If you’re unfamiliar with the 7th Dragon franchise, you’d be forgiven. None of the previous entries have been localized for the North American audience. Sega has seen enough potential in this newest entry to release it in our market despite it being the fourth game in the series, and our first. From what I’ve played of it thus far, I’m happy they are.
7th Dragon III Code: VFD is a turn-based Japanese RPG that is set in a distant future, or if you’ve imported and played the previous games, about 80 years after the events in 2020. Tokyo has since recovered from the attacks of the True Dragons, with the epic battles fading into distant memory. Unfortunately, the dragons have cursed the land with a toxin, which has led to the Dragon Sickness. This disease is ravaging the peace-loving people with no cure in sight.
Now a gaming company in Tokyo, Nodens, has developed an interactive fighting simulation game called 7th Encount, based on the dragon invasions of the prior two games. Many gamers have flocked to the city to give it a try and to battle it out to see who is the best. Your character decides to try it out and performs at extraordinary levels, catching the attention of the dragon hunters, who are in desperate need of capable recruits because, as luck would have it, the dragons have returned to destroy civilization. It will be up to you, and your team, to hunt down the invading dragons in order to save the planet.
At the beginning of the game you will need to create your character. You will be able to pick its class, gender, and design. The same goes for your party members as well. The customization is fairly light, with only a couple of options for styles and appearance, and a handful of voice options. The most important choice you will make is what class you want your characters to be, as you’ll be locked into this decision until you progress past level 30. Your party group will consist of three total members, although that will increase later in your adventures.
The classes you select will determine everything about that character, from its offense and defense to its skills and attacks. At the start of the game you’ll have access to four different classes, and four more will open up as the game progresses. The initial choices are: Samurai, Agent, Duelist, and God Hand. Each has wildly different attacks and systems. For my party I went with a Samurai, an Agent, and a God Hand.
The Duelist looked fun to me, but seemed like it might be somewhat complex and a class I might visit later on in the game. He or she uses trading cards to attack, bringing monsters to life to fight for them. The Duelists will need to have specific cards in their hands to use corresponding skills. This sounds like a fun way to battle, but also a little daunting. I’m looking forward to experimenting with the class soon.
The Samurai is a starter character that is probably one of the most well balanced as he or she has good offensive and defensive attributes. Two weapon types can be used: swords and dual blades. When using a sword, fighting stances can be changed to utilize different skills in combat. Thanks to these options, you’ll have a variety of skills at your disposal to take on all sorts of enemy types. So far, I’m very happy with this choice.
The Agent sounds really cool because of his or her hacking abilities. If an enemy succumbs to the hack, on the next turn more skills can be unleashed to cause havoc, such as manipulating the hacked enemies to turn on one another and fight for you. In my early time with the game I found this ability to often miss, thus wasting a turn. Thankfully the access to guns as the primary weapon helps offset this shortcoming, but so far he’s the weakest member of my party.
The God Hand is a pretty cool class to mess around with. The skill attack power ramps up turn after turn as you pummel the enemy with an ever-growing set of attacks. For example, in order to use a mid-tier skill attack, you first have to land a low-level skill attack. You build up these attacks so that every turn you continue to deal more and more damage. This is great against difficult enemies and boss characters. If you happen to have more than one God Hand in your party, they can feed off one another’s successful attacks, so you can quickly ramp up the damage. So far I really enjoy having this class in my party.
Battles are very similar to those seen in traditional turn-based RPGs. You can take as much time as you like on your turn to decide what action each party member will take. In addition to the traditional fight, guard, and use an item options, you can also use skills that you’ve learned to unleash magical attacks. As the battles progress, your exhaust gage will fill up. Once full, you can select the Exhaust command on your turn to unleash a stronger action. There is also and Exhaust Skill that will only appear once the exhaust gauge has filled up, which will allow for massive attacks, or if you’re choosing a healing skill, it will offer up some much-needed aid. It’s also possible to gain an extra turn in battling by utilizing React abilities. The battle system really becomes deeper the more you play, with new strategies presenting themselves as new skills are learned.
The story in the game so far is pretty good and the dialog is fun to read. I like the futuristic setting, although you will be traveling through time so that does change things up. The graphics are pretty average for a 3DS game, and I’m not happy that there isn’t any 3D at all in the game. I really like to play with the 3D effects turned up in my games, so it was disappointing to see it completely omitted. On the brighter side, the soundtrack is pretty amazing so far. I’m really digging the music in the game, and it gave me a little bit of a Phantasy Star Online vibe. The masterful Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage, Actraiser, and many more) composed the soundtrack, so if you’re a fan of his work (like I am), you’re in for a treat.
I’m still fairly early on in the game (about ten hours), but I plan on playing all through June to be done in time for a full review when the game launches on July 12. My early impressions are pretty positive, as the game is unique enough to set itself apart from many other JRPGs out there. If you have any questions about the game, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer them.