Dragon Warrior 7
|a game by||Heart Beat|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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It's hard to describe the upcoming American release of Dragon Warrior VII: Warriors of Eden as anything less than an event for RPG fans. Following nearly five years of development (including two years of delays), this massive title was finally unveiled in Japan a few months ago (not surprisingly selling nearly 2 million copies in its first weekend), and now holds the distinct notoriety of being the first new Dragon Warrior headed to our shores since the 8-Bit days. While DW IV for the NES might be nothing more than a faint memory for many of our readers, it still proved itself to be a solid RPG--arguably the best for that system. An achievement Enix is trying to capture once again, but this time for the PlayStation.
Yes, the graphics in Dragon Warrior VII are not exactly awe-inspiring, and even though the camera in most of the areas can be rotated 360 degrees, the visuals don't exactly push the PlayStation in terms of complexity. The characters are 2D sprites, the backgrounds are simple in design, and although it does have a very vibrant look thanks to the colorful textures, it's still more reminiscent of a 16-Bit game. It's wasn't like Enix spent all these years in development working on just the graphics though, they supposedly finished the game engine long before Dragon Warrior VII was meant to be released (back in 1998), and have spent the time since fine-tuning both it and the gameplay.
Of course, Dragon Warrior titles have never been about looks. The magic behind these games is their basic premise--the character you control is simply you. There is a predetermined story, and the lead character does have some sort of basic history, but rarely do you feel like you're just an actor in someone else's play. Simply put, Dragon Warrior titles focus on the often-overlooked aspect of modern RPGs, classic role-playing. And they do it in a setting that--aside from the latest Final Fantasy--has nearly been forgotten in this genre, one that reeks of traditional medieval heritage. But the setting is not all that's traditional about DW VII: The gameplay has remained nearly untouched from the original 8-Bit releases. Aside from a few annoying commands (like "use stairs") that were removed a few games back, and the new introduction of a "quick" button that allows you to instantly talk to people or examine items, the latest Dragon Warrior plays essentially like the first. You walk around, converse with townsfolk, buy equipment, and fight in random turned-based 2D battles against completely non-moving (except when they attack) enemies.
Dragon Warrior VH's emphasis on "classic gameplay" over modern visuals shouldn't really hurt its appeal though, at least not with RP6 fans. The story line, while not exactly Hollywood-movie caliber, is still compelling enough to keep gamers interested, even without the help of CG movies appearing every few hours. In this latest chapter you play a young man who lives on a quiet, monster-free island named Esterd. As far as most of the inhabitants of Esterd are concerned, their small land is the only one that exists in the world, a perception you share until you find a piece of a map that hints of another continent. An adventure begins, in which you discover and explore new islands, meanwhile helping the citizens you meet by fighting the evil that is taking over their lands.
The way you find these new areas is similar to the "Landmake" system in Square's action/RPG, Legend of Mana--they don't exist until you "discover" them. But unlike Mana, where you uncovered new areas after completing tasks, in DW VII you must find pieces of tablets which, when assembled together, form the image of a map, magically whisking you back in time to a new land. After you defeat the evil there, this new area is "unsealed" and you can visit it again when you return to your present time. This whole time-travel scenario is a great concept; it's cool to return to the continents you saved and see how they've changed. Even though it has strong gameplay one still has to wonder exactly how well Dragon Quest VII, with its "old-school" look and feel, will do over here. The Japanese are heavily enjoying the fact Enix went a bit overboard in keeping the game's classic heritage (even the traditional 8-Bit sound effects have been preserved), as surely will American fans of the first games, but what about gamers who were weaned on the latest Final Fantasy titles--those who think RPGs should be cinematic events?
As of this writing Dragon Warrior VII, with only three weeks on Japanese store shelves, has already sold 3.4 million copies. That's nearly a million more units than Final Fantasy IX has moved since its release in Japan, despite coming out over a month earlier. For any game to outsell a Final Fantasy title is impressive, but DW Vll's performance didn't really come as a shock to anybody--Japanese gamers just love this series. So much, in fact, there was actually a law passed in Japan years ago forbidding any Dragon Warrior game (titled Dragon Quest there) to come out on a weekday, because too many children were cutting school. And while Dragon Warrior VII surely won't get the same kind of response when it's released here next year (not even close), there's little doubt that this game will still be embraced by those who love RPGs as long as they don't mind gameplay over graphics.