September is another month where there have been at least three different games released for the Nintendo 3DS that have caught my interest. Metroid Prime: Federation Force and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice are two of them, but it’s the third title that has claimed its place as my choice for September’s Game of the Month.
It is the seventh entry in a long-running JRPG series, and is available in Europe for the first time. It seems that this particular game is truly massive: it’s entirely possible to rack a playtime of more than one hundred hours.
Dragon Quest VII: Fragment of the Forgotten Past is set on Estard Island. The hero of the game is Auster (well, that’s his default name, you can rename him. I’m using my own name, for example.) With his best friend Prince Kiefer, Auster seeks to discover if there is a world beyond Estard Island.
Auster and Kiefer end up stumbling upon the Shrine of Mysteries and learning about mystical stone tablets that can open portals to the past.
After Auster’s father manages to fish up a stone tablet fragment, Auster, Kiefer and their childhood friend Maribel take it to the Shrine of Mysteries and put it together. Once they do, the three of them find themselves teleported to a mysterious location.
Auster, Kiefer and Maribel work out that they’ve been transported back in time to when the island they find themselves on existed. Naturally, the island is cursed and monsters run rampant.
It’s up to Auster and his allies to put right the wrongs of the past, thus restoring the islands and rebuilding the world.
Dragon Quest VII is in no hurry to start – it’s possible to spend a couple of hours playing the game without sighting as much as a single slime. Even when monsters do start appearing, the game still moves forward slowly. However, being a Dragon Quest game means that sticking with it is well worth it in the end.
There’s many characters to meet in this massive adventure, and here’s a few of them:
If you’ve ever played any other Dragon Quest game, then you’ll know what to expect from it. If not…
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is an RPG in which you control a group of heroes who travel back in time to islands that are suffering under curses. By delving into dungeons, solving puzzles and fighting monsters you can guide the heroes to fix the problems.
Much like in Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, you can see enemies on the screen before getting into battle. Instead of being a slave to random encounters, you can choose to try and avoid the enemies, or you can tackle the foes in order to earn money, gain levels and grow stronger.
There’s towns to explore with their usual fixtures: shops, inns and churches. Shops provide weapons, armour and other items, spend a night at an inn to heal up and churches offer several services including the option to save your game.
Saving the world doesn’t have to take priority; this is a JRPG, after all. There’s plenty of side quests to distract you and extend the game’s playtime even further beyond the main story. That could be populating the town of Haven with peace-loving monsters, gambling at a casino or collecting mini medals for rewards.
Rare items called tablet fragments can be found scattered all over the world. Collecting these could result in the discovery of a new continent – just take it to the Shrine of Mysteries and see what happens.
There are also traveller’s tablets which grant access to special dungeons where you’ll be able to find powerful foes. Those stone slabs can be acquired by sending befriended monsters into a certain cave.
You can also share traveller’s tablets through StreetPass. In addition to that, special traveller’s tablets will be distributed weekly via the Download Bar. Some provide new challenges, whilst others continue the game’s story once you’ve completed the main quest.
Being a JRPG, battles play a key part in Dragon Quest VII. They are turn-based, and you can issue commands to your party members individually or have the party follow different tactics.
Defeating monsters means earning experience, money and items. Get enough experience and the characters level up, thus increasing their stats and possible learning spells and abilities.
Weapons and armour are also important, so it’s a very good idea to ensure you equip any new gear you come across. Most towns have a weapon and armour shop, or you could pick up some new gear from a dungeon.
There’s a whole host of monsters to battle in Dragon Quest VII, including the ever-present mascot slime. Here’s a few you’ll encounter on your journey:
Another key part of Dragon Quest VII are vocations. By assigning a vocation of one of your characters, they can learn different skills and abilities as they level up. There are over 50 vocations to undertake, and here’s a look at a few of them:
Mastering a vocation allows you to carry across the skills and abilities you’ve acquired to a new vocation.
You can acquire monster hearts during the game. Assigning one of these to one of your heroes allows them to learn a monster vocation. They’ll gain skills unique to that monster, as well as borrow its appearance. Mastering a variety of monster vocations will result in more advanced versions to become available.
There is a lot going on in Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, that it makes it almost daunting. The fact that the main story can take up to a hundred hours or more means that I’ll be spending a lot of time with this game.
However, I’m a pretty big fan of the Dragon Quest series, and I am very much looking forward to seeking my teeth into what might just be 2016’s biggest adventure – and it’s all confined to a tiny 3DS cartridge (or tiny SD card if you go for the digital download).