Nintendo Review

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past Review

Nostalgia knows no boundaries when it comes to Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. Playing as a love letter to its original version, an anthology of classic fairy tale storytelling unfolds in this splendid drama. But its exorbitant length with endless looping and backtracking, not to mention the lack of some key RPG elements, makes it a mountainous climb for the modern age.

In the golden years of remakes, reboots and tales of the reimagining, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past fits perfectly. Developed by Heartbeat and ArtePiazza for the PlayStation back in 2001, it was notorious for its gargantuan size as one of the largest JRPGs created, with gamers often logging more than 100 hours of play. And while it’s taken a great deal of patience to localise the Dragon Quest games for the 3DS, fans will soon have not one but two to play through in due time.

Telling the tale of the unnamed Hero, Fragments of the Forgotten Past centres around the island of Estard. Prince Kiefer is restless. Born into a role he doesn’t want to fill, his duties are seemingly set in stone. But on his adventures with the Hero and the Mayor’s daughter Maribel, they discover coloured puzzle pieces – otherwise known as fragments – that take them into forgotten islands of the past when popped into a pedestal at the Shrine of Mysteries. Acting like the Scooby gang, particularly with the arrival of Aishe and Mervyn later, the characters must solve each of the island’s problems in the past before it can be restored in the present.

Since Dragon Quest VII’s original release fifteen years ago, many things have changed for the better on the 3DS remake. But a sense of duty requires me to come clean on one thing: I have never played a Dragon Quest game. Going into the world completely blind, on game seven nonetheless, was an odd experience but an enjoyable one. Struck by the simplicity of the game and confused by the lack of some key elements – such as an HP gauge for enemies, or an experience bar for characters – it was akin to being stuck in a time loop; or perhaps just one of the game’s whimsical towns, En Circlo. The endless backtracking, the swarms of enemies in svelte passageways that you simply cannot avoid, and the weird swooping camera angles on the 3DS that encourages vertigo, lead to much frustration throughout the game.

It was near my own personal breaking point at Alltrades Abbey after the characters’ abilities and healing spells had been rudely stripped away when I discovered job classes. Those first 20 hours were a horrible, mundane slog to the top of a mountain, but it was immediately remedied by the glorious views on top. Quickly turning from a cheap sparkling drink into a finely aged wine, job classes in Fragments of the Forgotten Past are a real game changer. By selecting from typical RPG jobs, players can choose up to 10 standard classes including the warrior, mage and thief. Much like many other RPGs, players can switch jobs at any point without much hindrance, as well as master a combination in order to elevate to a higher ranked class.

And while there’s no levelling bar, characters will have to win a select number of battles so they can achieve the next ranking. Not only does it give players a benchmark for progression, it also enables the use of much different techniques when in battle. They become fluid, interesting and unpredictable; revealing a much more intuitive and complex turn-based system in comparison to the earlier hours of gameplay with its straight-laced attack and defend approach. Boss fights also have an additional layer of flexibility and challenge to them, with some using overtly offensive tactics to keep you on your guard, while others rely on heavy-hitting magic.

In true RPG style, players can equip a good selection of armour and weaponry which is available to purchase with in-game gold earned from defeating enemies. Gold can also be stored in banks to save monsters from looting it should your party be wiped out, while save points are located at Churches. There is an additional option to quick save, but it cannot be used while adventuring through a dungeon.

Fans of the game will relish in some additional improvements, such as a Fragment Finder which glows when the player is in the vicinity of a piece, and pulsates when in the same room as one, the ability to physically see enemies on the field or in a dungeon, as well as StreetPass functionality in the form of Traveller’s Tablets. Players can also switch the party line-up allowing you to have a different lead character and you can engage in conversation with them at any time; personally Maribel’s wit and amusingly blunt comments are much more entertaining than Ruff’s child-like remarks.

Aside from the core battle system, Dragon Quest VII and its islands each unfold as a miniature tableau. Plagued by issues with monsters, robots, animals, or weather ailments, the script and translations are handled with such a delicate touch it breathes life into this fantasy-rich landscape. While some are predictable, cue humans turning into animals, most of the storylines are played out with such melodrama it’s hard to refrain from getting into the spirit of the land. With inspiration taken from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Japanese and American folklore and European cultural influences, such as the Spanish Catalonian Architect Gaudi, the expertly woven stories gives it an authentic fairy tale feel not to be missed.

