How Dragon Quest VII Was Inspired By Myst And Why It’s Better On 3DS

By Laura . February 10, 2013 . 5:00pm

When Dragon Quest VII was first released in 2000, it was the first of the series to be placed on a CD as opposed to a cartridge.  Because of this move, the game’s creators needed to brainstorm what could be used to fill up the sudden vast increase in space. Writers would send in stacks of hundreds of pages of script and ideas a day for series creator, Yuuji Horii, to read and edit.


However, rather than settle for more of the same, Horii wanted to try something a little different. Horii shares in a recent Iwata Asks interview that he had always enjoyed the MYST games. At the time, he had been wondering if players had gotten tired of leveling through battles, and so he decided to make Dragon Quest VII more about puzzle-solving. He states that this is why it’s possible to explore for five hours without encountering a single battle in the game.


Just as MYST was about exploration and looking into every nook and cranny, so was Dragon Quest VII. This was the first time there would be so much opportunity for exploration in what had originally been a very straightforward series. Indeed, there were many extremely difficult-to-find items (“Who would have thought that you would find a stone tablet right there on a random villager’s table?” laments Noriyoshi Fujimoto of Square Enix, the producer of the 3DS remake).


In fact, this was one of the main points that the development team wanted to change about the remake. The exploration aspect, of course, would remain intact, but the main concept behind the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII is “A VII that is easy to understand, unambiguous, and comforting,” according to Fujimoto.


This doesn’t mean that VII will be toned down, but rather that there are differences between the audiences of 2000 and the present, and the game will take this into account. For example, the concept of the original VII was “an RPG that chews you out and makes getting lost fun,” and it was in part because of this that there was such an overwhelming amount of content (close to 1000 different areas). According to Shintarou Majima of ArtePiazza, the team felt that if they were going to make such an extensive game, then they may as well go all the way and get people as lost as possible in the vast world. Because of this focus on making “getting lost” and exploration fun, extra effort was put into making every town feel unique.


However, with the current audience, Majima feels that most players would leave the moment they think something looks boring or tiring.


Because of this, one of the first points he thought of when faced with the remake was that a different approach would be needed. The main challenge would be to keep the “having fun while getting lost” aspect alive while somehow guiding players a little to reduce the stress and energy needed to move through the game.


In the same vein, Sachiko Sugimura, also of Artepiazza, also felt that the game needed to be modified a little, although for a different reason. Like Fujimoto, she felt that VII was extraordinarily suited for a portable system like the 3DS because the overall plot is written like a series of short stories. This way, the player can enjoy the game for short bursts of time. To aid this, functions such as a new summary system that explain what had happened up to that point in time. While this seems simple enough, because of the sheer content, this alone took a year to write and incorporate.


Also taking advantage of the 3DS is the Immigrant Town, which is a town that changes depending on whom you recruit to live there. Originally, you could trade immigrants between two different memory cards, a unique feature at the time that took advantage of the fact that the game was separate from the memory card. Now, instead you can trade inhabitants through Street Pass.


Another old side quest that takes advantage of Street Pass is the Monster Park, where players can tame monsters in various environments. With the Street Pass, you can send a party of 3 monsters out to explore, and sometimes they may even return with new stone shards, which you can then trade with others.


Other changes include modifications made to art and story. For example, while town layouts weren’t changed much, the art and the body ratio of the characters were modified. Sugimura stated that one of the most important changes was the flow of the game. While the number of things and places were the same on the first island, for example, the organization and how the story is organized was completely changed.


Finally, the job system in the Nintendo 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII has been revamped as well. Originally, you could carry skills learned from a previous job which, while it allowed for great customization, also ultimately led to all the characters being the same. The uniqueness of the job was lost. This was changed so that if you change jobs, you could only “do that one job.” While this is a risky change, Fujimoto states that this change had actually come about through the many comments of those who had played the original game.


In fact, the entire original release was treated as an enormous test, where the feedback good and bad were taken into account. As Nintendo president Satoru Iwata summarizes, the remake was created by taking into account the numerous comments and the differences in time and audience between the current and past release while still keeping the core concepts alive.


