Reviews July 9, 2016
7th Dragon III Code: VFD
Reviewed by: Kenneth Seward Jr.
Release Date: 07/12/2016
The Nintendo 3DS has become one of the go to systems for RPGs. Not just any RPGs, mind you, but turn-based ones - a good thing considering how most developers creating content for this genre have abandoned taking turns for more action-oriented gameplay. Thankfully, most of these games have been well- received breaths of fresh air…
SEGA’s 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, originally released this past October in Japan, is another title that’s sure to be a hit on Nintendo’s handheld. The setting is Tokyo 2100, with the focus centered on a company called Nodens Enterprises and its efforts to circumvent an apocalyptic event. Dragons have been spotted in the wild. Terrorizing and devouring humans, these menaces are nightmares to certain parts of the city. And yet, they don’t even compare to the mysterious flowers springing up everywhere. These flora infect those that come near with an incurable disease, easily killing hundreds in just a few days. Worst still, the dragons and flowers are signs of that a True Dragon – a god-like creature with the ability to wipe out the human race – is coming.
These events aren't new. They happen every so many generations. This time however, things are much worse as the 7th and most powerful True Dragon has its sights set on Tokyo (and the world really). The good news is that Nodens Enterprises has a plan up its collective sleeve. Using a time machine, they look to acquire a tissue sample from each True Dragon, including the ones from the future. Their goal is to study these samples in order to find a way to defeat the dragons once and for all. Interesting enough, journeying through time isn’t the difficult part. What’s difficult is finding someone capable of extracting the samples without, you know, dying a horrible death.
Even though this is the fourth game in the series (and the first one to make it to Western audiences), the story is easy to follow. Some of that has to do how the plot unfolds; while not entirely cliché, 7th Dragon features a typical RPG narrative. Nods to past games/events are prevalent. That said, one doesn’t have to know what came before to understand the present dilemma. Overall, I found the plot to be decent. What happens is interesting enough to warrant playing till the end and well, there are dragons. Who doesn’t like dragons?
The meat and potatoes if you will, aren't the current events but the awesome turn-based combat and class system. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD’s character classes all differ from what I’ve seen in similar games. This is because there are more than just the fighter, mage, and tank options (or damage dealer, healer, and support). One of my characters was a God Hand for example. These melee-based characters use combos to defeat strong enemies. But because this isn’t a fighting game, they can’t string together moves in the same sense. For this to work in a turn based game, SEGA made it so successful attacks on a monster will apply God Depth – a debuff that doesn’t outright effect foes at first. As more counts of God Depth are applied, more powerful moves become available for this character to use. A couple jabs turn into devastating haymakers, crushing head-butts, and so on.
There are plenty of creatures to face while journeying through the game’s many environments. The fights with dragons are where it’s at though, as they force you to really push each class. All dragons, from the major bosses to the smaller ones that visibly lurk about, are dangerous. They attack multiple times a turn, can cause the worse status effects (like insta-death, more on that later) and can join in on other battles that have already started. Taking one down requires using weaker abilities first, getting them right where you want them before unleashing a mountain of hurt. I don’t just mean buffing or debuffing but actually strategizing what moves to follow up with. A crushing blow from one character could allow an ally to follow suit, keeping an enemy pinned in and/or unable to retaliate.
The support teams enhance the battle experience as well. The starting group of three will be accompanied by two other teams later in the game. Their job, at first, is to assist you during battles. As a fight goes on, a gauge will fill up beneath their portraits. Once it’s filled part way, you’ll be able to call in a character to attack before one of the main three completes their turn. When this is done, they’ll not only damage your enemy but also apply a particular debuff. The usefulness of such a move is obvious; lowering a foe’s defenses before your main character unleashes a powerful spell is a smart tactic. What makes the support characters crucial to your survival though is their ability to disrupt a dragon. Before using some of their most powerful attacks, most dragons will need to take a turn to “power up”. If you tag in a support character before their next move, you’ll break the dragon’s focus, resulting in a much weaker assault on your party.
I can talk all day about the nuances of battle here. From the other interesting classes – like Banishers, who use lances that shoot bombs – to the epic ability to call in all nine characters to attack a foe with their strongest moves, there’s a lot to go over !.The take away is that the fighting was entertaining. So much so, that I didn’t mind the frequent encounters with enemies. Instead I looked forward to fighting because it gave me a chance to try a different strategy or to use new abilities introduced later in the game. That is until I hit certain difficulty spikes that nearly ruined my experience. The first of such spikes came in the form of boss that uses an insta-kill move. Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue given the reliance on support characters. During this section of the game, however, my team had become separated. My current three man squad was on their own.
My saving grace was a ring that gave me a 50% chance to negate this ability whenever it was used. The problem was that it boiled all of my planning and outmaneuvering down to luck. Now to be fair, I know there is a bit of luck involved with all RPG’s – a roll of the dice to determine if a move hits critically or misses completely. Still, it’s more about picking the right moves than relying on chance. What made this section so difficult was that there wasn’t anything I could do to stop this dragon. No amount of healing or buffing would prevent me from dying if my ring failed. All of the awesome strategic gameplay was basically thrown out the window in order to make things more “challenging”.
Speaking of challenge, I’m not a fan of reused bosses or long stretches of boss battles with no save in sight. The final chapter of 7th Dragon is just one boss fight after another. All of which forces you to do deal with crazy abilities and no supporting characters. What took the cake though was the final boss. With moves that seemed to break the rules (he didn’t need to power up) and multiple forms, each more powerful than the last, defeating that beast was like pulling teeth. Even after grinding to level up, that was unnecessary up until this point, I was still utterly destroyed. Losing several battles in other parts of the game made sense based on my tactics. During the final stretch it just felt like I was being cheated.
I’m not saying that the end of the game should be easy. I’ve completed plenty of difficult games in the past. That said, forcing the player to battle boss after boss (I counted seven in the last chapter) doesn’t equal a climatic end. It just seems tedious. Most of the game was pleasant though. The story provided enough encouragement to venture into dangerous places. Knowing when you were about to be attacked was welcomed over this genre’s use of random encounters. And the combat and class systems led to entertaining battles once the fighting began. 7th Dragon III Code: VFD is far from perfect. But it shouldn’t be ignored if you’re a fan of this genre.
The combat is great and the story is decent. The difficulty spikes in the middle and towards the end almost derailed the entire experience though.
The game looks good, though it doesn’t make use of the systems 3D slider.
The music and sound effects were nice.
Replay Value: 7
If you can get past the more frustrating parts, there is a game + mode…