7th Dragon III: VFD Plot, developed and published by SEGA is, without surprise, an immensely popular JRPG franchise over in Japan.
Despite 7th Dragon III: VFD Plot being the final chapter in the 7th Dragon story, it is the first that is being brought over to us JRPG fans here in the west…This does, as one would expect, bring aboard a whole slew of transitional errors from jumping straight to the final arcs of a multi-era story filled to the brim with compelling characters, locations and plot threads; in a way, this jarring jump reminded me a lot of how Kingdom Hearts handled its’ transition between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 when players missed out Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories.
7th Dragon as a franchise began with 2009’s 7th Dragon for the Nintendo DS. 7th Dragon, developed by the now derelict studio Imageepoch, was succeeded shortly after by a duo of PSP spinoffs, 7th Dragon 2020 and 2020-II. This leads us to 7th Dragon III, which is the fourth (And final) game in this series.
“So what the heck does the VFD Plot mean?!” I hear you cry. VFD refers to the leader of seven divine elder dragons, whom is said that, once awakening, is to bring upon the end of the world. It’s up to the player’s avatar, and their crackpot team of allies to travel through different time periods in a similar way to Chrono Trigger, taking out the other six divine dragons of this order in a scheme to complete the Dragon Chronicle, humanity’s last hope.
So what about the game itself? How does it hold up on its’ own merits? Well, to begin for one, the character customisation is, without a doubt, some of the absolute best and most varied I’ve ever seen in a JRPG – Every single member of your 4-slot party can be cherry picked from four differing combat classes (8 in total unlockable), with an impressive initial 16 base designs (24 I believe is the total unlockable), 6 alternative colour pallets, and 40 voice actors to choose from, you end up with 96 basic character designs you can choose from right from the get go, and that’s BEFORE choosing their voice. Once you’ve unlocked everything, you have a whopping 46,080 unique characters you can create.
…Yes, I did the math.
(8 x 24 x 6 x 40 – Don’t quote me on it!!)
…And, whilst the mixtures are minimal at best, it’s amazing to see a 3DS game with this much of a hand in player creativity. This is paired by the brilliant character portraits and environments, which all come to life – Animations are fluid and run at good frame rates too, despite a slight lack of graphical quality. This would be my only quirk with the game, as it looks like there was some issue in how the game was rendered on the 3DS, leaving 3D character models looking a bit…Jaggy.
The gameplay itself starts out extremely strong with a standard adaption of Persona Q or Etrian Oddysey, with turn-based action RPG gameplay melded with a typical Final Fantasy dungeon view as seen in something like Final Fantasy IV’s remake on the Nintendo DS. Dragons serve as this game’s equivalent to FOEs seen in Persona Q and Etrian Oddysey, which roam dungeon floors looking for hapless travellers and treasure hunters alike to feast upon – Dragons are a little bit more unique than your run-of-the-mill enemies in the essence that they can, and rather unfairly, commit to two actions per turn as opposed to just one – During my first encounter with one of these winged beasts, my team got absolutely obliterated by powerful abilities being spammed left and right – This did create a bit of a disillusion with me, as it seemed like a rather large difficulty spike, however I’m sure that it is something that will even itself out across the rest of the game.
Music is another big part of the 7th Dragon franchise, and 7th Dragon III: VFD Code is no different in this regard, with the game having a distinct, futuristic, techno / epic vibe to it that parallels well against the pop-rock style of Persona, and the fantasy-esque tracks of Etrian Oddysey, and helps to give 7th Dragon III a dashing of its’ own personality. Take a listen to a few of the tracks below!! I’ve even been finding myself listening to the soundtrack at work due to how addicting it is.
However, this game does come with its’ negatives – Possibly the two biggest being the complete lack of an English voice acting cast, and the other being just how starkly identical the title is to the compared Persona Q and Etrian Odyssey games. Practically nothing has changed from these two franchises, and given that they both now sit under SEGA’s overarching belt through Atlus, it would be easy to see this as a future-set, time-travelling cousin of Etrian Odyssey. The gameplay, character designs (Whilst still very strong), dungeon design and challenge is all here from Etrian, and it shows through the mask they’ve put ontop of the same old formulas. I also mentioned that, despite there being a whopping 40 voice actors for JUST your characters alone, there isn’t any form of English voice settings or dub. Whilst I don’t exactly see this as a decision-impacting issue, it still would’ve been good to have that option of dual-audio at least.
Despite these flaws, however, 7th Dragon III: Code VFD proves to be yet another star-studded JRPG to add to your 3DS collection – Filled to the brim with a lengthy 50-70 hour Story Mode, varied and interesting dungeons and locales, and more compelling characters than you can shake a stick at, 7th Dragon III: Code VFD certainly delivers.
I would rate 7th Dragon III: Code VFD an 8.5 / 10.