By Daouzin 0 Comments
...and a quest complete. Shamelessly
...and a quest complete. Shamelessly
Alright, so Dragon Warrior VII was an ugly looking game. The main character looked like a goof-ball and Akira Toriyama’s style is too kamehameha for you. I get that, I really do. But Dragon Quest games have a lot more going for them then simply their look, gameplay, or story. While all Dragon Quest games lead to the destruction of some ultimate evil, the games are never about their conclusion or even the personal growth of your party members. They’ve been about falling in love with the world, enjoying the journey.
You see, Dragon Warrior VII didn’t have grandeur cut-scenes that felt avant-garde like with Final Fantasy’s PSX installments, it didn’t have story twists that made you think the main character was seriously insane, nor did it have bad ass summoning sequences. What it did have, or should I say, what it has, is charm.
Dragon Warrior VII Hero: Arus
It’s difficult to talk about Dragon Quest without comparing it to that other flagship series, you know the one I’ve already mentioned. It’s difficult because so much of what Dragon Quest does well it does to a degree better then it’s rival and let’s be honest, that’s saying a lot. In the PlayStation era every RPG wanted to be like Final Fantasy VII (even VIII) and every PS2 RPG wanted to be Final Fantasy X. While Square focused on upping the anti visually, Dragon Warrior VII was great although it was ugly.
Dragon Warrior VII worked because it didn’t need any visual improvements, the setting worked fine because Dragon Quest games are always in this strange medieval time where people live in castles and shacks, but occasionally fight robots. Wut?! Dragon Warrior VII would have worked with Super Nintendo graphics, hell, it’d probably look better too, my point is that Dragon Quest’s focus is always on the world and it’s denizens. Enix/Heartbeat didn’t need to invest in a development team that could make a cyberpunk reality real, they just needed artists to make sprites and 3D textures into things we’re already familiar with – castles, farm animals, peasants, bunny girls, royalty, etc. Once they had the basic foundation, it’s simply a matter of using the setting to tell interesting stories. And that’s what Dragon Quest VII is, an epic journey packed with stories.
You travel the world in the past and present and solve the problems of a variety of villagers. From people turned to animals, to preventing human sacrifices, and exploring a kingdom filled with robots, this games has it all. Then after you save the village you unlock it’s entrapment in the past and can access it in the present. It’s rewarding to see what time has done to your legendary feats, have they been remembered, transformed, or completely forgotten?
Before I go on though, I should share a secret with you, the secret to enjoying Dragon Quest. It’s really simple, but some people have this trait and others don’t, it’s that you have to like exploring, you have to be the kind of person that sees an NPC and actually wants to talk to them. Not for an item or for an achievement, but because you genuinely have an interest in what that NPC has to say.
I’m not sure if it’s true, but it’s said that Yuji Horii must approve the dialogue of every NPC in every main Dragon Quest entry and I believe it. Unlike most RPGs where the NPCs give the impression as though they were added to fill up space, or to force the feeling that a town is real, Dragon Quest NPCs have this weird sense of belonging. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the NPCs in Dragon Quest games because they always help weave the fabric in which each town is built. They’re strangely memorable.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
A) Tavern – Drunkard sitting at the bar in a typical RPG:
Waitress walking around: If you’re looking for a drink, head over to the bar, but you look a little young.
Man sitting at a table close to the bar: The man at the bar is here every night, what a poor sight.
Man at the bar: Hic – Hic – Hic, What do you want?
This example isn’t lifted from any game specifically, but I imagine most people can recall some RPG they played that plays out like this. If you noticed though, the NPCs are providing the player with information not about the drunkard, but about the fact that there is a drunkard. I guess it helps the Tavern feel like a bar. Look a drunk, obviously you’re in a bar.
B) Tavern – Drunkard sitting at the bar in a Dragon Quest game:
Waitress walking around: I wish that man wouldn’t always be here, doesn’t he have anywhere else to go?
Man sitting at a table close to the bar: Ugh, last time I tried to pull that man away from the bar he hit me pretty hard. I bet he could take down a Gold Golem.
Man at the bar: Hic – Hic – What do you want? – Hic
The 2nd example is Dragon Quest revised. It does everything the first example does, but gets some extra mileage out of the dialog. For one, the NPCs refer to one another, adding a level of believability, the 2nd is that the dialog uses something from the universe to help illustrate the scenario. Hint: The man is too strong to kick out. This is cool because the world feels more cohesive as a result. You can envision the waitress being frustrated with the man long after you’ve left.
