7th Dragon III Code VFD Review-SEGA’s Summer Surprise
7th Dragon III Code VFD
Publisher: SEGA USA
ESRB Rating: T
Release Date: July 12th
Thank You SEGA for a providing a Review Copy
7th Dragon III Code VFD is the fourth and final game in the 7th Dragon series, but is the first game in the series to make it over to the west. The big selling point about 7th Dragon is the fact the games main character and all party members are completely customizable. When you start out the game you are asked to create your main character from one of the many different character models, classes and voices. You do this with all of your party members, meaning you have complete control over how you want to stack your team, and it’s entirely up to you on how you want to play this game. While, in theory, making all of the playable characters a clean slate could hamper on the game’s overall story, I can say without any doubt that the game’s story is quite enjoyable and will keep you hanging on from the start to finish.
The game takes place in Tokyo in the year 2100, taking place 80 years after the events of 7th Dragon II 2020. The world is once again at peace after the last dragon calamity, or so it seems. Apparently there is a new threat of the unknown 7th True Dragon that will appear and destroy Tokyo. In order to combat this, a Video Game company known as Nodens is planning to create an initiative to stop this from happening. Using their video game 7th Encount to front this operation, your character is recruited to join in on this plan to create the Dragon Chronicle to defeat the 7th True Dragon. You might be asking what made them pick you and your two friends? Well, it’s simple. You got the highest score possible in 7th Encount, thanks to your new found friend Mio.
You are tasked with traveling between the past and the future to defeat the other true dragons to create the Dragon Chronicle. And that, honestly, is the entire story. You are traveling between three different time periods defeating the dragons in each era and then defeating the true dragons that live there.
While, on paper, the story may seem a bit shallow, what truly brings it to life are the side characters you have to work with. You have to work with the very flirtatious CEO of Nodens, Allie, the flamboyant head scientist and game designer Jullietta, the tsundere rabbit Nagamimi and your very own rival dragon hunter Yuma. The different characters here all have their own wonderful personality and make up for the lack of depth the main characters have. As you progress through the game you also get a chance to ask out different cast members on dates and get to know more about them and why they are doing what they are doing. I honestly didn’t think I would fall in love with the cast of characters the way I did, but each one of them holds a special place in my heart and made me want to fight for them and prevent the 7th true dragon from appearing to assure that they all have a bright future.
The game is broken up into three different time periods. You start out in present day Tokyo, and you travel between the age of Atlantis some 12,000 years prior, and the land of Eden, a city in the far future. Each era is broken up into many different dungeons that you have to explore, and each dungeon has its own amount of dragons (the total for the era is 300).
The dungeon layout system is reminiscent of that of the Etrian Odyssey series, where you have to explore the dungeons to fill in the parts of the map, in the top corner there is an encounter meter, and once the meter is in the red you enter into a battle. Thankfully, there are items you can use to make encounters less frequent. The next big part about the dungeons are the dragons, these can be compared to FOEs from Etrian Odssey. Dragons will roam around on the map in a fixed route that gives you the option to either avoid them or fight them. Similar to FOEs, when you first run into dragons you are going to want to avoid them, but as you progress in the game and get stronger, you will soon be relying on slaying dragons as the main supply of your experience and skill points. The fights with dragons can all be seen as their own mini boss fights, as when you first meet a lot of them they will each have their own gimmicks in how you go about fighting them.
However, be careful where you engage a dragon, if there are dragons in the area around you, you will have a countdown clock showing how close another dragon is from joining the fight. The fights with dragons are rewarding though, and you never know what to expect when you first encounter them. The game does a good job of not having all of the same kind of dragons in one area, meaning you can’t keep relying on the same method over and over again in certain areas.
