Dragon Warrior VII is one of the last Dragon Quest games to come out under the older title of "Warrior" rather than "Quest." It represents the pre-Square merger Enix, in some ways. The localized version of this game comes off as something closer to what you'd expect from a modern day NISA or XSEED rather than SquareEnix. that's not to say that the localization is bad, it's just not as "clean" as the more recent Dragon Quest titles, and there are also some naming inconsistencies with some monster naming with the more recently released "Quest" titles. You'll find typos and grammar errors to be somewhat frequent, but not unbearably so. You can also tell the localizers had a lot of fun with this, putting a lot of time and effort into a game.
Allow me to expand on "time" for a minute, as it's one of the main focuses of Dragon Warrior VII, both gameplay-wise and story-wise. This is one of the longest Japanese-developed RPGs ever created, and that isn't an overstatement made from bias towards the game This game doesn't have many fancy cutscenes lengthening it, I think I can count 3-4 total animated scenes, and most text-scenes are only a minute or two long. There's more gameplay here than many RPGs, too much arguably - but I will elaborate on that later. The main quest, if you know where you're going, have finished the game before, and know the locations of all objects will probably run you about 70 hours. Sure, that doesn't seem much, but the problem is that you won't know where to go and you won't know where every object is. Expect your first run through, with no side-quests finished to be around 100 hours. If you're a completionist, expect 150, minimum. If you want to 100% the game, that's a horrible mistake on your part, expect around 450 hours or so. As this is a review, I hate to personalize it in this manner, but comparisons on 100% completion time show just how much content is in this game. Dragon Warrior VII took me around 502 hours to 100% (which means finishing everything you can think of), VIII took me around 300 hours to and IX took me slightly more, at 330. The point of this? There's a lot of content in this game. There's enough to do that this isn't a game you play if you only have an hour or two of free time per week. Playing, and beating, Dragon Warrior VII requires some amount of time commitment, or you will not make a lot of progress. Don't play Dragon Warrior VII unless you can give it at least 5-7 hours per week. Even then, it will take you months to complete.
With a game this long one of the main issues is pacing. Pacing is far and away the worst part of the game and it's what turns most people off immediately. You will not get into your first encounter until about 2-3 hours after you start the game. You spend the first 1-2 hours running around, getting to know your small little world, talking to your parents, doing chores, and exploring ruins with no battles. This brings me to another point that is love-it-or-hate-it with Dragon Warrior VII: Half of the game time of the main quest is spent running around talking to NPCs. Talking to NPCs gives you hints on where to go, can tell you item locations, and allows you to progress in general. There will be many times that the story isn't handed to you and you can't progress because you haven't spoken with everyone yet. If you hate talking to NPCs and want to get going immediately, stay far, far, away from this game. Another huge problem with the game's pacing is that the game doesn't actually start until about 15 hours in. You're playing, fighting, and doing what seems to be playing, but after a time your character development hits a rock wall. You stop gaining skills, for example. You gain the ability to change classes about 15-20 hours in the game at Dharma Temple, but that's 10-15 hours too late. I don't know what the designers were thinking here, as this is a ridiculous choice and not one I can support. Because it's so delayed, the game hits a point around the 10 hour mark where it really starts to drag. Interestingly enough, the game's difficulty starts spiking up right before you gain the ability to change classes, but spikes down drastically once you get the ability to.
Talking about NPCs brings me to the story. Ah, the story. Dragon Warrior VII is an interesting game and while it doesn't have the brilliant direction of V, or the lovely graphics and animated characters of VIII, its story is about the very world you live in. It is closer to DQVI and DQIX, story-wise, but add a touch of Chrono Trigger in there for good measure. As the game begins, you're living on the only island in the world. No, your character does not "leave for home and discover more islands," as you'd expect. Quite the opposite, actually. Those islands were all destroyed years in the past and they do not exist any longer. Thus, leaving your island the only island in the world. There are reasons why your Island survived and the others didn't, and why the Islands disappeared in the first place, but the former is a key plot point in the story that isn't worth spoiling. Town and NPC interaction is where Dragon Warrior VII's story thrives. Each town has its own personality and story to tell. Also, towns interact with other towns! This is usually more subtle, but there are towns that are related directly. One story, which I've lovingly heard called "The Soap Opera of Dragon Warrior VII" spans 3-4 towns over the course of 60+ years of the character's lives. You see the results of their actions, and how their presence positively and negatively impacted the world in the future. Not every town you try to save survives, either. Some are destroyed, others end up worse in the future due to your actions, and some are threatened multiple times.
The battle system is exactly what you's expect from Dragon Warrior. It's most easily compared to Dragon Quest VI, with preset characters (IV), but being able to change jobs after a certain point (III, IX). There are a few key differences: Jobs level up based off of numbers of battles fought with them. Your character levels are completely independent of your job levels, so you don't get set back to level 1 by changing from a Dancer to a Sage. As I previously mentioned, difficulty is uneven and sporadic. The beginning sections of the game can be quite hard at times, but later sections, with the exception of the final dungeon, are far too easy.
Presentation is a mixed bag. Graphically, even for its time the game was outdated. The graphics in the DS remakes of DQIV, V, and VI look better than VII. But even with its bad graphics, the game fills up two disks completely. Musically, the game is beautiful. It has my favorite castle theme in the series, and some of the world map, town, and dungeon themes are quite excellent as well. The biggest problem I found with the music is that none of the battle themes are particularly good or memorable.
Overall, Dragon Warrior VII is a mixed bag and is most definitely not for everyone. If you love exploration, talking to NPCs, and very long games, you'll love it. If you hate random encounters, text-only, having to revisit old locales, and bad graphics, stay far away. Be prepared to invest a fair amount of hours into this title, and also expect a few sections to drag on for far too long. Also, most importantly to many RPG players is the story. Dragon Warrior focuses more on building up the world and its people living in it more than being character or even story-driven. The story has some interesting twists to it, but it not particularly amazing. What is amazing is the town, world, and time interactions.
Great and Fun game. Love the job system and love the old-school Dragon Quest combat. Nothing can beat it's charm. :D Good story similar to Terranigma but even better. I highly suggest it to anyone looking for a LONG game and likes to level his party and go out on side-quest.