I left the last NPC practically the same in example B to illustrate that while in example A the NPC may come across as a typical drunk, the NPC in example B comes across as stubborn, but possibly threatening since the other NPC has filled us in about his strength. Dragon Quest NPCs add color and dimensions to the typically one dimensional settings. Hopefully my example was decent enough to get that across.
The battles are fluffed in a similar way. While the first person perspective may bore some people because they can’t see their party members, Dragon Quest combat has always been capable of a bit more then your typical Final Fantasy fair. I believe that’s possible because the game can simply write out what’s happening to your characters at the bottom of the screen vs having to show it.
Most RPGs have basic status effects: poison, paralysis, confusion, sleep, etc. Some games, like the Shin Megami Tensei series, add something like charm to the mix, but that’s generally nothing more then a variation of confusion, but Dragon Quest goes the extra mile adding, laughter, tripping, dancing, etc, to the mix. Unnecessary as it may seem, since those are basically 1 turn stuns, it certainly adds to the personality of the game while increasing your party’s arsenal giving you more strategic options.
The cool thing about Dragon Quest is that while Final Fantasy may feel comfortable giving their bosses immunity to the quirkier skills, Dragon Quest doesn’t. This allows players to choose a variety of methods to take down any boss. The Jester in your party that just learned the ability, Quick Joke, may actually use it successfully on the Dragon boss just down the road.
Unfortunately, Dragon Warrior VII’s biggest weakness was also it’s strength. While the game rewarded you for exploration, it also punished you for not exploring enough. The benefits of exploring was the possibility of obtaining monster hearts (randomly dropped enemy loot), leveling up your characters and their job classes, finding treasure chests, tiny medals, and getting monsters for your monster park, the penalty for not exploring, was however, a little ridiculous. You couldn’t progress. Like, at all.
Dragon Warrior VII was unusual in that it had a main world that got larger as you played the game, unlocking continents through a central hub world (dungeon). To unlock new areas you needed to collect magic shards, the problem was that some of these shards were completely miss-able and found in random chests. So if you didn’t explore one fork in a forest two dungeons ago, you may have missed the shard you need to unlock the next continent. And since the game identifies all magic shards as simply “magic shard,” in your inventory, it’s difficult even using a guide to figure out where you need to go to find the shard you missed. With my personal experience, I only had to use GameFaqs once, but I could easily see others needing it more or simply never completing the game.
I love Dragon Quest games espically the 7th because they drive you from one point to the next, but not with some hyper serious plot, but with a care-free attitude the rewards you and encourages you to spend your time enjoying the battles, talking to townsfolk, and exploring every inch of every dungeon. If you can’t enjoy stunning a giant minotaur by provoking a fit of laughter from him, then maybe this series just isn’t for you. I however find the people, battles, locales, and the enemy puns, charming as hell.
Friday’s Random Five is my attempt to showcase some pretty cool videogame related stuff that I’ve found on the internet. This can range from cool articles, random videos, to small downloadable games. These won’t always relate to what’s currently going on in the world or in the gaming industry, but in most cases I’m sure they will.
As I get older it seems as though I have a stronger desire to preserve my life. I find myself hoarding images of people I’ve met and regret not taking more pictures. One of these days, I’ll buy a decent camera.
While we may not think it with each image we take, we create starting points for memories, ones that we’re hoping our brains can finish for us. Enough so, to remember the experience, to come as close as we can to relive it.
Gamers out there are trying to preserve the experiences we value and are struggling with it. Due to technological and IP ownership related realities, some of our experiences will be lost and already have been. Giant Bomb has a feature called “The Matrix Online: Not Like This,” that attempts to capture the final weeks of The Matrix Online. The feature’s finale concludes with the servers shutting down, literally forever. Forever is a long time.
This week’s Random Five relates to the preservation of gaming culture.
1. The Difficulties of Preservation:
Over at Destructoid, Conrad Zimmerman writes an article on a new paper published in the International Journal of Digital Curation, highlighting the diffulties of preserving digital entertainment.
“Games are unique in that, even if a lost and forgotten game should be discovered decades from now, it’s entirely possible that nobody will ever be able to experience it.” – Zimmerman
Since movies lack interaction, a movie can always be ported to a new format, but the best games always utilize their specific format well. No More Heroes on the Wii is an example of a game that just wouldn’t be the same without a sexy seductive voice edging you forward through the mic on your controller.