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  • Phillip Otoole

    And then it was released stateside, right?

  • Ethan_Twain

    Say – now that this ArtePiazza studio is no longer making new Dragon Quest games and they’ve done remakes of all their old ones… what does the future hold for them? What did they do between the release of DQ VII in 2000 and the beginning of the string of remakes on DS, Wii, and now 3DS?

    • puchinri

      I am a ArtePiazza fan (because of Opoona, but I plan to work my way through their titles), but I know they worked on some DSi and GREE games for a while (and they did HM:IL). I can’t think of much else. I’ll have to check their site.

      I really do hope to see them working on some more original titles though (for home or portable console). They do some fun, innovative stuff and it’d be a shame not to see more from them.

    • Armane

      They’ll probably remake or create a HD port of Dragon Quest VIII. They mentioned it had been ten years since DQVII when they began planning the remake, so they probably wouldn’t consider it too soon.

      • Ethan_Twain

        Although that’s possible I suppose, would it be far more logical to have Level 5 do the remake of DQ 8, since they’re the studio that developed it in the first place?

        I do consider DQ 8 3D an inevitability though.

        • Armane

          I’d hope they were too busy working on DQXI to remake VIII. But that’s probably just wishful thinking.

  • Micheal Willis

    Unfortunately one of the changes they made is they ruined the mystical shrine the hero and his friend Keifer explore at the beginning of the game. Instead of being this huge mysterious place, it’s like one room.

    • Ereek

      Oh? They removed the puzzles? And the color-coded rooms?

      Is there any list of all of the changes, big and small, out yet?

      • Micheal Willis

        There are a lists of changes so far according to Kita of Dragon’s Den

        * The number of the same item you can have in your bag has increased from 50 to 99.

        *The stairs leading to the old man’s house (the one you give the ancient scroll to) is now on the bottom left hand side of the map instead of the top right part of the map.

        * The Pearl Orb that was in the well in the PS1 version is not in the 3DS version. It has been replaced with a Tiny Medal.

        * You remember in town during the part when Hondora is sleeping in his room, and you can get the Hot Stone from him? It’s not present then.

        However, before Kiefer joins your party while in his room, he gives you the Hot Stone. Apparently, Kiefer took the Hot Stone from Hondora while he’s sleeping. You can return the Hot Stone to him while he’s still sleeping too.

        * When you enter the ruins, the layout is way different than the PS1 version. The first room in the 3DS version is the room with the 4 statues. What’s different about that room in the 3DS version is that the 4 small ruins in the pedestal room are now in the statue room. The mysterious Fairy character is in the statue room to give you hints.

        * The first two stone shards are found in the room with the 4 saint statues instead of the pedastal room (where the 4 small ruins used to be in the PS1 version)

        * Remember in the PS1 version how all the Saints equipment was in the main ruins underground? Now you have to exit the ruins, and exit to the world map. There is a location on the world map north of Fishbel, kind of by Grand Estard. That’s the location you need to go to. In there, there are 2 small ruins. In the basement of these ruins is where you find the 4 saints equipment.

        * Some of the stone shards are no longer in the same places they were in on the PS1 version.

        * During the scene in Engow (past) when the elder gives you torches, they’re mini torches on top of a hat. The PS1 version, they’re just holding plain torches.

        * In the sealed cave where you face Deathpal, and in battle, the anti-magic zone is removed in the 3DS version. You can use magic against Deathpal in the 3DS version, unlike the PS1 version where you couldn’t because of the anti-magic zone.

    • puchinri

      Really? That’s weird, given what they said/implied. I’m also wondering if there’s a list of changes out.

  • davidvinc

    Let’s hope that one of the revamps that they did was to make it so that you get to change classes much earlier in the game, rather than 20 hours into it.

  • Ereek

    Finally, the job system in the Nintendo 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII has been revamped as well. Originally, you could carry skills learned from a previous job which, while it allowed for great customization, also ultimately led to all the
    characters being the same. The uniqueness of the job was lost.

