Welcome back, feeble carbon-based mouth breathers! My, am I feeling productive this week – well, that or possibly I’m not sleeping enough. But either way, you get more of my meandering musings, so you win either way. You’re welcome!
So as anyone who read through my recent retrospective of the Dragon Quest series has probably figured out, I am a fan. So I was eager to throw myself into the latest remake of a classic Dragon Quest game – the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. DQVII, for those that missed my retrospective (and you had better go correct that poor life choice right…now) was originally released on the PS1…after the PS2 had released. Poor timing, coupled with an abysmal translation, led to lackluster sales of the original release. However, the game was immense – 100-200 hours per playthrough was required if you wanted to see everything the game had to offer. And it’s gameplay systems were solid. So I was hoping that this remake would correct the errors of the past while maintaining the classic elements – and for the most part, it did so.
First things first – and you’ll find that I’m going to say this about damn near every single game on the 3DS – slide the 3D setting down to “off.” It adds absolutely nothing to this experience, and in fact can detract from it. Not because it’s bad, but because it will cause unnecessary eye strain in a game that begs to be played in long stretches, and will drain your battery faster. You’re going to be spending hundreds of hours with this game – and you don’t need 3D in any of them.
The graphics are a noticeable improvement over the PS1 originals. The camera in the original had a tendency to obscure, well, everything when rotated – but that has been largely corrected in this upgrade. The characters models are MUCH more detailed than in the original, although there is some hilarious incongruity in the sizes of the characters in comparison to their surroundings. Seriously, Keifer is apparently this world’s version of King Kong, because he’s larger than a lot of buildings.
The graphical improvement extends into battle as well. In the original, battles were first-person against static monsters. In this edition, battles are third-person, with your party fully visible on screen, executing lively animated attacks and spells against equally animated monsters. Akira Toriyama’s legendary character designs have always been associated with this series, and they are beautifully brought to life here. Another change from the original graphics centers on the games robust vocation system – while in the original, a character’s vocation wasn’t evident by looking at them. However, now each and every vocation results in a new appearance for the characters – a very welcome addition.
Not much can be said here that hasn’t been said before. Dragon Quest features charming and catchy melodies and sound effects that will definitely become repetitive long before the game comes to a conclusion. This especially evident in this installment, which is without question the game with the longest required playtime – a standard playthrough is going to eclipse 100 hours easily. If you like the music, be sure to play with headphones because the 3DS is not known for it’s stellar audio hardware. Once you begin to tire of it, just take them off.
I’m not going to go too in-depth here, mostly because if you have ever played a Dragon Quest game or you have read any of my Dragon Quest retrospective, you already know how this plays – and if you haven’t, this probably isn’t the entry-level Dragon Quest game I’d recommend. The original version had a notoriously SLOW beginning, with the player going several hours before encountering their first battle. This has thankfully been reduced in the remake, but it is still a slow open – it will still be 30-60 minutes until that first slime gets whacked with a cyprus stick.
One of the biggest changes from the original is also one I initially welcomed but soon grew annoyed by – encounters. In the original version, monster encounters would occur at random while wandering in the field or dungeons. The encounter rate was on par with classic RPGs in general and Dragon Quest in particular. The remake has seen the introduction of the system first introduced in Dragon Quest VIII on PS2, in which monsters appear on the world map and can be avoided or battled at the player’s choosing. Now on paper, this sounds great. Unfortunately, the spawn algorithm makes the encounter rate incredibly aggravating. I lost count of the number of times I would be trying to work through a dungeon, finish a battle and take two steps only to have another monster spawn directly under my feet. I was soon longing for the days of a random, but fairly steady and predictable encounter rate. The real shame is that this same system was executed to perfection in DQ VIII – this felt like a significant step back.
If you are looking for a strong main narrative running through the entire game, you are likely to be disappointed. There is a central plot revolving around a demon king sealing off the various islands of the world from one another, and your efforts to bring them back and defeat the revival of the big bad. But the true stars of the show are the smaller, self-contained narratives of each of the trapped islands. Each region has its own quest that must be solved before it appears on the world map – and these mini-epics are phenomenal. Some are lighthearted, others are tragic to the point of being tear-jerking, and they all feel very REAL – there are choices made and consequences that must be lived with, for better or worse. These feel all the more at home in a portable format – each island only takes a few hours to complete, making it ideal for an evening gaming session to have a definite beginning and end.
So Should I Play It?
Have you been playing Dragon Quest games since the NES? Do you lament that the Final Fantasy series moved away from turn-based battles and into whatever the hell this weird kind-of action shit is now? Do you not mind wandering around for a while trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing? Does the thought of grinding a character through a bunch of different classes to make them into a physical god make you giddy with excitement?
Then you should play this game. It’s a love letter and a magnum opus to the game design of JRPGs from a different era.
Is the first Dragon Quest game you played VIII? Is your favorite RPG series Final Fantasy, starting with VII or later? Do you have a relatively short attention span if not much is going on during a gaming session? Do you need a breathtaking main narrative to drive you onward?
This probably isn’t your game. You’re going to feel like this game is boring and old. It’s not, and you’re wrong – but I can understand your mistake based on your tastes, so I will allow you to live. This time.
I played the original DQ VII on PS1. I still have it. I’ve played it more than once. I still enjoyed my time with this 3DS remake even more than the original. It still has flaws, but if you love old-school JRPGs, you should give this one a shot. Since these seem to need some kind of arbitrary numerical score, I’m going to give it:
Four Burning Villages…out of Five.
But that’s not all, kids! No, because it is once again #OmNoMonday – and last time, I got a request for a chicken dish! So I have scoured my Evil Recipes That Didn’t Kill Anyone, and I have found this delicious and healthy take on classic Chicken Cordon Bleu!
- 4 thin-sliced boneless/skinless chicken breasts
- 4 slices ham
- 6 slices swiss cheese
- Ground black pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Olive oil
- OPTIONAL – 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- A Ziploc bag
- Baking dish
- Tenderizing mallet
- OPTIONAL – a child that enjoys smashing things with a tenderizing mallet
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Use a small amount of olive oil to grease the baking dish.
Place the chicken in the Ziploc bag and use the tenderizing mallet (and, if available, the child) to pound the chicken to about 1/4 inch thick. If using child, be sure to make sure they do not pound the chicken so hard that the Ziploc bag explodes. It isn’t fun to clean up.
Place the chicken in the baking dish. Season to taste with the black and red pepper. Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on top of each piece of chicken. Roll up and secure each piece of chicken with a toothpick. If you want crunchy chicken, sprinkle bread crumbs over them. For a healthier alternative, don’t use the bread crumbs.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from oven, place 1/2 slice of cheese on top of each piece of chicken and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven, remove toothpicks, and enjoy! Or, if you’re serving them to someone you don’t particularly care for, someone that may have wronged you, DON’T remove the toothpicks, serve, and enjoy watching! Either way, I believe you will walk away satisfied. – EWE