7th Dragon III Code: VFD Review

I’ve been waiting for a new 7th Dragon game ever since I played a friend’s imported copy of 7th Dragon 2020 for the Sony PlayStation Portable. However, I wasn’t particularly impressed that developers, Sega, had waited for the last instalment in the saga to finally bring 7th Dragon to the west.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD is the first western release of the franchise. After all, none of the other games in the series received an official translation, so its chances of success seemed unlikely. However, thanks to Sega’s affiliation with Atlus, including the localisation team at Atlus USA, Sega has recently been able to localise more of their Japanese titles to North America. More games are always a good thing, even when it’s a good localisation. Right?

The history of the 7th Dragon series is a bit weird. Originally developed by Imageepoch (the ones who gave us Luminous Arc and Stella Glow) and published by Sega, the franchise started with 7th Dragon on Nintendo DS in 2009, which was sort of a mix between a traditional world map JRPG with Etrian Odyssey-style classes & FOE-like sub-bosses.

Later came the releases of 7th Dragon 2020 and 7th Dragon 2020-II on PSP, a duology that worked as a ‘side-prequel’ to the original, featuring a more straightforward dungeon crawling experience with a post-modern aesthetic. Common to all these titles is turn-based combat with a class system, along with the main goal to vanquish Dragons that have invaded the world and spread poisonous flowers known as Dragonsbane. Not only do Dragons exhibit destructive powers, but the Dragonsbane can lead to an incurable disease known as Dragon Sickness.

Code: VFD opens up with the silent player-created main character entering a contest to play a virtual video game called ‘7th Encount, –a VR simulation designed to recreate the 80-year-old tragedy’, to see who has the highest battle proficiency. After achieving the high score, you are taken to Nodens Enterprises, the developers of 7th Encount who only use the video game as a front for their real operation: a mission to protect the world from the seven True Dragons that threaten to destroy it. When your group of gamers manages to conquer the VR world, you learn a horrible truth: The dragons have returned, and you’ve been chosen to take them on. In order to conquer these nightmarish creatures, you’ll need to travel through time, discover the secrets of fantastic civilisations, and seek out a means to slay the 7th True Dragon.

As you jump into 7th Dragon III Code: VFD, the first thing you’ll do is create your team with characters you’ll make yourself. The excellent character creation is one of the game’s best assets. You’ll be able to choose from four classes at first (four more unlock as you play), each with two different basic appearance styles which have a male and female option and three colourways to choose from after that. The best part, however, is that classes aren’t actually tied to their art, so you can pick your characters’ appearances completely independently of their classes. Do you want a female to have God Hand? No problem. Do you want one of the craziest looking ladies to have a cute voice and be the party’s healer? Well, you can.

Character classes function in new and interesting ways that are unlike any other game out there. For example, the God Hand is a class that offers a lot of strong healing techniques, but they are also capable of dishing out some of the highest amounts of damage in the game if you can land a particular sequence of martial-arts blows across several turns. The Hacker, meanwhile, hides from attacks while hacking into enemies’ brains to control them and give them vulnerabilities to other attacks–which the card-wielding Duelist and the status-ailment-consuming Fortuner can piggyback off of.

More importantly, reserve teams can be called on as a battle progresses to execute special actions, some of which can be life-saving. For example, Dragons have a tendency to charge up their power for a devastating super attack the following turn. Rather than waste a turn defending, it might be better to call a reserve Rune Knight into action to use its support ability to null the enemy’s status boost and reduce its super-attack to a normal action. Or, then again, maybe you should ride out the Dragon’s boosted attack and call on an entire reserve team to issue multiple simultaneous support actions in the next round, up to and including resurrection, healing, and buffs.

The two things that cannot be missed in this RPG are the amazing techno soundtrack by famed game music composer Yuzo Koshiro and the vibrant character art by manga artist Shirow Miwa. Not to mention the game has beautiful graphics. But do be careful about running around dungeons as monsters and Dragons are lurking and can be detected by the scanner. If you aren’t paying attention to it, you can wind up facing a swarm or a powerful foe. I do admit that I have done this a lot while playing since I do get drawn in by the music, character designs, and the rest of the graphics with the merely passable story. However, I did hope for a way to pass the cutscenes and animations.

7th Dragon III Code: VFD is a fantastic addition to the 3DS’ JRPG library. This game could possibly be a classic in the RPG genre if it’s indeed the only 7th Dragon game to be available in the states. It would be sad to see the series forgotten and lost in time, but that is why retro gaming is a thing: to make sure games and sagas like 7th Dragon III Code: VFD will never be forgotten and to pass them on.

Developer: Sega

Publisher: Sega

Platform: 3DS

Release Date: 15th October 2015 (JP), 12th July 2016 (NA)

Score: 85%