Alright now the next big thing about this game is the gameplay. Like I said earlier, the biggest selling point about this game is that you have complete control over your party set up for the game. You get to create your team mates and choose their class and personality (based on their voice) as well. By the end of the game, you will have a total of three teams fighting alongside with you, each team consisting of three team mates. From here, how you want to go about this is really based on your play style. For my main team I had a samurai, an agent and a god hand. A very well-rounded team to start the game out with. The samurai class was good at outputting consistent damage, while the agent was great at debuffing the enemy with her hack abilities, and the god hand was the best damage outputter I could ask for. Later in the game you unlock more classes to choose from such as rune knights (these guys can put out a lot of damage at the cost of their own HP) mages, and so many more.
The best thing you should do is experiment around and see what combinations do your team best. Along with your total of three teams you can have, you can also have three separate units in reserves to switch around for when the going gets tough. I actually kept about two rune knights in my reserves just in case some fights got a bit hairy and I needed to deal some massive damage in unison and buddy attacks. Buddy attacks are attacks you can use when your backup units meter is 2/3 of the way full, this will allow your buddy to attack the monster on your selected characters move. By doing this you can actually debuff an enemy’s stats, which stat that is largely depends on the class of character your buddy is. Not only that, but once you unlock the third team, and everyone has their meter filled up to 2/3 you can perform a Unison attack.
This allows all nine of your team mates to attack in one turn, and it cancels your enemy’s turn as well. You can use these unison attacks to turn the tides of battle in your favor, and they have saved me many times in the past. Sometimes a legitimate strategy is to just survive a powerful boss until you have enough meter built up to perform a unison attack. However this may not always work as you may be forced to use your team mates in other ways. The third thing your backup units are good for is their ability to support you in battle. Once an entire row has at least one bar filled up in their meters they can perform support moves. These moves range from buffing your own defense and attack, to clearing all status ailments to reviving all fallen team mates. This is where creating the best secondary teams comes in handy, as, once again, these support skills can really come in handy in a pinch. I cannot tell you how many times a boss dragon leveled my entire party minus one, but the support skills came in handy and allowed me to revive everyone without wasting a turn.
I should mention there are times later in the game where the game will get tough on you. There are certain boss fights that I believe are designed for you to die on in the first few turns. Thankfully, if you do fall in battle you are able to pick up right at the start of the battle, or at your last save point. Meaning you can take as many risks in battle as you want if you want to start experimenting on different tactics to take down tough foes. I really did appreciate this, while the game was punishing at times, it never became too punishing as being able to start at the beginning of the battle allowed me to rethink my strategy and try again with a different approach. This is truly a game where you will always need to be thinking two to three steps ahead at all times against certain monsters.
Another important part of having good backup teams is because, at certain parts in the game, you and your two other teams are required to split up to cover more ground. This is why it is important to play around with other classes beforehand because once your teams split up you can’t rely on any of their supports until they reconvene later on. I really did enjoy this part. It made Unit 13 feel like a much bigger squad than what it originally was. It also allowed me to try out some different play styles without having to completely reorganize my team. However, it can be a bit tricky getting used to your B team suddenly becoming your main team for a little bit.
Like your standard JRPG, the game has a vast variety of skills for each class of character to learn, these skills have their own different potentials in battle. Some can be purely offensive allowing you to deal out massive damage, and some can be defensive allowing for better survivability. It’s up to you on how you want to balance these kind of play styles out. It is often best not to use your skill points evenly, but to use them all on moves you know you will use quite a lot in battle and will be the best to your team composition. You can use skill points to level up skills through a few different ways, you always gain a certain amount of skill points at the end of each battle, so grinding for skill points becomes just as important as grinding for experience.
You can also get items that provide extra skill points that you get as rewards from quests, or you can get them by spending some time at Meowdens (more on that stuff in a second). I truly liked this mechanic as I was in complete control of how I wanted to compose my team. It allowed me to have two characters of the exact same class, but have two completely separate purposes.
