Review: Dragon Quest VII Fragments of the Forgotten Past

Dragon Quest is a classic, old-school Japanese Role Playing Game released by Square that was originally released as Dragon Warrior, here in the west. The series offered challenging trials for the players to overcome in the form of level grinding and puzzles, but also graced us with a set of charming characters and environments that would stay lodged into our memory for an eternity… That is until the Dragon Warrior series had a long absence. Ending off with the fourth installment, the Dragon Warrior franchise didn’t see the light of day for nearly a decade. However, in the year 2001, Dragon Warrior made a not so triumphant return. Dragon Warrior VII was released, and while it was a great game to most, it didn’t quite make a huge comeback with only middling sells compared to how well it was received in Japan. A few years later, Dragon Warrior was somewhat rebooted, having its original title restored, Dragon Quest, with its eighth installment, Journey of the Cursed King. The game did marginally well, and with its success, more Dragon Quest games were brought to the west in many different forms. Spin-off titles, remakes of older titles, there was seemingly an abundance of Dragon Quest titles. Although, some games didn’t seem to make it over here in the west. Flash forward into 2013. Dragon Quest VII was remade for the 3DS and released in Japan. Nearly two and a half years went by before we would get any confirmation on whether or not it would actually make it state side. Luckily, it did, and we’re going to talk about it today. Was it well worth the wait? Let’s find out!

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Fragments of the Forgotten Past is set on a single little island surrounded by an endless mass of water. You play as the silent protagonist living in a quiet fishing village outside the outskirts of the kingdom of Estard. Since it is such a small location, even the royalty is very familiar with the regular everyday civilian. As such, the Hero of the game is best friends with the prince of Estard, Keifer. An adventurous youth at heart, he believes that there’s more to the world than just a single island and persuades the Hero into discovering the secrets of the world. While traversing through the ruins of the island, the duo, along with their bossy friend, Maribel, stumble upon a secret corridor that leads them into the past of variously different islands. While they help restore order and peace to the islands by assisting with whatever troubles ail the citizens of the past, they also restore the islands into present day time. The more islands they travel to, the more pieces to the puzzle they unlock, shedding some light on the current state of affairs that help answer the big question of the game: how exactly did these islands disappear from the world?

Like in many Dragon Quest games, most of the islands you visit have their own little unique tales to be told. Usually it involves defeating certain monsters to restore order to the island, like on the very first island where you have to defeat a group of monsters that have kidnapped the women of their village, which is vanilla and standard as you can get. But it has that classic Dragon Quest charm to it, so the tasks don’t really bother me as much. Many of the characters still usually have the same wit about them that I love. Although, I have to admit, that there are some pretty bittersweet endings to some stories. Such as one where the main party discovers an entire village turned to stone, and spoiler alert, they are unable to break the curse, and most of the inhabitants are left to wither away. Most of the different stories sometimes actually subtly reference one another and, in fact, tie into each other that eventually leads into the main overall plot of the game, which is a nice touch, in my opinion. It really makes the world feel connected in some way.

The main characters in the game don’t really have a whole lot to say after the introduction to the game, and once they begin their quest to free all of the islands, they sort of lose whatever charm they had beyond their initial introduction. Not that that’s a huge issue within the game itself, but being a remake, I sort of expect a little more depth added to characters. And don’t get me wrong, each character in the game has their own specific personality, but it’s pretty much what defines them as characters in the end, and it just sort of bores me.

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Similar to every Dragon Quest title, Fragments of the Forgotten Past uses the same turn based style system present in past games. Characters are given the option to Attack, Defend, cast Magic, and use Items, among other things. Characters can learn skills and magic upon leveling up, though they have to earn a majority of their abilities by constantly changing vocations, which is Dragon Quest‘s version of job classes. There are over 20 unique classes that the player can unlock, which can be used to gain access to powerful skills to be used in combat. Job grinding in most Dragon Quest games can either be fairly simple or really tedious, and that is no exception for Fragments of the Forgotten Past. All classes require a set number of battles to be won in order to “level up” whatever class you’re using. For example, let’s say you choose the Jester class. In order to advance a level in the classes, you need to go and participate in five battles. Most of the skills used in the beginner classes can be carried over into the intermediate and advanced classes, which can allow players to give diversity in roles for whichever situation you might be in. Outside of battle, the player can have up to four characters in a party and they’ll be shown following the lead character on the overworld. While traversing the world map, you can bring up a menu that you can use to check your items, equipment or stats among others. There are also options to talk to party members, as well as examine objects.

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Dragon Quest is very notorious for not straying too far from its core gameplay, instead adding unto existing elements, and, of course, Fragments of the Forgotten Past follows that to a “T.” Most of the core gameplay is similar to the previous installment of the game, Realms of Revelation, by carrying over many of the classes from that game to this one. Job grinding can either be addicting or the worst thing you’ve ever had to do in gaming. You really have to enjoy or just not mind grinding if you’re going to play through this game because there is going to be a lot of it. In order to get access to some of the best classes in the game, you have to fight well over 2000 or so battles and I can see that growing thin for some. However, if you don’t mind some of these classic JRPG tropes, then it shouldn’t bother you too much.

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Dragon Quest usually has a great score in many of its games, and once again, Fragments of the Forgotten Past definitely delivers. I often sit and listen to many of the tracks in the game while the game just sits there and judges me. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve hummed the boss theme in this game. It is truly godlike, and probably one of my favorite boss themes in the series. Unfortunately, Japan wins again, as their versions of the game have an orchestrated soundtrack, while ours does not. And it’s a real shame too because if anyone’s ever played Journey of the Cursed King, you know just how well Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama’s music melds in an orchestrated style. It’s obviously not enough to turn me away from the game, but it is still very disappointing to me personally.

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Dragon Quest is certainly a series I hold near and dear to my heart, being one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. So already, it doesn’t take much to sway me. Fragments of the Forgotten Past offers such an epic adventure on a large scale that it really shouldn’t be a mere forty dollar game. There’s so much content jam packed into the game that you may end up playing the game for a month at the bare-minimum. So you’re definitely getting your money’s worth on this game. If you’re like me and enjoy classic JRPGs, then this is certainly a game worth purchasing. If you dislike level grinding or if you prefer characters with more depth in your RPGs, then you may want to skip it. Regardless though, I believe it’s something well worth investing in.

Verdict: Worth a purchase. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past was played for 45 hours on New Nintendo 3DS for this review. Dragon Quest VII is available now on the Nintendo 3DS family of consoles, both in-store and digitally.

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