Looking Back On: Dragon Warrior VII (Sony Playstation)

(So I completely forgot that I wrote reviews for my old personal website, Your Hot Cup of Rant STOP LAUGHING, so we’re going to take a slight detour to cover the first two of those before heading back to my old 411 Games days. First up, a game I still hate years after the fact, Dragon Warrior VII. Shut up Sean, it sucked.)

Review: Dragon Warrior VII, Playstation.

Ever since the days of the NES, there have been a small but loyal group of fans devoted to a little known franchise of gaming known as Dragon Warrior. (Little known was kind of small minded of me, considering that they gave the first one away for free with Nintendo Power and all; “little cared about” is probably more correct considering how poorly this game sold in the US, however.) Many consider the games to be RPG classics, rich with character development and innovation, and there are those that consider the series to be the best of all RPG series’.

Make no mistake; I’m not one of those people. (To expand the point slightly, I grew up with Phantasy Star, so by the time I played the original Dragon Warrior it was esoteric and dated as hell, so I had no proper frame of reference for what it should have been like at the time. I’ve since mellowed on the series a bit, mostly because Dragon Quest 8 was the shit, but for a while I couldn’t fathom the love for it, and when it comes to the older games I’m still a little lost.)

It’s been over a decade since the last DW games graced our shores, though as of recent, Enix, the parent company of the series, has seen fit to port many of the older games to the Game Boy Color, along with DW Monsters, their take on Pokemon. (Joel tells me those games are pretty good, but I’m basically done with everything Pokemon anymore.) Now, Enix has decided we’ve been patient long enough, and has ported the most recent of their DW games, in the form of Dragon Warrior VII, for the Playstation console. (Can I just say THANK GOD they went to Dragon Quest in the US so I don’t have to think up a separate abbreviation for Dynasty Warriors?) And truth be told, it’s not a bad game by any means, (HAHAHAHA I would beg to differ good sir.) but for all the expectations the fans of the series have, one would have expected more.

The story begins like any other; your character, the hero, is drawn into a world spanning conflict that takes him to many towns across the globe, pushes him back and forth through time, and allows him to meet up with many helpful allies and vicious demons, all in the name of saving the world. (Wow that sounds really generic.) If that sounds a tad generic, I’m sorry, but that’s really the point. (Oh, well, thanks for clearing that up.) The game SEEMS generic from start to finish, and only a few things keep it from being a mediocre game, though not all of them are positive.

The graphics in DW7 are, to say the least, bland. The character sprites aren’t terribly impressive, the NPC sprites are the very definition of plain, and the enemy sprites don’t improve matters any. (To be more specific, the game looks like a high-res SNES game, which would probably go over well now with the retro crowd, but at the time both Suikoden games had put that style of design to shame, so there was no real excuse for it.) You walk from town to town, staring at one group of vanilla midgets (KEVIN NASH JOKE FOR THE WIN) after another, wondering why these characters pixelate so much in a Playstation game. The environmental graphics aren’t much better; houses look only marginally different from town to town, the actual environments are bland at best, and the overworld map is both boring and barely adequate. It’s almost impossible to tell what continent you’re on without looking at the world map, and then it’s difficult unless you’ve REALLY been paying attention. About the only saving grace graphically are the battles, which you’ll spend 70% of your game in. Here, the backgrounds are improved slightly, and the enemy pictures are drawn clean, animate well, and are usually reasonably well done. Since enemy designs repeat, though, you’ll get tired of the animations soon enough. (Is it just me or is this review a shitload better than the past two 411 Games reviews? I have no idea why this is, since I used this review to apply for a job with 411 Games in the first place. I’ll have to think about that one a bit.)

The music and sound don’t do much for the game either, sad to say. The in game music isn’t bad, by any means, but none of it will really catch your ear or stick with you… it gets the job done, and it’s hardly irritating, but that’s about it. As far as sound effects go… there is no voice acting whatsoever (which could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint), and what sounds do populate the game range from passable (the WHACK when a sword hits) to poor (the whip sound) to downright bizarre (using a spear makes a tinkling sound?). Again, not really horrible, but far from perfect. (I am not at all kidding about the spear making a tinkling sound, by the way, and that still annoys me when I think about it.)