Now hunting dragons is fun and all, but you are working for a multibillion dollar video game corporation. So the question is: what is there to do besides hopping through time and slaying dragons? Well, there is quite a lot to do in the present time. The biggest thing you will be doing when you’re not time hopping is doing quests for Chika, one of the twins who runs the help desk. Here you can perform various side quests, a lot of them even having their own sub stories with the people you rescue on your journey. Here you can also upgrade Nodens to have a vast amount of facilities. To construct these things, you need to use a special currency called DZ, these can only be found by killing dragons. So, if you thought you could get by the game without killing any dragons, you thought wrong. I found myself targeting dragons the most so I can afford all of the upgrades for Nodens. A lot of the main upgrades you have are evac ward for people of the different time zones that you save. You can also use these to help further research and development to unlock better gear and weapons to buy from the other assistant Rika. On top of that, you can build quite a few recreational areas as well such as a skylounge to meet with your fellow team mates, or the cat café Mewodens to help unwind after a long day of dragon hunting.
This game will have quite a lot to do, and I never felt like there was a dull moment. If I got tired of the mundane dragon hunting, I would just return back to Nodens, and accept a few quests from Chika and explore some more of the backstories of the people I rescued from the various time zones. This allows the player to see hands on how he is affecting the people he is saving, it gave me a sense of investment that I was actually making a difference and that I was actually helping people to create a better world. This was the icing on the cake for me, as it gave me a chance to remember why I am fighting all of these dragons, to create a better future for these people.
Visually 7th Dragon is probably one of the best looking 3DS games that I have played so far. Each time period I visit looks extremely well done and fits their themes perfectly. From visiting the undersea palace in Atlantis, to visiting ancient ruins in the future, the design of all the levels are very top notch. Your hub world in the year 2100 also looks really good. The game also runs full in game cut scenes that really add a cinematic level of immersion to certain parts in the story. The sound design for this game is also fantastic. The soundtrack has a lot of memorable tunes that play at appropriate times, and it really does go a long way to set the mood for the scene.
While I have quite a lot of praises for 7th Dragon, there are quite a few issues that I had with the game in my experience playing through it. One of the bigger issues that I had was that the game never gave me a real feel of scale when it came to my progress. There would come a point in the game where I could easily take down a normal dragon in two turns or less, but then when I get to the dungeon’s end boss, I found myself destroyed in a few turns. While one could argue this could play into the games favor as it is forcing you to strategize, I found myself dying more times than not due to very bad RNG. This is more noticeable in the later arcs of the game where even if you do your best to counter what a boss could throw at you, RNG could still dictate the boss monster kills your team. An example of this is that you can use your reserve units in buddy attacks, doing this not only decreases certain stats, but it will also, in theory, break their stat boosts, sparing your team. However, there were many times where this did not happen, and I was relying on this crucial break to spare my team from the dragons wrath, only for it to not affect its stats hardly at all and my team be completely wiped out.
The bright side is that the game does have work-arounds for this with other skills, you can decide if you want to take a turn boosting your teams defense as opposed to dealing out offense, you just have to hope that it won’t be the same turn the dragon wants to do its most powerful attack you were hoping to avoid, as the speed that attack has takes precedence over most other attacks and skills you do.
Overall, 7th Dragon III Code VFD is a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. For a game whose narrative I thought I wouldn’t get invested in, I became really tied up in it, enjoying all of the development of the characters in this game that worked with you towards a common goal. Their struggles felt like they became my struggles, and It made me want to press on, no matter how grim the outcome got, and, let me tell you, it can get grim pretty fast later on. Without spoiling anything for you, all I can say is that the game will start making you question your motives on why you are doing the things that you are doing.
For JRPG enthusiasts looking for a great challenge, and a surprisingly deep yet simple story, I can fully recommend this game to you. This game will have you on your toes, as you plot your way through battle making you think of many different strategies to overcome your foes. And with the many different ways you can play this game, the game truly becomes an example of your destination always being the same, but the path you take to get there can be different each and every time.
+Surprisingly deep story
+Rewarding and deep combat
-Sometimes RNG may hamper your plans