7th Dragon III Code:VFD Review
Despite the 'III' in the title, 7th Dragon III Code:VFD is the 4th game in Imagepoch's 7th Dragon series. Sega took over the development and release of the game after Imageepoch went bankrupt, much like they did with Stella Glow. Starting with '7th Dragon' on the DS, this series then hopped over to the PSP for the second and third entries, 7th Dragon 2020 and 7th Dragon 2020-II. Coming back to Nintendo's side of the fence on the 3DS, Code:VFD keeps a similar style to the 2020 games that preceded it.
Set in A.D. 2100 Tokyo, 7th Dragon III takes place 80 years after dragons decimated the human population in the previous two games. Recovery has been going well, but lately there have been signs that another huge dragon invasion is about to begin. While the International Self-Defense Force (ISDF) readies their military forces to hold off the impending attack, the wealthy 'Nodens' corporation has a different plan. While Nodens is publicly a video game company, their real objective is to find people with special powers, 'dragon hunters' who can stand up to the dragons like they did back in 2020 and 2021. To accomplish that, they designed their famous and popular '7th Encounter' virtual reality experience that simulates the most recent dragon invasion in 2021, and they monitor players looking for people who show signs of having so-called S-rank supernatural dragon hunting abilities. The game's protagonist and team are people scouted by Nodens Corporation to form their elite anti-dragon strike unit, 'Squad 13'.
In order to hold back the imminent invasion of VFD, the '7th Dragon', Nodens has developed a time machine, and wants the player's team to travel through time and battle the other dragons that invaded Earth throughout history to gather samples from them. These samples hold the key to deciphering the mysterious 'Dragon Chronicle', a relic they hope will allow them to defeat the 7th Dragon. Your team will travel between Tokyo (2100 A.D.), the lost city of Atlantis (10000 B.C.), and 'Eden' (7200 A.D.) to battle the dragon leaders from each time period and also recruit warriors worthy of joining our dragon-hunting Squad 13. The eccentric executives of Nodens Corporation will help guide you on your adventure, along with a sickly girl named Mio who was scouted at the same time as the player as a 'Navigator' (basically, a radio support and info processing role). Along the way, we'll learn about the past and the future, the nature of dragons and the universe, slippery issues with time travel and a lot more.
Like a lot of dungeon crawler style RPGs, this game's protagonist and team are all created by the player. You can select your appearance, gender and character class, along with those of your team members. There are a rich variety of character portraits and styles to choose from - you'll be limited to only the 'Tokyo Style' portraits and character classes at first, but as you travel to the past and future you'll unlock new appearances and classes to play with. Each team has 3 characters, and eventually you will be able to bring 3 different teams out of base with you at a time for a total of 9 characters. There are a total of 8 different character classes, each with their own skills to customize for different playstyles. The classes range from staples of RPGs like Samurai and Mage, to unusual ones such as Banisher and Duelist (think Yu-Gi-Oh card-battlers). Figuring out good combinations of classes is one of the game's most entertaining things to do, since a lot of them have abilities with synergize well with other jobs. Another high point for this game is that it doesn't have to simply be a 'use your strongest buffs, nukes, and heal when your health gets low' affair - some classes like Fortuner and Agent work heavily off of enemy debuffs. It's pretty rare for an RPG to get debuffs right, in most games it's not worth it to bother investing in poison, paralyze, etc. because small-fry are easier to just kill with direct damage and bosses are immune. Not so in 7th Dragon, even the mightiest bosses are vulnerable to debuffs and bad status effects, so a variety of different play styles can shine.
I mentioned earlier that the character creation is similar to DRPGs, but 7th Dragon itself is not a traditional dungeon crawler. Your characters roam on maps in overhead third-person view, and although the basic battle screen doesn't display your characters, every time you use an attack or a skill the camera will cut to the character using it and show them attacking. It's not like many DRPGs where you just see flashes and special effects on the screen. The character attack animations are neat to look at, but short enough that you won't get tired of looking at them or feel like skipping them. Even better, the character models for your team all look like your portraits you chose in the character menu. With 32 character models to choose from (and 3 color palettes for each model) the level of customization available is pretty impressive. Also worth noting is that you can choose each character's voice actor, and there is a very nice lineup of popular Japanese voice actors to choose from. With so many choices, it's hard to pick just 3 characters, which is why being able to take two backup squads with you is nice - all 9 characters gain EXP and SP from battles including the 6 in reserve, and you can swap teams outside of battle at any time to switch things up or give one team a rest. The reserve squads can also provide limited assistance to the front squad in the form of assist attacks, buffs, and more.
As far as the story goes, don't expect much. It's unfortunate, but I thought it was really, really bad. To be fair, time travel is tricky stuff and it's hard to write a story that does it well, but 7th Dragon just doesn't do a good job of making a compelling narrative and it falls apart pretty badly especially in the last half. It doesn't help that your main character is mostly silent (only speaking in occasional popup question prompts) and the concept of your main character and of the entirety of 'Squad 13' tend to be used interchangeably at times, leading to some awkward dialogue and scenes where some NPC wants to have a heart-to-heart conversation with you but you've got your two other party members standing behind your back in the scene making it feel a bit silly. The game also comes with a date system where you can have your characters go on dates either with each other or with certain NPCs, and these suffer the usual problems of having a silent, fully customizable protagonist. Basically, you will need to fill in a lot of blanks with your imagination if you want to really buy into what the game is selling, which is that you and your squad are heroic and elite dragon hunters. If you want a JRPG primarily for the story, this game is definitely not the one you're looking for. It's worth mentioning that despite the wealth of voice actors that you can choose to do your characters' battle lines, 99% of the game's main story dialogue is unvoiced.
While experimenting with different class combinations is a lot of fun, there are a lot of extremely overpowered teams you can make, and if you discover one you may want to try mixing things up to maintain a sense of challenge. 7th Dragon III is not a particularly difficult game, especially if you abuse the more powerful classes and combinations. There is no need to look up guides until maybe the extra post-game bosses (and even then, not really, I regret doing it), and I think the game is better enjoyed by experimenting with a lot of different teams instead of just finding one strong one and using it the whole time. The system is very accommodating about letting you experiment - it's cheap to reset your skill points and change classes back at base, and you have 9 characters constantly gaining EXP and SP, so take full advantage of it to try out new teams. Basically, the game's main weak points are its story and how easy it is to trivialize the game's difficulty with a good team.
The music in 7th Dragon III deserves special mention. It's very catchy, almost all of the battle themes are pleasant to listen to and if you like voice-synth heavy stuff there are some nice vocal boss battle themes too. This game does not make use of the 3DS' 3D functionality at all - I don't particularly care about that, but some might. The main game clocks in around 35-45 hours, with post-game content that might occupy you for another 5. If you don't care too much about story and you like the game's style, I recommend checking out 7th Dragon III Code:VFD. It's a fun and stylish JRPG and I enjoyed it despite some shortcomings.
Overall Rating: 8.2/10
Reviewer & Review Date: Mellow, November 3 2015
Version: Japanese (3DS)
Release Date: October 15, 2015 (JP)
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Version: Japanese (3DS)
Release Date: October 15, 2015 (JP)
See All Reviews
February 3 Update: 7th Dragon III Code : VFD has been announced for localization in the Americas. Check their official website here!