DW7 controls like practically any other RPG on earth, in that there’s not too many points where you need pinpoint accuracy, so controls don’t mean much… however, it seems as if Enix decided they needed to make everything in this game out of the ordinary, so they tweaked the controls a bit. First, moving through tight areas is difficult, and requires you to really pay attention to what you’re doing, lest you fall of the ledge you were trying to avoid, only to repeat the process over again. (Yes, there was actually a section where you had to navigate tight walkways or fall into a pit below, and I distinctly remember it being a pain in the dick.) Second, unlike the majority of RPG’s in existence, the menu button on the pad is triangle, which takes some getting used to when you want to use items, spells, and such. (I believe that’s become something of a standard these days, as either the top face button, Start or the alternate menu button commonly call that up.)

Now, having read all of that, you’re probably of the impression that I hated the game. Truth be told, I actually enjoy it, but the fact is, not everyone will. (I kind of loved/hated this game at the time, and eventually became so frustrated with the grinding that I gave up on it and eventually soured on the whole experience, hence the disconnect.) The game has more points that will frustrate the gamer than any other game I’ve played to date. You need to spend hours just leveling up your characters, both because the difficulty curve spikes so much and because the experience points and gold you get per battle are laughable, at best. The in game mini-games, like the Sim town, the casinos, and so on, have been done before and better elsewhere. The Job System, one of the most flaunted features of this game, takes forever to use effectively, and requires you have some kind of strategy guide handy, both to tell you what a class can do (the game never does), and to allow you to decide in advance what you might want your character to be by endgame. (The Job system in particular was a huge pain in the ass, and I distinctly remember A. not unlocking it until like twenty hours into the game, and B. specifically giving up on the game while trying to grind out levels for Jobs, so there you go.) The game is extremely frustrating to the average player, and the only thing that will keep you coming back is the story, and that’s only if you can take the overabundance of RPG clichés that pop up throughout.

It’s interesting to note that Enix, after seeing how sales of DW7 progressed, chose not to release DW8 Stateside. (I legitimately have no idea what the fuck I was talking about here, since DW8 wouldn’t even come out for another two years. Maybe they’d announced that they weren’t going to release it at the time? I have no clue.) I can’t say I blame them… this game is an acquired taste, to say the least, and with its’ (WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? WHY IS THERE AN APOSTROPHE OUTSIDE OF THE FUCKING WORD? WHAT THE FUCK PAST ME?) bland graphics, average music, odd sounds, and quirky controls, you would have to either be a huge fan of the series, or be a huge fan of the in game story to even think of picking this game up. The bottom line? I would recommend this to only the most hardcore of RPG fanatics, which is probably how it should be.

THE GOOD:
1. A great time for fans of old-school gaming. (Hah, not so much.)
2. Long, involved story, rife with detail. (Wait didn’t I just say the story was boring and cliche?)
3. Large amount of jobs to choose from in the Job System.
4. Conventions stay true to older DW games, so fans won’t be disappointed.
5. Very challenging game, perfect for those who thinks games have gotten “too easy”. (Was that a thing in 2002? I think it might have been but it seems so weird.)

THE BAD:
1. Storyline isn’t terribly riveting. (Oh there we go.)
2. Characters aren’t all that interesting.
3. Difficulty will turn off newer gamers.
4. Nothing in this game you haven’t seen in a thousand others.
5. People who didn’t like the DW series won’t like this one either.

THE UGLY:
1. I’ve seen better graphics on the SNES. (THAT might be an exaggeration, albeit not much of one.)
2. The spear TINKLES, okay?
3. Building a town of ex-cons and bunny-girls. Hello, Vegas!
4. The controls suck. Hard to fathom for an RPG, but they REALLY suck.
5. The fact that, apparently, this is the best Enix can do for their flagship series. (DQ8 would change that.)

GRAPHICS: 5
MUSIC: 6
SOUNDS: 4
CONTROL: 6
EXTRAS: 6
IMPRESSION: 4

OVERALL: 5.25 (I feel like I mostly agree with that number in retrospect, but not for those specific metrics, if that makes sense, mostly because I don’t entirely remember what “EXTRAS” means. I think Replay Value and shit like that but it was over a decade ago so who knows? But yeah, in all honesty, this was not a game I enjoyed much, if at all.

Also I might resurrect this “GBU” system as a way to talk about games I’ve played since I don’t have the time to really write 2-3K word reviews anymore, but would still like to talk about games; let me know what you think, yeah?)

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