Game Info:

7th Dragon III Code: VFD
Developed by: Sega
Published by: Sega
Release date: July 12, 2016 
Available on: 3DS
Genre: JRPG
Number of Players: Single-Player
ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes)
Price: $39.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Sega for sending us this game to review.

7th Dragon is a Japanese exclusive series that has enjoyed success on the original DS, and later with sequels on the PSP. For those of us in the West, we never got to experience these games. This is most likely due to the large amount of translation work required. Now, the rest of the world will be able to experience the last game in the series.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD takes place 80 years after the first two games. In 2020 and 2021, Tokyo was attacked by two powerful dragons - known as True Dragons - and since those events humanity has strived to rebuild itself. This new age was called the United Era, with dragons thought to be extinct. However, the dragons left behind a deadly miasma on the Earth's surface. This quickly spread and became known as Dragon Sickness. Even though the dragons are gone, humanity still suffers, continuing to try to find a cure. In these difficult times, a game company called Nodens has created a virtual reality simulation of the dragon invasion of 2020. This game would be known as 7th Encount. It quickly attracted many young gamers to Tokyo to take part in such a  transcendental experience. Ominous events loom ahead though, and the past is about to become the future.

From the start, we're tasked with choosing a main character from one of four classes. The Samurai are skilled swordsman that can choose between swords and dual blades. Swords can be sheathed and unsheathed, allowing the samurai to gain access to different skills. Dual blades focus on quick attacks and multiple strikes. Agents are special ops units that use guns and possess high-level hacking skills, perfect for confusing enemies. God Hands are martial art fighters that excel in one-on-one combat. They inflict God Depth on enemies which allows strong skills to be used in battles. They also have access to healing techniques. The last of the starting classes to choose from is the Duelist. These characters use a special playing card deck to summon monsters and play traps. Traps activate when the Duelist is hit physically or with magic, and can cause damage as well as inflict statuses. Each class can be a male or a female, and there are over 40 different voice actors to choose from to voice your character. This was unexpected, and even though I don't know who they are, it was a nice option to choose between so many voices.

The story follows the struggles of the Dragon Hunters, and the impending arrival of the 7th True Dragon. Hunters are extremely rare and powerful humans with the power to kill dragons. Julietta, an incredibly intelligent researcher, has strived to gather samples of all the True Dragons in an attempt to complete the Dragon Chronicles. With it, it is said that the dragon sickness can be completed eradicated. This sets up the motives of the player to defeat every dragon and save humanity once again. Through the use of Julietta's time machine, the Hunters will travel to three distinct eras. The first being the mythical kingdom of Atlantis, the next being the futuristic capital of the land of Eden, and finally the ability to return to present-day Tokyo.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD

Strong Points: Wonderful storyline; Graphics and animations are fantastic; Music is phenomenal; The battle system is a refreshing take on the turn-based system; You can build a cat café.
Weak Points: 3D was not used at all; Unnecessary sexualized character dialogue; Battles can become repetitious.
Moral Warnings: Some of the female artwork for main characters shows a lot of cleavage; An incredible amount of sexual innuendo forced onto the player; Alcohol consumption; There's an excessive amount of cursing (everything but the F word.)

7th Dragon III has one of the more interesting turn-based battle systems I've seen in a long time. There's a huge focus on combining attacks and skills with each of the team members to increase damage output. Statuses and attacks that rely on other skills from fellow party members are extremely satisfying to pull off one turn kills on the lower dragons. Setting up a defensive approach that suddenly becomes an offensive onslaught due to underlying effects is something I'd never seen implemented in an RPG before. It is also critical that one masters the combo attacks and status effects as True Dragons will not be easy prey, and often will wipe a party out in one turn. 

There are three types of dragons to deal with. Normal dragons will wander around the dungeon just like you do. When they see you they will run after you to initiate a battle. These guys aren't too difficult to handle, but if you take too long to defeat one and there are other dragons around, they will jump into the current fight you're in. Alway be sure to deal with each dragon as quickly and as efficiently as possible to avoid getting overwhelmed. High Dragons are considerably more powerful, and will require more planning to take down than a normal dragon. Lastly are True Dragons. These are the most powerful creatures in the game. Defeating one will bring the Dragon Chronicles closer to completion.