    I don’t know how I feel about this.

    On one hand, he’s absolutely right. Everyone did feel the same and it was very easy to break characters with a little work. For example, having one or two characters becoming a Shepherd so they can learn the breath-defense skill before a certain particularly nasty boss in an underwater castle helps considerably, but then you’d never need to touch the class again.

    On the other hand…Well, they probably had to remove, modify, or merge a few jobs for a balance standpoint. I still see Sage being pretty broken, but it always has been. At this point, I think it’s mostly my “DO NOT WANT CHANGE, MUST STAY THE SAME” meter is going off rather pointlessly, no matter how much I understand the rationale.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      There are far worse games out there to be passionate about than DQ7.

    • Tommy Lee

      @CirnoTheStrongest @kupomogli It seems that characters can keep some spells and skills when changing classes, according to this: For example, when the Hero learns Dragon Slash, he’ll be able to use it in every class, but when he learns Metal Slash, he’ll have to stick to the class he learned it in.

      I think this could lead to some interesting choices in customization early-midgame. Do you have everyone go straight to the more statistcally powerful advanaced classes, or do you have everyone go through each of the basic classes to learn more shared spells and skills? By the end of the game most people would probably have everyone learn all the shared spells and skills, but because advanced classes will have different (advanced[?]) skills, it’ll still make every party member fulfill a unique role.

    • I prefer the dq vii job system. Yes, you could end up with characters who were all the same, but that took a “lot” of work time wise. Yes you could have 2 people go shepherd, and then never go back, but do you really want to run 4 people through the class requirements to get the, think it was demi-god, class? To do that would take a lot of effort on and missing out on many other class routes. I never messed with the job system too much other than grinding levels earlier on for useful abilities, but I never touched monster classes. Even though I ended up with a team that didn’t learn every single ability, I still ended up with playthroughs with over 100 hours each.

      I just pray they don’t make it like dragon quest 9. That system annoys me to no end. If I earn abilities in one class, I want it to be useful for me in the game, not only when I am in that class. I don’t want to be forced to play a weak class because its the only one I have access to early on that has valuable skills.

  • puchinri

    Wow. That’s pretty incredible. It’s great to see them taking so much into consideration and doing so much great work.

    Also, nice to see ArtePiazza working on it again too, and I hope that they’ll be able to work on more DQ titles and also their own original titles for portable and.or home consoles.

  • CirnoTheStrongest

    A lot of this doesn’t sound good. And none of it really sounds like something that works simply because it’s on the 3DS. All of this and more could have just as easily been done on the Vita or PS360, or even PC. The 3DS was more like the bare minimum needed for it.

    The job system change sounds kind of annoying. Yes, you could break it, and everyone could feel ‘the same’, but not necessarily. It also allowed you to make your party how you wanted. Maybe at the end it felt ‘the same’, but as you worked your way through the game each character would have their own unique path that they worked on a long the way. Sure, everyone might have ended on the same point, but that’s just a result of having put countless hours into the game.

    I played DQVII for many many hours (easily in the hundreds), and my entire team was unique even at that point.

    But now it’s just a matter of switching jobs. Just not sure how I feel about it.

    And, making everything more streamlined? That’s usually never a good thing.

    The quest list is a good change I’ll definitely say.

    The rest of the changes seem not that big of a deal.

    • Ereek

      I played DQVII for many many hours (easily in the hundreds), and my entire team was unique even at that point.

      I’m going to have to call BS on that. It doesn’t even matter who you choose as your fourth character, the stat differences are marginal, and unless you purposely limit yourself, everyone’s going to have the same capabilities and skills – especially after 100 hours. By then, everyone has Sage and Hero mastered, and you may be working on the PlatKing Heart, which pretty much makes you immortal.

      Now, I’m a pretty big grinder in VII, but for me, any “uniqueness” is usually gone by the time I hit Hamelia.

