This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dragon Quest, and while the series has consistently been one to the best-selling ever in its native Japan, that hasn’t always been the case overseas. In North America, Dragon Quest has had its ups and downs, with the last five years seeing virtually no Dragon Quest title localized for Western audiences. But that’s changing this year with the long overdue release of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past on the Nintendo 3DS. And I had a chance to finally play the English language version of Dragon Quest VII at San Diego Comic-Con 2016.
In case you missed it back on the original PlayStation when it was Dragon Warrior VII, Fragments of the Forgotten Past is arguably the most epic entry in the RPG franchise. You play as a humble young fisherman who sets out on an adventure, though there doesn't seem to be much chance for adventure when his world is just a single island in the middle of an endless ocean. But he and his friends Maribel, Kiefer, and will find out there's much more to the world than it seems.
Dragon Quest VII is a sprawling tale that involves time travel and tons of dungeon crawling, along with a good deal of battles against Dragon Quest's silly-looking bestiary, as I found out exploring the small section of the game playable at Comic-Con 2016. The team is investigating a strange mist that seems to be spreading disease and death all around this small island, all while some mysterious character is getting townspeople convinced that they need to chop down the mythical World Tree that's supposed to protect them.
After a brief chat with the town's mayor before he slips into a coma, I take my team out into the world and head to the World Tree. When I'm out in the overworld, it's easy to see how much the game has changed from is PlayStation roots. Instead of pixelated heroes in a dark, polygonal backdrop, the entire world and characters are rendered in 3D, similar to the approach in Dragon Quest VIII. Even enemies as silly as a Weartiger look great when they spawn on the field, though be prepared to fight if they actually run into you.
Once the team finally got to the tree, it was time to confront the confused townsfolk and the cloaked figure that was leading them to attack the World Tree. The stranger isn't ready to give up control, so we battle him into submission in a very tense fight that only one of my three team members survived. This was the end of the demo, and let this be a lesson that no matter how cute Dragon Quest VII looks, you shouldn't underestimate how challenging it can get.
That brief taste at Comic-Con has got me itching to put dozens of hours into the full game on the Nintendo 3DS. I'll finally have my chance when Dragon Quest VII hits store September 16.