battles. Jobs offer stat adjustments, new skills and the ability to unlock new and more impressive jobs once you’ve mastered the ones you’ve got. Leveling your jobs makes combat a little more exciting, though the game never becomes especially difficult unless you’re after sidequests; if you just go through the story you’re probably fine with the standard jobs for the most part.
This is a remake, of course, much like the many Dragon Quest / Final Fantasy remakes we saw on the original DS. Here, though, we’ve got a very appealing 3D style that makes the game look crisp, clean and adorable, even on the 3DS’ chunky screens. While combat can be a bit of a drag at times, at least the monsters look great and it’s fun to check out their animations. Meanwhile, the original game’s enormous amount of text has been revised a bit to match up with contemporary Dragon Quest standards. That means accents and puns, of course, and there’s plenty of both. I find it charming. People who are dead inside might not, but they should probably work on coming back to life instead of playing video games.
At the very least, there’s no denying that you’re getting your money’s worth with Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. It’s ridiculously huge. You’ll never hurt for something to do, and it’s entirely feasible that you could spend over a hundred hours with this game alone. Something must be said for that alone, but the fact that the game’s gotten a very nice overhaul in both visual and textual terms helps make this one an easy recommendation. If you can stand traditional Japanese RPGs, then you really can’t go wrong here.