The 3DS has been on a roll with amazing RPGs this year, and that trend continues with Sega’s latest entry: 7th Dragon III Code: VFD. Sure, it might not have the best title in the world, and it could be somewhat confusing since the other games in the series haven’t been localized. However, once you get past the awkward numbering and strange name I think you’ll find a fun JRPG that doesn’t take itself too seriously in the story department, but keeps you on your toes with its intricate turn-based battle system. Like many other games in the genre, fighting monsters is what you spend the majority of your time doing, so a robust and fun combat system is essential to keep my interest, especially when playing for a long time. This game delivers on that front.
The premise for 7th Dragon III is that about 80 years ago dragons attacked the Earth and brought death and destruction. Although the human race was able to defeat them, they left behind a deadly toxin that has caused some to come down with Dragon Sickness. Many are worried that the dragons could make a return, so a gaming company in Tokyo called Nodens has developed an interactive fighting simulation game named 7th Encount. Gamers from all over the world come to play this simulation to see if they can earn a high score. It just so turns out that your character passes by with flying colors and soon after is recruited by the company to hunt down the remaining dragons. As luck would have it, you won’t have to go far because your first encounter strikes right outside the headquarters. Soon after, you and the team you’ve formed will be tasked with traveling through time to hunt down the hundreds of dragons that have begun infiltrating the time stream. Of course there are many zany side quests and the story eventually goes all over the place, but it’s entertaining and brought a smile to my face more often than not. Just be prepared that it won’t be as serious as games like Skyrim and The Witcher.
One of the first tasks at hand at the beginning of the game is creating your party of three. You’ll have four classes to choose from, and four more will open up later in the game. Each class will have his or her own set of weaponry and skills that can be used in battle. As each character levels up, points can be assigned to learn new abilities and adding more points into the category can strengthen these. My original team of three consisted of the Samurai, the Agent, and the God Hand.
Samurais are well suited for most encounters and have decent attacks and defense. Agents have a cool ability that will hack enemies and make them turn on one another. As you level the Agent up he or she will also be able to throw status effects on enemies, making them weak to specific attacks that your other characters can then take advantage of. The God Hand is a fun class to mess around with, but requires patience. All of his skills stack, so you must first lay down a weak attack with him, then on his next turn he can do a middling attack, and then on the next a heavy, and so forth. Successfully completing these attacks will eventually lead to dealing vast amounts of damage to enemies. If you were to have two God Hands in your party, they could feed off one another and reach the higher damage rates even faster. The Duelist is the one I initially left out of my party, but in hindsight I think I would have subbed him in for the Agent. I really like the variety of attacks and spells that he has, plus the ability to trap enemies and deal status effects is really enjoyable.
Although you begin with just three people in your party, you will eventually get another set of three as a backup group, and three more as another backup group. These backup teams can be utilized when the standby gauge fills up during battles. They will offer assistance in a variety of ways, depending on how many bars are filled up and their classes.
Battles are all turn-based and they are fairly straightforward when compared to other games in this genre. The fun comes when you begin assigning new skills and exploring everything the different classes have to offer. By strategizing you can have some really exciting enemy encounters as you utilize your skills to set up the next round of attacks. For example, you could make an enemy weak to ice, and then with your other character initiate an ice attack for huge damage. There are all sorts of buffs and debuffs that will really alter the way the battles play out. In addition to normal encounters, you will need to take out the various dragons scattered across the world. These are always more difficult battles and require you to really think ahead to keep everyone performing at their best. Other dragons continue to roam around, so if they get too close to your battle they can invade and you’ll now be facing down another massive beast in addition to the enemies already on-screen. This aspect is similar to FOEs in the Etrian Odyssey games, and definitely adds a twist to an already energetic combat system.
7th Dragon III’s presentation is a mixed bag. The graphics aren’t the prettiest on the system and the UI, especially in the battles, is sometimes a bit small and difficult to read. The complete lack of stereoscopic 3D is a real bummer as I really like the added layer effect in most games, and I can see how it would have benefited this one. Some of the color choices seem dubious and are sometimes muddy and garish. That’s not to say the game is ugly, but some areas definitely look better than others. What the game lacks in the visuals department, it makes up for in the audio presentation. The music is very catchy and one of my favorite things about this title. Yuzo Koshiro is the composer and he really knows how to create catchy tunes. He’s been around since the Genesis days and has games like Streets of Rage and Actraiser under his belt. The game’s soundtrack bears more than a passing resemblance to Phantasy Star Online, which is a great thing in my book.
7th Dragon III Code: VFD runs the risk of getting lost in this onslaught of JRPGs since it doesn’t have a recognizable name or a high marketing budget to really push sales. It’s got enough originality in its story and battle system that I think most fans of the genre will really enjoy spending time with. It does have some very goofy characters and the dialog can be insane at times, but it’s all in good fun. Expect to spend at least 30 hours going through the main game, with many people easily taking longer to do all of the side quests and building new sections onto Nodens, including a Cat Café (I told you the story is crazy). If you like your JRPGs a little heavy on the Japanese, then I can heartily recommend adding it to your gaming library. If not, at least give the free demo a try, as it’s meaty enough to give you a good taste of what to expect from the main game. It might not be the prettiest RPG on the block, but 7th Dragon III still has the goods in the combat department to keep most gamers busy for the rest of the summer.