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The DanMan

The DanMan Reviews 7th Dragon 2020: A Solid, if Standard, JRPG

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A few weeks ago, I bought my own laptop (previously I'd been making do with my school computer, which I had to send back at the end of my senior year). One of the first things I did was go hunting for emulators; I quickly remembered that there were several PSP games I'd wanted to play, so I went and downloaded an emulator for said console. One of those games was 7th Dragon 2020. As a fan of its sister series, Etrian Odyssey, I'd had some interest in it; sadly, only the 4th and final game in the series was localized, 7th Dragon III. Thankfully, I'd also heard tell that the first two games in the series had been translated. And for various reasons (the first game is a prequel and doesn't really tie into things until the third game, along with wanting to try out PSP emulation), I went with the second game: 7th Dragon 2020. 

Synopsis/Intro

The game starts out in the year 2020, with Murakumo (a specialized task force that works with the Japanese government) holding a trial for new members. Said trial is making it to the top of Tokyo Tower, which has been invaded by monsters out of the blue. From there you create your first character by choosing from one of ten portraits (5 male/5 female), one of five classes, a ton of different voices, and lastly a name. The first character is the "hero" and starts as the party leader, meaning they get the focus in cutscenes and the like; in actuality, this really means nothing as you can switch the party leader anytime and the game acts like the new leader's been the hero all along. After a brief cutscene, you then create two more characters to fill out your party and scale Tokyo Tower, fighting monsters and doing some dungeon crawling. But, as you reach the top, all hell breaks loose; Dragons warp in, and stuff gets real. The player characters are established as Murakumo Unit 13 (a designation that possesses unintentional comedy for me and anyone else acquainted with BlazBlue), and it is their job to spearhead the destruction of all dragons in Tokyo.

Story

The game is slightly more focused in the story department than it's sister series; that doesn't mean it does anything remarkable. It's mildly entertaining and gives you a reason to do things (compared to the first 60% of any EO game being just "go exploring and stuff"), but it hits almost all the expected notes. Good guys aren't all as good as they appear? Check. Antagonistic force calls you out for going with the good guys but acts mysterious at first for the sake of it? Check. Massive escalation of stakes at the last minute? Check.

It's not all bad; several NPCs go through the motions of character development (which is a lot more than EO can generally say for itself), and a certain one of them actually kinda sticks out (helps that I know they appear in future games in the series). It's far from the worst written RPG out there; it's just, as I said, unremarkable.

Gameplay

This is where the game shines. With five different classes (Samurai= Jack of All Trades Melee, Psychic= Mage who can both attack and heal, Trickster= fast class who can focus on status effects or raw damage, Destroyer= slow but powerful CQC specialist, and Hacker= your buff/debuff class) and only three party slots, you have to pick and choose; like EO, unless you want to spend time grinding up secondary party members on the side, you aren't going to be able to have everything. I went with Samurai/Psychic/Trickster, though looking back it may have been worth going with a Hacker due to my Trickster mostly just spamming healing items in fights against Dragons. Every class has a selection of skills that take SP to level up; unlike EO, SP is gained alongside XP, and higher levels of skills take more XP. New skills are learned by upgrading facilities (more on that later).

The actual battles themselves are your typical turn-based JRPG battles. You can attack, defend, use items, escape (which thankfully has a much higher chance of succeeding than in EO), and use the Exhaust Gauge. The Exhaust Gauge is pretty much literally the Boost gauge from the first EO game (I'm making a lot of comparisons between the two; apparently, the first game on DS had even more similarities): you fill it up by attacking enemies and, when used, your turn speed is increased and skills you use have increased effects.

Normal encounters are fairly easy; however, that's not to say the whole game is. Not at all; the meat of things are the Dragons. Acting as mini-bosses that either roam the map in set patterns or stay in place to block your progress (like FOEs in-- you get it at this point, right?), they can be quite challenging. They get two consecutive turns instead of one, hit hard, and are often packing status effects. Thankfully, if your party gets wiped you can quickly restart the battle-- though if you keep having trouble, you may have to re-load a save and see if the armory has any accessories increasing your resistance to status effects.

