We’ve received so many remasters lately that I’ve hardly had the time to keep up with them! On top of that, I’ve been longing for the day when I could sink my teeth into a game that’s not just a remaster, but a complete remake. Other than a few reboots, I haven’t seen many remakes, which made Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past the breath of fresh air that I needed. Having said that, is it a quest to heaven or to hell?
Unlike many role-playing games, this one is a little different. The world you live in is very very small. In fact, other than the island you live on, no other land mass exists. Your journey starts off with you and your childhood friend, Keifer, sneaking off to discover the secrets of the lonely island you live on. Tagging along, or rather demanding to tag along, is the mayor’s mischievous daughter, Maribel. Together, the three of you discover something unusual: you’re not the only island in the world, but that the other islands have vanished and need some help to return.
To do that, our heroes needs to visit a special sanctum that will send them back in time to save all of the islands one at a time. You go back by collecting fragments that fit into a pedestal, which is where the game gets its name from. A very large portion of the game is focused on you travelling back in time and saving the islands. In a way, the game is very reminiscent of Chrono Trigger, one of my all-time favourite JRPGs.
Prepare for a LONG adventure
Without spoiling too much of the game, I have to mention that it’s very big and very long. It’s so long that I haven’t been able to finish it and I’m 65 hours into it already. I’ve saved all the islands, but it’s the final bits that I need to slay. There are extra dungeons, creatures to capture, creature dungeons, a Haven town to run and so many classes to perfect. The amount of content in this game is staggering and will definitely fill up your time.
While it’s nice to have a game that’s brimming with content, it still needs to be a game that you want to play. This is one of those games that makes you want to play more. As I said before, this isn’t just a remaster of the old PS1 version, but a complete remake, built from the ground up specifically for the Nintendo 3DS. I must say, they nailed it. On a visual scale, it’s so wonderful to see. It’s got colour, joy, fantasy, character and best of all, it screams Dragon Quest. Character animations in and out of battle are so beautifully crafted, and the battle moves are just as cool. Even some of the outfits move around, that amount of detail gets high marks from me. The one issue I did have, though, was the 3D effect. It would stutter quite a lot during battles, so I just left it off for most of the game.
Accompanying the visuals is the music. I’ve always loved the music from the Dragon Quest games, it’s always cheerful and never too sombre. It, for the most part, suits the game rather well. My issue with the music ties in with the length of the game. After 40 hours, you do get a little sick of hearing the same battle tune.
The battle system of Dragon Quest VII is very similar to other entries in the series. It has the typical turn-based combat focusing on attack, magic, support etc etc… However, this game features a very extensive class system. To me, the execution is a little wonky, but I get the sense others will disagree. Changing classes is a drag and some classes are visibly more useful than others. For example, Monks are deadly in battle, but all a Jester can do is hopefully prank an enemy to death. Your class rank increases the more battles you complete, which is fair, but in a game this long, do we really need to add more grinding? It does, however, shine in the choice department – there are roughly over 50 classes to pick from. Most of them are creature classes, which allows you to develop the skills of the creatures you fight. It’s very cool and seeing your character change into a creature has a lot of humour in it.
Speaking of creatures and humour, this game is full of it. I’ve always been fond of the pun-names the creatures have and this game delivers. You’ll fight enemies such as “Harmours,” harmful armour, “Moewgicians” feline magicians, “Quayhorse” a Sea Horse and a snail called “Deathcargot.” Every time I saw a new enemy, I immediately wanted to know what it was called. They are really on point.
Not so funny
It’s not all gags though as I do have some issues with the game. While I do love a long game that keeps me entertained, the mini-stories in each of the islands sometimes feels a little pedestrian to me. Some of them are very predictable and most of the time the issue at hand is caused by a foolhardy, one-dimensional character who refuses to use their brain. The only character to call them out on their assholery is Maribel, who simultaneously manages to be the voice of reason and best use of comedic timing. There’s also some pacing issues with some stories just dragging on and sending you on stupid errands. Not all of the mini-stories are bad, some are great and memorable and fit within the humour and wit of the game. There’s an island that’s stuck in a kind of Groundhog Day, another place called Nottagen which you have to save numerous times over and over again, and a very touching story involving a tribe of Gypsy people.
What surprised me the most about the game were all the changes made. Having never played the original, I never recognised them at first until I had to use a walkthrough to get myself out of a dungeon. Turns out, most of the characters, towns, abilities and items names are completely different to the original. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you’re lost, relying on an online walkthrough is going to be tricky. I also just don’t understand why they made the change?
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past has a heck of a lot to offer. There are some hiccups (I say this while I actually have hiccups), but it’s still quite a remarkable remake. There’s definitely over 100 hours of content to get through and lots of extras look at. It’s a great time-travel game with lots of funny moments, creative creatures and memorable lead characters. If you enjoyed old-school JRPGs like Chrono Trigger, EarthBound and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King then this game will be right up your alley.