For the longest time, Dragon Quest VII was the only game in the main DQ series that I'd never even touched. Mostly this was due to its reputation as a massive timesink, and I had little enough chance to play on my console as it was. I didn't want to start a game that was notorious for its 100+ hour completion time. With DQ7's remake now available on the 3DS, I felt it was time to see just what this game had to offer.
"DQ7 just seems to flow at its own rate, and right now I'm fine with bobbing along."
Since this game supposedly suffered from rather slow pacing between events, I decided to begin this impression only after receiving the ability to change character classes, which happened approximately 19 hours and 36 minutes into the game. Someone else will have to let me know if that's a good time. For me, the game has neither felt too rushed nor too slow in its progression, with each new island and quest taking a reasonable period to finish while not being so difficult that I needed to go out of my way to gain experience or cash. DQ7 doesn't possess the target-focused plot of its immediate successor in the series, but neither is its plot completely diffuse. I've always enjoyed vignette-based storytelling, and this game does it well, adding another layer to the backstory of the world with each new location or event.
The plot itself is interesting enough, with its history of twenty-some islands and continents all lost to various disasters centuries before. I'm quite satisfied as I guide my heroes to unlock portals to the past and prevent said disasters from ever occurring. The game's concept creator was quoted as taking much inspiration from the adventure title Myst, and it's not hard to see. I do get the feeling that some of the adventure portions were streamlined in the remake to have them be less time-intensive, but if that's really the case I cannot say. DQ7 just seems to flow at its own rate, and right now I'm fine with bobbing along.
I could say something about the combat, but let's be serious here. This is a Dragon Quest title, and as such follows the conventions of its series quite closely. The most innovation to be had here is the over-the-shoulder camera view during battle.
The graphics are definitely a step up from DQ9 for the DS, though whether they're better than DQ8 for the PS2 is harder to say. It's hands-down better than its original PSX incarnation in every way, at least. The towns and overworld have a 360° rotatable camera angle, though there are times (especially when exiting certain towns), where the camera does some wonky things. Still, it's more than enough to see where monsters are in the field and then avoid or engage them as necessary. Just being able to avoid enounters helps to cut down on the grind or avoid problematic monsters in dungeons.
I'm definitely digging the music. The soundtrack must have been reorchestrated or otherwise enhanced because there's no way it could have sounded this good on the PSX. The main boss theme in particular surprised me, perhaps because it doesn't sound like anything else I've heard before in the series. DQ could use more jazz beats, that's for sure.
So, about twenty hours in, and I'm not sure how much more I have to go. Probably a lot more, but I understood that going in. With the class change system just opened up, however, it's going to feel new all over again, I'm sure. Time to take my newly christened martial artist, dancer, and shepherd out for a spin!
*Several hours of gameplay later....*
Whew, some of these job classes do make a big difference in the game. I chose the shepherd class for the wolf-boy just because he looked so adorable in the outfit, but those sleep-inducing skills have really saved my bacon a few times. It seems like the restrictions on whether or not battles can count towards leveling up jobs have all been removed as well, seeing how quickly I was able to master my first set in the game's new bonus dungeons (multiple skill levels gained versus slimes, of all things). My heroes are now all on their third jobs, with wolf-boy attempting his second monster class. Aside from one run through each of the bonus dungeons available so far, I've been going through the story as straight as possible.
Dragon Quest may be something of a cipher to the uninitiated, but those gamers with some experience under their belts know what they're in for when they start this game. The question would be, is this a good remake or a bad remake? From where I'm sitting, it's a great one.