Yet even though there’s an air of mystery and longing when playing Dragon Quest VII, the dungeons are designed simply with little room to manoeuvre within. A blessing for grinding but an utter hindrance when trying to move quickly through rooms to the boss, you’ll encounter more enemies than a zombie breakout. Some of the less linear dungeons require players to use levers, press switches and traverse through mazes or solve puzzles. One of the highlights appears around 35 hours into the game in En Circlo where an architect has developed traps and trick rooms to thwart the standard adventurer. It’s in these moments that provide the most enjoyment for players, alerting them to the unexpected rather than the mundane.

Perhaps the most frustrating element with Fragments of the Forgotten Past is the length it takes to open up the game to its full potential. While beginners are helped more so than fans of the original version, in the modern age where electronic entertainment is wired into almost every room of the household, the necessary commitment is an arduous one. Couple those first impressions with awkward camera angles and unavoidable monsters in linear dungeons, the flaws are unfortunately quite clear. Yet with all that said, and despite the deeper, richer and more complex JRPGs flooding the market today, sometimes it’s nice to bring back the classics. After all, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is storytelling at its best.



    1. Critically it would never be a 9 for me, just because I don’t have that nostalgia backing. And that’s a big plus. I was hovering between 7.5 and 8, but settled on the lower due to the factors I mentioned in the review. It’s a good game that’she definitely above average, it’s just not overall great. It will be different for you personally, so I hope you get around to playing it.

  1. for me i’d go with a 9.5 as the original on the ps1 was amazing a definate 10 out of 10 I would of got my copy today at work today but the delivery for friday wont arrive until tommorrow but I’ll happily give my review after i played it for a bit but all in all i am looking forward to playing this

  2. Has a health gauge really become a key element in JRPGs? Maybe I just haven’t played many recent ones. Back in the day, you had a use a spell to see their current HP and even that wasn’t in all games. For me, this is not a problem at all. Also, the extra step to go into the menu and see my status for exp doesn’t bother me. Quite used to it. Sounds like this game is right up my alley :)

  3. This game sounds great, and I’m considering getting it sometime. I played DQ 4 and 9 on the DS years ago, and I remember how the combat could get strategic and very challenging. Colette, or anybody who played this localized version of DQ 7 3DS, would you say the battles are strategic and challenging?

    1. I’ve played 50 hours and thought the battles were deeply satisfying. Strategists will love them, as you have to play each battle with bosses differently. You can’talk just use the same tactics repeatedly. Hope that helps. :)

  4. I can’t believe I never got around to the PS1 version. I already Pre-ordered this version and am looking forward to sitting down and playing it over the weekend.

  5. I generally enjoy and agree with your reviews. I haven’t played this game yet, so it’s hard to critisize your review too much. A 7.5 is a lower score than I’d hope you would give it. It seems like your biggest complaint is a slow start, which I wouldn’t have a problem with. I actually enjoy the slow starts in Dragon Quest games. We’ll see, I’ll play it and maybe completely agree with the 7.5 score…. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

    1. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never played a Dragon Quest game. For a JRPG, that feels awfully slow to me. I prefer the lengths of Yokai Watch, as an example, because you get stuck in straight away and can complete the game anywhere between 35 to 50 hours. I simply don’t have the time to be slogging through it. If you do, it will likely be a higher score. But I did play 50 hours of this. And then I needed my life back. XD

      1. How was the story and character development?
        I would like your opinion, because the only DQ game I played was Starry Skies… 9 or 10 I think.
        Even and especially while it was slow in the beginning, how well do you feel they told the story or got you invested in the Characters?

        Great review as always. I’d love a side category of just your reviews on this site. Is that possible? :)

        1. The story and characters are rich and weLloyd detailed, with many interlinking throughout the story. Because each story acts as a tableau you don’t really get entrenched in their character development as much as I would personally like. But they are fun to play through.

          Also, I will enquire about setting something up with Sickr. :) Thank you, as always.

  6. Want to buy this so bad but I probly will never finish it. Don’t have much time to play anymore =.. (

    Between this and trails of cold steel that I need to buy it’s just impossible for one person to play through lol still playing yokai watch too

    1. She’s coming at it from a non-DQ perspective on her own admission.
      I think it’s better that we have in-depth, unbiased reviews than scores that don’t really tell you much. Everyone really needs to read the reviews as that’s where the gold is. (I’m sure most of you are) Most times the people disagreeing on the score have little or no dispute with the written review.
      And jessuzzz, the amount of time she pumps into these games JUST to review? I think we take a solid review for granted on this site. Everywhere else they play a fraction of the hours, only to end up with a bias review.
      I’m going to pass on this game because I just don’t have the time to put into a game I’m not vested in and that doesn’t really offer anything groundbreaking. I’m sure DQ fans will be happy to see it though!