And then there's the Imperial Dragons, the bosses of the game. Trust me, you won't beat them your first attempt. Thankfully, it's not that they are HP sponges-- they just hit really hard, and require planning and pattern memorization to take down.

Dragons give you DZ, which are used to upgrade facilities. Upgading facilities is your primary way of getting new skills, equipment, and sidequests. So in a way it acts like a gameplay loop: hunt dragons to get better tools to hunt more dragons to get even better tools... .

Visuals/Areas

The character models are rendered in a chibi style, something that is incredibly ironic considering how often people die/are found dead in-game. I'd say that the game looks nice for a PSP title overall. The areas do have some variety (though they lean a bit too far in the direction of metallic), with the second one looking like a dead-ringer for Lost Shinjukku in EO1. Every area has its own identity (besides the multiple sewers), and every one of them has been warped in some fashion by the dragons.

As for the character art, I will leave a bit of a warning: some of it is fanservicey. And unlike EO, there's no real equal opportunity stuff. If you really can't stand that stuff, then stay away from the game.

Soundtrack

Sharing its composer with its sister series, Yuzo Koshiro, I was hoping for a great and memorable soundtrack. While it's definitely not bad, I can't help but feel slightly let down. Some of the dungeon themes (as well as the late-game home base theme) are really good, but I can't recall any of the battle themes (including the final boss theme). It's just way too much electric noise and not enough actual melody. As I've said, it's not bad-- it just doesn't live up to other compositions by Koshiro.

Oh, and Hatsune Miku is in the game. Yeah. It was published by Sega, and they put her in. She sings the intro song, and after rescuing her (about 1/3 of the way through the game) you can change the soundtrack to her "singing". Though most of it is just "la la la", it does change the instrumentation and make some songs slightly more memorable.

The Translation

It's really good. There's the odd typo, but often I had to keep reminding myself that I was playing a fan translation and not an officially localized title. It's pretty smooth and well done. This especially sticks out as I am currently playing Valkyria Chronicles III, whose fan translation... isn't quite as good.

Concluding Thoughts

7th Dragon 2020 is a solid and fun game. It doesn't do anything new, but it remains enjoyable despite that. If you want a 30 hour JRPG that's not afraid to amp up the difficulty and don't mind a bit of grinding, I'd recommend the game. Just don't expect to be blown away by anything.

Item Descriptions (this was before concluding thoughts but the wonderful spoiler tag system hid them with the images, so I had to do some re-arranging

They actually tell you if an item will be needed for a side quest (in which case, save two) or if they're just vendor trash. Also, I found some of the descriptions to be quite humorous. Thankfully, using the innate compatibility between Windows 10 and the Xbox One controller, I screenshotted my favorites.

 

PPSSPP_v1.4.2_-_NPJH50459_8_18_20.png

PPSSPP_v1.4.2_-_NPJH50459_8_18_20.png

Edited by The DanMan

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Only 5 classes for a dungeon crawler? I guess Code VFD is a step up then and I'll just play that when it gets a little cheaper. It seems to be more of what you described the second game to be (except VFD is supposed to be easy). Not that that is a bad thing- I have the 3 3DS EO titles and plan to pick up EO5 for the holidays. And while it can't be called an improvement exactly, VFD's NPC dating aspect often ends in implied sex I've heard- even if your leader character is the same sex. 

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22 minutes ago, Interdimensional Observer said:

Only 5 classes for a dungeon crawler? I guess Code VFD is a step up then and I'll just play that when it gets a little cheaper. It seems to be more of what you described the second game to be (except VFD is supposed to be easy). Not that that is a bad thing- I have the 3 3DS EO titles and plan to pick up EO5 for the holidays. And while it can't be called an improvement exactly, VFD's NPC dating aspect often ends in implied sex I've heard- even if your leader character is the same sex. 