2. Tribute to Street Fighter
Games, like every other form of artistic expression, are digested differently by different people. Quality fan art has a way of showing a common interpretation of a character, but also a specific artist’s interpretation and style, creating a unique re-imagining. Kotaku posted this image by Deviant Artist Fenryk, Stroll Around Vigrid, which I thought did an excellent job of portraying Bayonetta’s and Cereza’s confident personalities. Lacking however, the ferocity of Amaterasu.
This is why my number 2 is the Tribute to Street Fighter posted by Hongkiat.com for showing 55 alternate perspectives on the iconic characters we’ve all come to love.
3. Lara Croft get’s a street and Sid Meier a holiday.
Between our gaming and our press, I think it’s easy to lose track of the fact that not a lot of people get excited by the same things that we do, but it’s always nice when a game gets recognized by the general public. Because it means games are making an impact on more then just us. Even if we lose our abilities to play another Tomb Raider or Civilization, they have left fragments on our everyday life.
GameSpite.Net is a site the focuses on video game criticism maintained and run by Jeremy Parish. He helps compile video game related articles into quarterly and yearly books that go over a variety of topics. These articles help one remember the era in which games are released, but also remind us why we loved or hated those games. Each Quarterly issue revolves on a different theme and while I only own 2 of the six available books, I’ve found them both to be retardedly engaging. So if you see yourself doing anything in which you’ll have time to read you should check out the page, check out some of the work, and buy a few books. These books are filled with articles that will make you smile and remind you why you game to begin with.
5. Street Fighter is like chess.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, from Inception tries for a second to explain the complexity of Street Fighter 2 to Jimmy Fallon. Comparing it to a fast classic game of chess. I don’t think he gets through, but he tries.
Those are your Random Five.
Interview with Robert Boyd over email on an Xbox Live Indie Game
With E3 going on it’s easy to forget some of the smaller guys, the indie developers, the ones that make those free or cheap to play games. E3 is always where the bigger guns are shown, where the critics write their guesstimates on which has the power to propel this industry forward. Just recently I’ve interviewed Robert Boyd from Zeboyd Games and he’s confident he knows the three necessary ingredients for a good role-playing game, and he doesn’t have a few mil in the bank.
Zeboyd Games released their title Breath of Death VII on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Indie Games platform in April where it’s been met with praise from critics across the board. For only a buck, it’s a steal. For those of you that haven’t given it a try I’d suggest buying it, playing it for an hour, then coming back.
Carlos C Reyes (Myself): First, I believe some congratulations are in order. I’m not sure of the profits you’ve made at this point from your title, but I’ve noticed it being talked about on a number of popular websites. Kotaku being the most recent. The article titled, “Hidden Xbox Games You Need to Know About.” It must be a pretty exciting time for you.
Robert Boyd (Creator of Zeboyd Games): We’re very excited at the game’s reception, both critically and commercially. That Kotaku article was especially nice for us as we’ve seen a very noticeable jump in sales & downloads since then.
C: On your website it says that you've achieved over 11,000 purchases with a trial-to-game conversion rate of almost 60%. Has that number jumped any in these last 2 weeks? And what would you attribute that conversion rate to?
R: We’re at 13,693 purchases with a conversion rate of 61% as of June 1st.
As for the conversion rate, I imagine our high rating combined with the general attractiveness of getting an RPG for such a cheap price has resulted in many people buying the game outright without bothering with the demo. Also, we did our best to make the first few minutes of the game into a good sales pitch which I think has helped as well (far too many XBLIG developers waste their entire trial time period instructing the player when they should be trying to hook them ASAP).
C: Breath of Death VII makes some obvious homages to Dragon Warrior while also making references to Earthbound, Final Fantasy, Lufia and Mega Man, just to name a few. From checking out what others have said about the game, are there any references or homages you wish people out there were noticing more and what was your game’s ultimate goal that helped keep these asides relevant to your title?
R: From reading various threads about the game on the Internet, it looks like most of the references we put in are being noticed. The one reference that I haven’t seen anyone mention, though, is the FFX plot referenced at the end of the game.
C: Your game brought on a lot of nostalgia, but also great memories. You added elements to BoDVII that really make your title relevant to the current age. I remember being in middle school and playing the original Dragon Warrior for the NES, grinding outside of the first city to save up for the Copper Sword. Your game actually streamlines this process without ruining anything, by simply allowing players to open up the main menu and select Fight to speed up the grinding process. What was the thought behind this decision and the decision of limiting random encounters within dungeons?...Check out the rest of the interview at my website http://loadedconsole.com/ or at BitMob
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