Title: Dragon Warrior VII
Developer: Enix
Publisher: Enix
Date Published: November 2, 2001 (North America) - July 26, 2000 (Japan)
Platforms: Playstation - 2 discs
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+ and older)

Presenting...

...The best selling Playstation game of all time...

...As well as the most arduous, lengthy video game I've ever played.

Dragon Warrior VII is a two disc monstrosity of a game. It took me a whooping 80 real time hours to finish this game my first and only time through. At it's heart, Dragon Warrior VII is a kickback to the "old school" console RPGs. It is the antithesis to changes that Final Fantasy VII brought to gaming. In Japan, its selling point was that it was a retro RPG keeping the old "wander from town to town and slay monsters" tradition alive. The shockingly outdated graphics were actually part of its design. Evidently, this call to nostalgia worked. In its release year (2000) in Japan, 3,784,682 copies were sold. Over 5 million copies sold worldwide as of this write up's date.

Game play

Resulting from the deliberate attempt at creating an old-school RPG, Dragon Warrior VII ends up with a high emphasis on the game play with a near incoherent story.

I don't think any series of games so faithfully kept the graphic interface from 2-D to 3-D as Dragon Warrior. In this seventh installment, the characters (still perpetually swinging their arms by a few choppy frames of animation) are viewed from an overhead view. The addition of a third dimension and a rotating camera allows the characters to walk in 8 directions instead of just four. What really blows my mind is that the concept of stairs is exactly the same here as it was in the original Dragon Warrior: a single tile of the game has a clump of stairs, possible touching a wall or possibly in the middle of nowhere, that automatically transports the characters up or down a floor. Overall, this game is frightening similar to the old school RPGs it tries to model itself after, especially considering it's on Playstation.

The infamous Dragon Warrior pop up menu dating back to the original is still there. Pressing the X button brings up the mostly familiar menu:

 ___________________________
|                           |
|   TALK            CAST    |
|                           |
|   ITEM            LOOK    |
|                           |
|   INFO            PLAN    |
|___________________________|

...but thankfully the triangle button serves as a "shortcut" which automatically talks to people and open chests. Having to deal with this outdated menu system every time something must be done, especially for a game released in 2000, would be enough to drive anyone insane.

Dragon Warrior's battle system hasn't changed at all in 13 years. While Dragon Warrior II made many core improvements over the original, none of the other sequels to date have really done anything but add features. While walking around in dangerous areas (which is just about anywhere except for towns), random turn based battles occur. After the monsters appear in a first person view, they and the heroes systematically exchange blows until one side is completely dead.

The biggest part of the game play for Dragon Warrior VII is the job classes. Each of 54 classes have their bonuses and drawback in addition to teaching skills and spells. These classes work in a fashion actually very similar to Final Fantasy Tactics. Progress through the classes is made by completing a certain number of battles. This is the biggest drawback; to master some of the higher classes such as Hero or Godhand, over 1000 battles must be completed! This means some serious dedication is required to supplement the hours of boring level building.

The class system is so huge, not even the information at GameFAQs is complete. Basically, there are four kinds of classes: basic human classes, intermediate human classes, expert human classes, and monster classes. Basic human classes are essentially the same as the Dragon Warrior III job classes (ie Soldier, Priest, Mage). These low level classes teach familiar low level Dragon Warrior spells like Heal, Firebal (sic), and Surround. The intermediate human classes teach advanced skills and spells like HealAll while the expert human classes give large bonuses to stats. I don't understand how the monster classes work, but I don't think anybody really does. From what I gather, monster classes give you considerably lower stats and less skills and bonuses. Why anyone would want to be a monster class is beyond me.

Story

As I mentioned earlier, the story is nearly inconsequential. It just provides a structure to get the nostalgic game play rolling. For the sake of brevity (something this game SEVERELY lacks) I'm going summarize the plot in one sentence. After discovering that the world was mostly destroyed in a great conflict and then rebuilding it by time traveling through a magic temple and doing good deeds in the past, the hero and his friends revive a supposedly friendly deity who is actually a crazed Demon Lord bent on the destruction of everything, but he is killed in a final battle before he actually does anything. And this game takes 80 hours. Urgh.

Much of the time comes from doing these good deeds in individual towns. Each of the towns has a nearly identical problem which is easily solved by venturing through a nearby cave and killing a monster at the end of it. This process repeats close to 30 times with very few breaks in between. About the only this pattern is broken is when someone new joins your party. And speaking of the characters, for the ridiculous amount of time I spent building up their job classes, I knew absolutely NOTHING about them. With all the text in the game, you think there could have been some character development. But there wasn't. I'm not even going to list the characters because there is nothing to say about them. Just know that there is a silent protagonist main character and five other static characters that do nothing but join up and crush slimes with him.

Dragon Warrior VII as part of the Dragon Warrior series

Dragon Warrior VII's goal of continuing the old school style RPG on a 32-bit platform could be considered successful in that it hasn't dramatically departed from its predecessors, even graphically. However, I felt the excessive length, complete lack of character development and banal plot hindered it. Seriously... Dragon Warrior IV, a comparatively short game on a tiny Nintendo cartridge, had a story many times more emotional and touching than this 2 CD text-filled titan. Instead of stretching the limitations of gaming like Dragon Warrior I-IV did, Dragon Warrior VII simply beat a dead horse. While Enix is certainly admirable for staunchly refusing to make the paradigm shift that other lengthy RPG series have, this game makes me think the retro style RPGs should have remained peacefully undisturbed in the nostalgic subconscious of its fans.


Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest - Dragon Warrior II - Dragon Warrior III - Dragon Warrior IV - Dragon Quest V
Dragon Quest VI - Dragon Warrior VII


Sources:
Playing the game
www.gamefaqs.com This write-up complies with the E2 FAQ: Video Games standards.

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