7th Dragon III Code: VFD is the final installment of Sega’s 7th Dragon series, and the first to make its way to American shores. Knowledge of the previous 7th Dragon games isn’t required to enjoy this one, but there are a handful of references and cameos thrown in for long time fans.

7th Dragon III is a dungeon crawling turn based RPG. Players take control of a team of custom characters, and are tasked with completing the Dragon Chronicle, the key to saving the world from the threat of the True Dragons.

Presentation

7th Dragon III isn’t the most amazing looking 3DS game, but it does look pretty nice. Character models are simple and colorful, but their animation does leave a bit to be desired. Environments on the other hand, look really cool. They are vibrant, detailed and colorful, and the game’s liberal use of sweeping camera shots makes them look even better (while also highlighting the game’s complete lack of 3D functionality). From the futuristic city of Tokyo, to a lost underwater kingdom, each of 7th Dragon III’s locales feels very unique.

7th Dragon III has a basic, but fun character creator. There are 32 total appearances to choose from, with each having three color variations. Appearances are also not restricted by class, so if you want to have a little girl as the tank-like Banisher class, you are more than welcome to. There’s also around 40 different Japanese voice actors to choose from, allowing players to make their characters feel truly special.

Overall, 7th Dragon III has a really cool aesthetic, complete with a gorgeous anime art style. It manages to have a big focus on sci-fi (similar to modern Final Fantasy games), while also staying true to the RPG genre’s roots in fantasy. And man does it have an awesome soundtrack! Field themes are catchy, battle themes are intense and there’s even a few J-Pop vocal themes thrown in for good measure.

Story

7th Dragon III’s story is nothing to write home about, but I don’t think it’s particularly bad. The story centers on a young group of heroes who are recruited by the video game company Nodens. Nodens goal is to complete something called the Dragon Chronicle, a tool that has the power to stop the 7th True Dragon, VFD, from destroying the world. In order to complete the Dragon Chronicle, the player forms Unit 13, a group of heroes that travel across time in order to collect data from the other six True Dragons.

Anybody who has ever played an RPG will be see right through this story. It’s a straightforward plot with predictable twists, but I will say that the characters are at least entertaining. They each have memorable personalities, and seeing them interact makes the story (which is told entirely through text boxes) really fun to play through. Special mention to Nagamimi, a foul-mouthed, talking rabbit doll that I think is supposed to poke fun at characters like Teddie from Persona 4.

Although 7th Dragon III’s story is fairly generic, I will say that I really enjoyed the game’s narrative themes. Characters are forced to deal with loss, purpose, identity, and the concept of inevitability. While there are a ton of pretty typical Shonen anime tropes at work (big speeches about will, determination, friendship etc.), if you’re as big of a sucker for that kind of stuff as I am, you’ll feel right at home in the world of 7th Dragon III.

Gameplay

7th Dragon III’s real appeal lies in its excellent gameplay. At first glance, it seems to be a typical turn based RPG, complete with quests, gear and skill points, and it kinda is. Players are allowed to form parties of three playable characters, and six supports, but the game doesn’t do a whole lot to shake up the classic formula of attacking, defending, casting magic and healing.

Where 7h Dragon III really innovates is in its class system. There are eight different classes to choose from (many being unlocked as the story progresses), and each of them feels wholly unique from not only each other, but also classes from other RPGs.

While 7th Dragon III does feature familiar classes such as the Samurai, Mage and Fortuner, the rest of the class choices will feel new for many long time RPG fans. God Hands have some of the best damage output in the game, and can also provide some of the best healing, buffs and debuffs. Duelists (obviously based on card games like Yugioh) are a magic based class that use a deck of cards to summon monsters, set up field spells and lay traps.

Every class has their own set of tools and tricks, and learning what classes pair up best is a ton of fun. One of the cooler things about the classes is that each class requires a bit of micromanaging in combat. God Hands inflict opponents with G Counters, allowing them to perform stronger attacks. Duelists rely on cards, Banishers need a steady supply of bombs and Agents have to hack enemies in order to inflict heavy damage and status ailments. Even the Samurai, one of the more traditional classes, can focus on either Single Blade or Dual Wield stances, with each having their own unique skills. This level of variety and player choice adds many layers to combat.

My one major complaint about the class system comes with the Agent and Fortuner classes. Both of these classes focus on status ailments, meaning that they are almost completely useless against bosses. While both classes can fall back on their ally support skills, it’s definitely worth noting that these two were my least favorite, and were always on my back up squad.

Speaking of back up squads, 7th Dragon III allows players to form two additional teams to assist the main team. During combat, these support teams can inflict buffs, debuffs and even attack. At certain points in the story, the player will be forced to take control of the back up teams, so it is imperative that these teams are just as capable in combat as the primary one.

As the name implies, 7th Dragon III has a large focus on dragons. While High Dragons and True Dragons function as the primary bosses of the game, there are also hundreds of smaller dragons strewn across the various dungeons. I wouldn’t quite call these dragons mini bosses, rather, they are more like high powered mooks. These dragons can give lax players a serious run for their money, as they can deal really heavy damage. Hunting dragons is a core component of 7th Dragon III’s story and gameplay, and defeating them yields great rewards.

The biggest criticism I can give to 7th Dragon III is its low difficulty. With the exception of the final boss and the post game dungeon, most boss encounters are not threatening at all (especially after the player is given access to EX Skills). This is mainly due to how powerful some of the classes are.

I said before that mixing and matching classes is a ton of fun, and it really is. But the game never requires the player to switch up their strategy in order to succeed. The game is also fairly linear, with most points of interest being marked on the player’s map. This doesn’t mean that the game is completely devoid of exploration, but it is incredibly streamlined.

My favorite aspect of 7th Dragon III is the freedom of player choice. From the character creator, to the choice of different classes, I really felt like my Unit 13 was unique. And I especially love the skill system! Skill trees are one of my favorite parts of any RPG, as I love being able to decide how my characters will grow and evolve.

The best part about 7th Dragon III is what many people call the “gameplay loop”. This essentially means that 7th Dragon III has a great sense of rhythm and flow. Defeating dragons gives the player experience points, skill points, money and DZ, a secondary form of currency that allows the player to build and expand Nodens. Expanding Nodens leads to more quests and better gear, which leads to being able to defeat stronger dragons, thus gaining stronger skills. This made 7th Dragon III a game I never wanted to put down, as I got a huge kick out of seeing my characters grow.

Verdict

7th Dragon III ended up being one of the most fun games I’ve played this year, and definitely the most surprising. While the story isn’t anything too groundbreaking, the super fun turn based combat, and the incredibly addicting gameplay loop made me never want to put down my 3DS. The main campaign clocks in at around 30 hours, but there’s plenty of stuff to do after the credits roll such as hunting the remaining dragons, completing quests, collecting EX Skills and of course, the secret dungeon.

The 3DS has no shortage of excellent RPGs to choose from, but I’d personally like to throw my bid in for 7th Dragon III. I’d highly recommend it to anybody who wants to experience a Japanese styled RPG for the first time, or even genre veterans that simply need to satiate a craving. And seriously, the soundtrack is great stuff!

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