In total, there are 256 dragons that need to be slain. This number is ever present, and each location that can be traveled to will have a set number of dragons inhabiting it. Once they're all cleared, the Dragonsbane will lift. Dragonsbane are flowers that contain the deadly miasma. These flowers bloom only where dragons are found. Clearing it is essential in saving humanity. Defeating dragons will reward the player with 'DZ'. This is a type of currency that allows new facilities to be added to the Nodens building. Some of these areas will be needed to progress the story, but some serve as a place to relax, like the cat café. Although, even once every facility is built and NPCs inhabit them, Nodens can still feel slightly empty. A part of me wished that areas could be explored more, as every area is extremely confined and linear. Coupled with the fact that areas of the map are extremely small, meant that exploring was relegated to dungeons. 

At two certain points in the game more characters can be registered, and Buddy Skills will become available. Every turn that passes in battle, one of three bars will fill underneath the characters not in the main party. These characters are referred to as rear team members. Pressing their icon when they have at least one bar filled will allow them to attack before you and inflict a guaranteed debuff on the enemy. When all three characters have at least two bars filled, sliding the stylus across them will activate Support Skills. These usually gives the main team buffs, a small amount of healing, or the revival of fallen teammates. When at least two bars are filled on all six of the rear team members, Unison can be activated. Sliding the stylus across each member will allow all nine characters to perform one attack each. This can result in huge amounts of damage or inflicting multiple debuffs on an enemy.

Another useful mechanic in the game is the Exhaust Gauge. Every time you attack and are attacked, the gauge gradually fills. Once filled, Exhaust can be activated which will increase damage output as well as give attacking priority to that character. The gauge will have another use about half way through the game. Using Exhaust will allow a character to perform their ultimate attack. These are powerful skills that can either deal large amounts of damage, or produce a powerful healing spell. There's an abundance of random encounters, so maintaining a filled gauge is never an issue.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 90%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 65%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 3.5/10
Sexual Content - 4.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Visually, this title is a real eye pleaser. Monsters are beautifully designed. The normal dragons could have been more unique, as the same few dragons are repeated throughout the game, albeit with a palette swap. Although, some of these dragons are vicious and well programmed, which made it slightly forgiveable. The True Dragons and High Dragons are all unique and look beyond ferocious. World environments get the job done and do well to bring the eras of time the characters are in to life. I do wish that 3D could have been used in the cutscenes or at least the intro. Overall, the environments look great and are actually quite stunning. I often found myself amazed at what was on my screen.

The music is fantastic. Every track fits perfectly with the areas they play in. This should come as no surprise since Yuzo Koshiro is the composer. Often regarded as the most influential composer in the industry, his tracks for the 7th Dragon series are memorable and masterfully arranged. Voice acting is left to small phrases spoken in Japanese which is a slight letdown. With all the talent on board, it seemed strange not to take more advantage of that in the game.

Morally, this is really pushing the T rating. Nagamimi, the strange rabbit-like alien, curses in nearly every scene he appears in. This could have been toned down as it doesn't add anything to his conversations. As there's a bar on the roof of Nodens, alcohol is mentioned as being consumed. Violence is an obvious warning as this is an RPG. Some cutscenes are quite graphic though. My biggest moral issue is how some of the female characters are designed. Character models in-game all have a chibi appearance. So why are the females revealing unnecessary amounts of cleavage on the menu screens? You'd never even guess the character you're playing is the same one depicted on the menu, as the art styles are so different. 7th Dragon also encourages the main character to go on dates with other characters in the game. These end in very suggestive scenes with no concern for the genders of either character. So male characters can go on a date with other male characters, and vice versa. Unfortunately, all the dates will pretty much end the same way.

At the end of the day, this is an amazing RPG. There's a surprising amount of character customization, and replaying after you beat the game is encouraged. I spent 40+ hours on my first run through, completely mesmerized by the story. I haven't felt compelled to finish a game in a long time, and 7th Dragon III was worth every second it took to complete. If you are fine with the moral choices this game makes I highly recommend picking it up. We'll never see the Dragon Hunters again after this one.



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