Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is a true classic in every sense of the word. Steeped in a rich 30-year history, this Nintendo 3DS exclusive remake becomes available to western audiences thanks to a concerted localisation effort on Nintendo’s part.
Once released on PlayStation under the banner Dragon Warrior VII, Square Enix has once again recruited ArtePiazza to their party to reimagine an adventure plucked from their past.
With experience in bringing Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation to Nintendo DS, it will hardly come as a surprise that the result is sensational by all accounts.
Fragments of the Forgotten Past weaves its whimsical tale around Auster and Prince Kiefer, who, unendingly bored with their peaceful lives, set out to dispel the belief that Estard is the only island in the world. When their hunt for the truth leads them to the Shrine of Awakening, an ancient site where a purple fairy reveals that mystical stone tablets can open portals to the distant past.
That largely propels this intently memorable quest, as your courageous party journeys back in time where they uncover long-forgotten secrets. After arriving on unknown islands your party explores their confines, locating nearby villages and identifying whatever troubles plague the townsfolk. These range from lingering curses to the risk of apocalyptic destruction, and each separate island presents its own self-contained story.
It easily makes the experience a perfect fit for Nintendo 3DS seeing as each island can be cleared in a few hours, with each bite-sized quest’s completion rewarding players with a tablet fragment that will help to unlock lost continents. As a hook it works well, spurring players to discover what adventures await them as the wider narrative continues to unravel.
Those worried that they may lose their way can turn to an information menu, which covers the story so far, recent developments, and lists collected tablet fragments while hinting at where the next is located. This proves invaluable in an adventure with such epic scale, handily pointing you in the right direction as well as breaking down what’s happened if you return to the game after an unexpected break.
Making your quest more treacherous at every turn are monsters that visibly maraud around the map, and who will chase players down on sight. Often a struggle to evade, clashing with these enemies will transition you into turn-based battle instances. The flow here will be familiar to battle-hardened RPG aficionados, with players commanding their party members in turn whether to attack, defend, cast magic, or use recovery items.
Levelling up your party is necessary to learn new spells and abilities, with more potent weapons and sturdier armour helping you to vanquish foes. Along with this players can choose from more than 50 Vocations for their party members to enrol in, whether that be the Warrior that specialises in bladed weapons, the Sailor that calls on sea-themed abilities, or the woollen Shepherd that can support the rest of the party.
Each Vocation is packed with character thanks to the costumes that they require your heroes to wear, but, more importantly, they open up far broader strategies to approaching battles. Playing around with and balancing your team’s vocations is a level of complexity that genre fans will certainly enjoy, considering how the roles in which they can specialise can compliment one another. Special items can also result in your party having the chance to fight as 34 monsters, fulfilling their dream of charging into battle as an iconic Slime.
Fragments of the Forgotten Past isn’t free from criticism, especially arriving after witnessing the forward-thinking approach seen in Silicon Studio’s Bravely Default. Confined by the original vision it can certainly feel a more aged experience in comparison, even if that is perhaps to be expected. It is the pacing that frustrates most, a slow start to your newfound quest hampered throughout its duration by text windows and menus that are as equally lethargic to trawl. That’s more worrisome in battles, which are regrettably elongated by such cumbersome implementation.
With a colourful cast of characters penned by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, it is the enemy designs that never fail to raise a smile – the Woebergine being an early favourite. Sadly that bountiful charm isn’t matched by the soundtrack composed by Koichi Sugiyama which loops and meanders, failing to capture the thrill of adventure and whose melodies never lingered in my memory for long.
You will have chance to sink plenty of time into Fragments of the Forgotten Past, but, for those that wish to do so, monsters can be befriended and collected in the Monster Meadow. Here, players can send them on scouting missions into special caves where they can discover traveller’s tablets that unlock special dungeons.
Exclusive tablets will also be distributed online, lending a chance to take on more potent monsters to secure rare weapons. While StreetPass will let you share tablets with players that you wander past.
Fragments of the Forgotten Past thrives in its adventurous spirit, an unforgettable quest that finds strength in the memorable collection of short tales that the player becomes part of.