(Editor’s note: This article was originally published back when GameCola was presented in a monthly online magazine format.)
I came into ownership of several new games this summer. The Sims, Hook, Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color, Ape Escape, Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Spyro the Dragon, Dragon’s Lair II, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, WCW vs. nWo World Tour, and LEGO Racers were among those chosen to be a part of my illustrious collection.
However, only one of the games I purchased over the summer had any real staying power. Only one of the games I purchased over the summer did I play almost every day. Only one of the games I purchased over the summer did I log over a hundred hours into. That game, as should be apparent by my rather trite introduction, is indeed Dragon Warrior VII for the original PlayStation.
What makes Dragon Warrior VII so special? Why would I play it for so long? And, the obvious question: What could possibly make Dragon Warrior VII better than the video game version of Hook? Just keep reading my review (I know it’s hard—we’ve got about nine-thousand reviews in this issue) and ye shall see.
One thing that should jump out to the current-generation gamer is the publisher and developer of this game: Enix. Yes, before the greatest merger in the history of video games, Square and Enix were two separate companies. This game, or rather the entire Dragon Warrior series, is Enix’s compliment to Final Fantasy. Anyway, enough of a history lesson. I’m three paragraphs into this game and I haven’t even said a thing about it yet. So let’s get on with it already!
Dragon Warrior VII is one of the better RPGs that I’ve played for PlayStation. (I’d place it somewhere between Legend of Mana and Chrono Cross, the other two PlayStation RPGs I’ve played.)
Its story is this: You are a fisherman’s son, and from what you can tell, you live on the only island that exists in the entire world. Your little island is made up of only a handful of locations: Fishbel (your home town), Erstad (a castle), and some ruins towards the east of the island. After wandering around the island for a while with your friends Kiefer and Maribel, you picked up this mysterious “Landshard.” You then meet some crazy old man who tells you to visit the ruins, so you do that. After exploring the ruins for a lengthy amount of time, you put your shards on a pedestal and are transported back in time to an island you’ve never seen before.
Just getting to the point where you start time-traveling takes roughly two hours. No joke. And that’s not two hours of kicking monster ass and saving princesses and what have you—you won’t fight a single battle for at least two hours. The whole time I was playing that part of the game I kept checking the instruction booklet to see if there even were any battles in this RPG. I guarantee if you play the game you’ll be thinking the same thing, but trust me—this game has battles. Lots and lots and lots of them.
Well, maybe it’s not so much that the game has a lot of battles as it is you’ll be forced to partake in many battles. Perhaps if you used a GameShark to max out the stats of all your characters you won’t have a problem breezing through the game’s many bosses; otherwise, you’re looking to spend a LOT of time fighting baddies to raise your levels. I once spent, no joke, TEN HOURS leveling up for just one boss. Ten hours! During that time I managed to read through most of a book (Running With the Buffalos by Christopher Lear), so at least it wasn’t too much a waste of time; but it’s rather ridiculous that you have to spend so much time engaging in boring little battles in order to just beat one guy.
That aspect of the game really kills its replay value. I feel satisfied having beaten the game after spending some one hundred hours playing it, but it’s not something I’m gonna want to do again any time soon. There are some bonus levels at the end for you to play, but they’re easy to miss—and if you don’t catch them after you beat the final boss, the only way to go back is to beat the final boss again. That’s not something you’re going to feel up to doing for at least six months after beating the game. A New Game+ mode, like that featured in Chrono Trigger, would have helped this game’s replay value immensely
But I’m getting ahead of myself; I never finished discussing the game’s story. After traveling back in time to this unknown island, you find that the main town there is having some major problems. Monsters have taken away all the town’s children and wives, and the only way for the town’s citizens to get them back is to tear down all of their houses. You, being the spunky set of intrepid warriors that you are, agree to help.
Assuming you are successful in this adventure, you travel back to your home and find out that a new island has been discovered in your world—an island that looks suspiciously like the one you just came from. Indeed, after solving the island’s trouble, it comes to existence in your time. Funny how that works out, eh? Anyway, you find more shards, put them on more pedestals, visit more worlds with other problems, and the whole point in this game is to recreate the world that once was. There’s also something in there about defeating the Demon Lord, but you don’t have to worry about him too much until the second disc. 😀
As you look at the screenshots I’ve so generously provided, I’m sure you’re stuck with the notion that this sure doesn’t look like a PlayStation game. Truth be told, this game’s graphics could easily have been implemented in a Super Nintendo title. A game this long could never ever have been done on Super Nintendo, but its graphics sure are inferior to Final Fantasy VII—heck, they’re even inferior to Secret of Evermore. But, as I’ve been telling you for a long time, graphics don’t matter. And I actually like this game’s visual representation.
This is more a matter of taste than a matter of quality, but I’ve always preferred the SNES-quality graphics to those of your typical Sony PlayStation game, so bah. Most gamers probably won’t appreciate this game’s appearance; but oh well, those people suck anyway.
I may not have made it apparent so far in this review, but I actually did enjoy this game a lot. Despite its enormously time-consuming battles (hey, I got some reading done anyway), the storyline isn’t half bad. Not all of my time playing the game was spent leveling up, y’know. A lot of it was also spent talking to people in towns and discovering little unimportant nuggets of plot that aren’t really necessary to advance the story, but are still fun to know. Plus, I’ve been a sucker for time travel ever since I first saw Back to the Future, so this game was right up my alley. Will it be right up yours? I honestly can’t say.
If you’re someone to give up after a mere fifty hours of gameplay, you’d might as well not even bother with this game. There’s no way you’d be able to complete the whole thing. As for the rest of you: if you don’t mind the SNES graphics, then go for it. You may not like it more than you liked all these new-fangled Final Fantasies, but if you pass up on Dragon Warrior VII, you’re passing up on a pretty good game.