  7. Maybe it’s just me, but reviewing the remake of the seventh instalment of a popular series without any previous experience (in the aforementioned series) is suicidal at best.
    I find it absurd to count the length of an RPG as a negative. RPGs are (or at least were) MEANT to be lengthy, they are not for ADHD mobile-addicted players.
    As far as I was able to understand from a handful of videos, DQ VII makes good use of the hardware while not losing contact with the original in terms of gameplay. Also, the soundtrack is gorgeous.
    This is definitely not a 7.5, probably closer to a 9
    Colette, thank you for your effort, but if you never played one DQ game before and “simply don’t have the time to be slogging through it”, maybe you should not waste your time and ours with such nonsense.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I was coming at it from a complete beginner’s perspective – which is what Nintendo want to do. Appeal to the younger, beginner generation who didn’t get to experience it the first time, while also staying close to the original for fans of the series. It was a difficult review for me, and perhaps I didn’t get it right, but at the very least I tried my best. And that’s all I can do. I am still the sole reviewer here at present and until another writer steps in, titles need to be reviewed. On this occasion, I’m sorry I couldn’t do any more.

      1. Colette,
        thank you for your answer.
        Personally, I believe that Square Enix and Nintendo are not trying to appeal to a younger demographic: as you noted, games as Yokai Watch 1 & 2 have a more “modern” appeal to ADHD gamers. Dragon Quest VII is probably aimed to their parents.

        1. Well, either way, I did my best with it. I’m sorry the review wasn’t what you wanted or expected. I’m sure you will enjoy the game – a 7.5 is not a bad score by any means. I drew observations and tried to mark it with an unbiased, fair view. If it was my personal opinion, hand on my heart it would have been lower. But this was a critical review and I always score our reviews in a fair, unbiased way. I’ve seen scores varying from a 7.5 to a 9, so it seems to be the consensus to score it in this range.

          Again, thanks for your reply. :) I really do appreciate all comments given on my reviews, particularly if they are constructive criticism.

    2. I strongly disagree. If she had given it a Nine, non-DQ fans like myself could have spent money on a game we wouldn’t have enjoyed.
      You are bias and thank God the reviewer is not.

      1. Reviewers should by definition be experts, which means people with previous experience in the field.
        Also, you are supposed to read a review, not base your purchase on the review score alone.
        A competent reviewer would have probably given a higher score AND explained that the structure of this tipe of game is not what some people are used to.
        And besides, if you are not a DQ fan, you wouldn’t have considered it anyway….

        1. I can understand what you mean about wanting a reviewer to be more familiar with the series, but honestly, I think Colette’s review is exactly the kind I’m looking for. I’m always really busy with work and other stuff, so I don’t find a lot of time to set aside for games. I love them though, so when I can play, I usually try to focus on one game until I beat it or lose interest. I also don’t have a lot of money to spend on games, so I try to be careful which ones I buy. I LOVED Dragon Quest IX, but I lost interest pretty deep into XIII because it was just soooo long. I’m glad Colette is reviewing from the perspective she has. I think as readers, we can look at a review and ask ourselves if the writer’s outlook seems similar to our own. I can relate to Colette, so for me, I think this is a very useful review.

          1. Thank you for your kind comment. :) Though not everyone can be on board with how I’ve presented this one, I’m glad it has reached some readers with a similar perspective to myself. We all live very busy lives these days after all!

        2. Oh, and I meant to add that I think you’re being a little harsh with your “ADHD mobile games” comment. I know exactly what you mean, and I do find myself frustrated that younger kids now are playing mostly cheap and quick little app games rather than 3DS games which offer so much more. Regardless, I don’t think Yo-kai Watch is anything like these app games we’re both annoyed with. I had so much fun with that game, and I actually put a lot of time into playing it. For me, it was just the right length and difficulty.

          1. Right. Yo-kai watch wants you to READ and enjoy the story. Post game is really hard at times and most kids will never beat those Onis without help. It’s a real RPG alright, just aimed at kids. So the main game is balanced to suit all ages. It’s kinda like Pokémon is the way that it offers little, side challenges, that’s what’s gonna requite your time and effort. Finding the rare monsters and the extra bosses.

          2. Why do some people consider whoever tells the truth in no uncertain terms to be harsh?
            SOME things (not everything, of course) are either good or bad.
            Allowing children early access to “disruptive” technology do NOT have any positive aspects. Children playing with tablets and smartphones do not become computer geniuses, quite the opposite. They become dumb, dull and unfocused.

            About Yo-kai Watch, I was not implying that it plays like a phone app, but that a shorter, less complicated (or less convoluted if you prefer) gameplay is certainly more appealing to the new generations than the likes of Dragon Quest.

            Sorry for the OT and for reviving a dead thread with a month’s delay…

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