I hope I’m not the only person who looked at a title like 7th Dragon III: Code VFD and went, “Hoo boy. We’re in for some serious Anime Nonsense™, aren’t we?” Now, that’s not necessarily a qualitative statement — I proudly declared in my Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness review that I consider myself “anime trash,” after all — but needless to say, I admit I wasn’t expecting a game as polished and downright fun as 7th Dragon really is.
Filled to the brim with fun, unique characters, and boasting a surprisingly unique combat system, Sega’s turn-based RPG made me wish the other games in the series had been (or will be!) localized for a Western release. I didn’t know what I’d been missing!
At its core, 7th Dragon III is about Nodens Enterprises, a game-publishing corporation in Tokyo that takes on the extra duty of fighting dragons in its spare time. You put together a party of mostly-mute protagonists using a simple character creation system, then take them out to be the company’s top team of dragon-slaying experts. Though, while you wouldn’t necessarily expect a game with customizable party members to be full of personality, there’s actually a great cast of NPCs — both at Nodens and in the world at large — that keep things energetic, interesting and humorous.
You’ll get to know these folks quite well as your adventure goes on, and you can take things even further with “date” scenes that give you a closer look at your pals (sometimes a much closer look, if you know what I mean). And yes, these scenes can be experienced regardless of the gender of your lead character and the NPC in question; thanks, Sega. As a whole, the story’s a great mix of action, comedy and drama that I think a lot of people will really enjoy, and I found myself happy to revisit the cast every time I popped open my 3DS.
As for the game’s main draws, combat and exploration, the first word that comes to mind is “addictive.” With eight character classes to choose from, and a number of different skills to learn for each class, there’s plenty of variety to keep you busy here. Plus, these aren’t just your standard warriors and black mages — 7th Dragon III has some truly original creations like “God Hands,” who combine martial arts with healing abilities, and “Duelists,” who use a deck of colored cards to summon traps and creatures.
Though the turn-based battles are fairly straightforward, the different ways the classes’ move sets work reminded me a little bit of Final Fantasy VI’s varied party. Using the aforementioned examples, God Hands can set up combos across a number of turns by picking different moves in succession (first starting with a weak Jab and then moving on to other, more devastating punches with added effects, for example), while Duelists actually draw from a deck of colored cards and “play” from their onscreen hands (adding an exciting element of luck to every battle).
Of course, there’s plenty to do outside of battle, as well. Exploring the different kingdoms of 7th Dragon III’s world is a magical experience; not only are the worlds colorful and awash in gorgeous details, they’re also full of interesting NPCs to talk to, optional dragons to battle and treasures to collect. Plus, once you’re back at Nodens, you’ve got even more options: you can play the optional dating scenes I mentioned before, take on quests to help out your fellow employees, or use special currency to add more rooms and facilities to the building itself. All of this adds up to a very satisfying and deep experience with hours and hours of content — and thankfully, unlike some other games that artificially pad out the experience, I actually felt compelled and interested through everything I did.
I’ve already highlighted the beauty of this game’s maps, but all of the presentation is excellent. Shirow Mira’s character designs are downright adorable — I melted every time I saw either Eigur or Julietta (don’t judge me!) — and composer Yuzo Kushiro’s score is full of infectious electronic energy. Plus, the user interface makes sorting through all the moves, places and characters an easy and intuitive process; I don’t feel like UI often gets addressed in games nowadays, but suffice it to say, sifting through all this game’s information would be a nightmare if it weren’t so well-designed.
7th Dragon III: Code VFD has easily become one of my favorite 3DS titles. A warm, hilarious cast of characters, alongside some truly addictive gameplay, make this one a real treat. Players who enjoyed the other big JRPG hits on Nintendo’s portable should make this their next priority — and once they’re done, I’m willing to bet we’ll see more than a few people clamoring for the series’ previous instalments to get remade and localized.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS exclusive, which we were provided with.
Bursting with charming characters, gorgeous fantasy worlds and addictive turn-based combat, 7th Dragon III: Code VFD makes me wonder why Western gamers didn't see this series sooner.