The Dragon Quest series is a Japanese cultural phenomenon that has never managed to catch on overseas. In North America, most Dragon Quest installments have been passed by, earning only cult-appreciation status.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past probably isn't going to change that, but for those who do pick up the game, they'll be rewarded with one of the most outstanding RPGs available for the Nintendo 3DS.
Originally released on the PlayStation for North America back in 2001, Dragon Quest VII has been remade from top-to-bottom for its 3DS re-release. All of the changes refine the title, including new 3D environments and characters, shortening its five-hour long introduction to just two hours, and implementing visible enemy encounters instead of random ones.
Like previous Dragon Quest installments, the graphics and music are astounding — though the original orchestrated soundtrack has disappointingly been replaced with a MIDI synthesizer version. The series continues its tradition of retro-style turn-based gameplay, using layers of text menus to drive plot and execute commands. It remains charming, though at times can irk, like when new characters are added to your party and there's an interminably-long pause in the gameplay to announce they've joined your team.
The 100-hour-long campaign features the story of a protagonist and his friends who travel to the past to restore lost continents. Each trip to the past is structured like an episodic fairy tale, a story within the story. The main storyline, like all Dragon Quest entries, leads the protagonist and his teammates to a final showdown to save the world.
Along the way — notably after the 20-hour mark — your team can level up in various job classes, from priest, mage and warrior to name just a few. Again, like Dragon Quest installments before it, expect to be wandering fields and dungeons to grind experience to level up your characters and jobs.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is yet another example of why the series remains a gold-standard bearer in the gaming world, and though it could indulge in a few modern refinements with its nostalgic menu system, there are only minor quibbles to be made for what is essentially a near-perfect portable RPG experience.
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About Robert J. Ballantyne
Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.