The following contains plot spoilers for a portion of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. Proceed at your own risk.
Excuse me a moment, intrepid readers, while I finish rinsing out this latest dose of brain bleach that I have been using to try and undo the horror that has been imprinted on my mind while playing through Dragon Quest VII. Not because it’s bad – quite the opposite, it is a fantastic JRPG. It just also happens to be one of the most depressing, distressing horror games of all time. Don’t believe me? Think a game about spiky-haired, plucky youths on a journey to discover lost islands and beat up cute monsters sounds downright cheery, almost childlike? Yeah, well, then you haven’t really thought about it enough.
I submit to you, poor souls, the utter-fucking-horror show that is the village of Regenstein.
So the primary motivation of our young, innocent band of travelers is to restore the world’s missing islands, one by one. To accomplish this, they journey into the past of each island and “solve” some type of dilemma pertaining to the period. Once resolved, the island then appears in the present day for our heroes to explore. Sounds just peachy, right?
Well, what about when our three happy kids arrive in the past to find the village of Regenstein…population: 1 living person, and a bunch of very worn statues. Well, this seems odd. I mean, these stone statues seem incredibly lifelike…but time has not been kind to them, and the elements have caused significant damage to them. It’s a real shame. Anyway, where the hell are all the people? I mean, there is just this grumpy old man by the well, and all he will say is that this place is a cursed hellhole and we should get the fuck out of here.
But instead, let’s take a nap at the inn until nightfall. Because in every horror film/game/novel, that is ALWAYS a good idea.
So during the night, our plucky protagonist begins to hear voices and wailing outside the inn, and like any self-respecting heroic idiot, he decides to do the brain-dead thing of GOING ALONE TO SEE WHAT IT IS. And just in case you think “fuck that shit, I am not going out there” you don’t have a choice. Yes, even if you see the horrible fate awaiting you, you must comply with it in order to advance. Let the scarring begin.
The young boy soon finds one of the statues emitting a light, and he is treated to a vision of the past, on a day when the sky turned dark and a grey rain TURNED EVERYONE IN THE VILLAGE TO STONE. Yup, all those decrepit statues you’ve been seeing – those are the villagers. And they’ve been like this for some time. But just in case the fridge horror hasn’t set in yet, after seeing this terrible curse inflicted, the statue of the man CRUMBLES INTO DUST IN OUR HERO’S HANDS. So, yeah…that’s gonna require some therapy. And as our poor boy stumbles through the town, statue after statue gives him yet another heartbreaking glimpse into the lives that these souls led, cut short by some fate they neither foresaw nor deserved. It culminates in him seeing a vision of a young knight and his fiance, as the knight prepares to leave the village to secure food for the villagers. Upon his return, they will celebrate by announcing their betrothal. Guess who never saw her love again?
So now, our poor, likely scared shitless hero finds the only other waking soul in the village – the old man by the well. Now that he has seen the specters of the past, the old man decides to just dump the whole load on him. The old man is actually one and the same as the young knight. Yes, he left, secured food for the village, and returned just in time to see the end of the cursed rain that turned everyone he ever loved into stone. And then he maintained a vigil for DECADES, watching over them and trying to find a method by which to end their petrification. Sound awful? Oh, don’t worry – IT GETS WORSE.
You see, eventually, the knight did discover a cure for the village’s condition – the Angel’s Tears. Not only did he discover its existence, but he actually managed to secure it. But then he realized the horrible truth – the elements had worn away so much of the stone that even if he were to use the Tears to reverse the petrification, the villagers would never be able to survive as flesh and blood. That’s right – he had the cure in his hands, but using it would KILL THEM ALL.
But…but perhaps all is not lost – for our brave band of children discover a secret passageway leading to a high pinnacle in the center of the village, from which they release the Angel’s Tears. The sky clears, and sun shines down…and the only villager restored is a single young boy who was trapped underground and sheltered from the ravages of time. He emerges with no idea that any time has passed, that everyone he has ever known and loved is long since dead. So what do you do? YOU TAKE HIM ON A FUCKING TOUR OF THE VILLAGE.
You speak to each and every statue, as the boy, with growing dread, begins to realize how much they look like his mother, father, and best friend. Finally, you bring him to the old man. Each then finds in the other a reason to go on – I suppose because they are in complete shock as they are the only two survivors of their entire way of life. Nonetheless, they thank our travelers and pledge that they will find a way to restore the village of Regenstein, and continue to seek out a way to cure their friends and family as well. With that they set off.
Having accomplished (I guess) their task in the past, our three poor victims now return to the present to find…that the old man and the boy utterly failed in their task. The site where Regenstein once stood is an empty field, devoid of any sign of the village except for the lone stone pinnacle in the center. In fact, the player is tasked with BUILDING A NEW VILLAGE ON THE SITE OF THE OLD. If you don’t understand what a horrible fucking idea that is, go right now and watch Poltergeist, then come back. I’ll wait right here.
What’s more, in the present day, nobody as any idea that Regenstein even existed. An entire civilization essentially vanished, and the only three people to have any idea are the three shattered souls who were forced to witness it for themselves. And they can’t even share that burden because they have nothing to prove it with.
So the next time you are playing through Silent Hill 2 and thinking how Pyramid Head may give you nightmares, stop and realize: Pyramid Head can only kill one person at a time. Dragon Quest VII killed off an entire nation EXCEPT for one, and then spent a lifetime driving that one to the brink of insanity, only to dangle a false hope of redemption in front of him before snuffing that out as well, and wiping them all from history. THAT will leave a mark on your soul. – EWE