You only have a party of 3 characters; it does make things feel smaller scale than EO's five party system, but I didn't find that a bad thing. Every class can multi-task, so it's a matter of doing the right thing at the right time-- does my Samurai go for physical damage, or should I set up some self-buffs and go for elemental damage instead? Should my Psychic just focus on damage, or does the party need healing/stats effects cured? It's a factor that adds to the game's overall difficulty.

Also, to make it clear, 2020 is the second game in the series-- 7th Dragon on the DS is the first, with VFD being more like 2020-III.

And VFD has an underaged NPC ask you to "make her an adult". I'm not quite sure what went wrong there...

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On 21.8.2017 at 6:46 PM, The DanMan said:

You only have a party of 3 characters; it does make things feel smaller scale than EO's five party system, but I didn't find that a bad thing. Every class can multi-task, so it's a matter of doing the right thing at the right time-- does my Samurai go for physical damage, or should I set up some self-buffs and go for elemental damage instead? Should my Psychic just focus on damage, or does the party need healing/stats effects cured? It's a factor that adds to the game's overall difficulty.

Also, to make it clear, 2020 is the second game in the series-- 7th Dragon on the DS is the first, with VFD being more like 2020-III.

And VFD has an underaged NPC ask you to "make her an adult". I'm not quite sure what went wrong there...

Worse still, said underaged NPC seems to be the "canon" love interest of your protagonist. And she looks NOTHING like her age. If they didn't directly state how old she was, you could peg her for older. I know I did.

Thank you for the review! I didn't know there was a translation of an older 7th Dragon game. I was interested in trying them out, but I don't really understand Japanese, so I thought it'd be out of the question. I think I'll give this game a spin!

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7 minutes ago, DragonFlames said:

Worse still, said underaged NPC seems to be the "canon" love interest of your protagonist. And she looks NOTHING like her age. If they didn't directly state how old she was, you could peg her for older. I know I did.

Thank you for the review! I didn't know there was a translation of an older 7th Dragon game. I was interested in trying them out, but I don't really understand Japanese, so I thought it'd be out of the question. I think I'll give this game a spin!

Damn I thought she was 16 or something.

Glad someone enjoyed the review. I'd assume if you enjoyed VFD that you'll like its predecessors (all I've played of it is the demo and I dropped it almost immediately because it felt like EO-- this was years ago, before I liked EO). I definitely enjoyed it and will play the others at some point; I just went in comparing it to EO a lot, and that kinda dragged down the game.

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Interesting review. I enjoyed VFD and i've been wanting to play the previous games in the series, i just have no way of doing so. I don't know how good PSP emulators are.

On 8/21/2017 at 0:46 PM, The DanMan said:

And VFD has an underaged NPC ask you to "make her an adult". I'm not quite sure what went wrong there...

2 hours ago, DragonFlames said:

Worse still, said underaged NPC seems to be the "canon" love interest of your protagonist. And she looks NOTHING like her age. If they didn't directly state how old she was, you could peg her for older. I know I did.

Wait, which NPC are we talking about here?

 

Edited by Armagon

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On 28.8.2017 at 10:38 PM, Armagon said:

Wait, which NPC are we talking about here?

Precious little cinnamon roll navigator Mio Nagumo

I put it into spoiler tags for anyone who hasn't gotten that far into the game yet.

On 28.8.2017 at 8:28 PM, The DanMan said:

Damn I thought she was 16 or something.

Glad someone enjoyed the review. I'd assume if you enjoyed VFD that you'll like its predecessors (all I've played of it is the demo and I dropped it almost immediately because it felt like EO-- this was years ago, before I liked EO). I definitely enjoyed it and will play the others at some point; I just went in comparing it to EO a lot, and that kinda dragged down the game.

I know, right?

It was the same way for me at first. I thought it was some sort of EO spin-off, but since I played and liked the 3DS EO games beforehand, buying VFD was a no-brainer for me after I thoroughly enjoyed the demo.

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The only problem I have with this game is it's not unique by any standard. Everything is fine, just fine, not great or bad. And if you are a fan of dungeon crawler and have played a lot of DC games then this game wont be able to surprise you at all.

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