      That said, I approach DQVII like I would FFV: with the idea of utterly mastering everything there is to offer and making the most broken combinations possible. So, for me, it’s not entirely a con. However, denying that everyone is the same after a point seems rather silly.

      • CirnoTheStrongest

        Well, it was the case with myself. I am a bit of a wanderer. And pretty scatter-brained. Enough to travel for hours forgetting that I had maxed out a job xD
        Or forgetting that I had not yet switched back from the more powerful job after a boss fight xD
        Stuff like that.
        And of course favoritism. There was definitely that at play too.

        • Are you saying that it doesn’t make sense to release the remake of a game that sold 3.7m in Japan alone on the system that sells the most today by far?

          • CirnoTheStrongest

            huh? Where did that come from?

          • Well, you just made it sound like that I guess.

            “All of this and more could have just as easily been done on the Vita or PS360, or even PC”.

            What I meant to do was to add that the 3DS is the obvious choice because of all the other DW remakes and (obviously) sales.

          • CirnoTheStrongest

            Ah okay. Yeah, I just worded things oddly, and misread the original article myself.

            It’s still sad though…I really would like the Dragon Warrior series to get the same sort of budget as the Final Fantasy series…

          • I don’t know if that would really be to anyone’s benefit, honestly, seeing as how Final Fantasy’s bigger budget hasn’t really done that series any favours in the last six years.

          • CirnoTheStrongest

            The bigger budget was there before and it did really well for the Final fantasy series. The budget didn’t change anything, it’s the teams behind it that ended up changing. The DQ teams seem to still have a good head on their shoulders, but it’s really hard to say with DQX and all that.

            Blaming money for the shortcomings of a series is just giving a freepass to the poor job that the people did with the money.

          • It isn’t a question of there being a completely inverse 1:1 relation between an increase in budget and game quality. More that Dragon Quest’s focus has always been on the journey and the simplicity of its story and characters, whereas Final Fantasy’s has largely been on visual flair.

            In the case of DQ, they’ve been more focused on things like social features using StreetPass, customization and convenience of play these past few years. That’s what gave the series it’s last major boost. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, they developed an MMO. So it isn’t that they don’t spend money on the games—just that they choose to spend it in ways that they think will be beneficial.

  • kupomogli

    I’m going to get it. Doesn’t sound like they could ruin it that much, but from the sounds of it, I think I’m going to prefer replaying PSX version over playing the 3DS version. Similar to Tactics Ogre, which I liked the PSX/SNES version over the PSP version which fixed some problems but introduced many others.

    The exploration aspect of Dragon Warrior 7 was the reason why it’s my favorite in the series. Sure I didn’t get into my first battle four two hours, but the dungeon was fun to explore. Once saving the first town, you’d go back and search the first town and cave to find extra stuff in order to proceed. I really liked that. Repeat with every other town, and a few you went to more than once.
    I also liked being able to retain all the skills you’ve learned from one job. As someone else mentioned, you don’t get to Dharma until around 20 hours, so during that time your characters were unique and they eventually stopped learning skills on their own. This allowed you to place certain characters as certain jobs and others as different jobs, so making a unique set of characters is up to the player, or if they want they can make everyone the same.

  • KiTA

    Sounds like they completely ruined the job system. Monster jobs are now completely worthless. And your going to have to sacrifice one character as a healer, who will cap the class and stop advancing from there on.

    • Armane

      It’ll probably be like DQIX, where you want to cap everything for a handful of permanent stat upgrades.

  • Rothion

    “Getting lost” wasn’t “fun” even back then lol – DQVII really liked to drag on endlessly. Zz

    • Paul ‘Chinny’ Chinn

      Getting lost has always been fun. And that is one of my many issues with modern games. There is an overabundance of “hand holding”. Be it a linear corridor that there is only one direction to go or a ever present marker telling you which way to go.

      I remember games like Dagger Fall and Morrowind or Bard’s Tale II where you would get lost so easily and have to find your way, just as if you were actually on an adventure. Hell, it Bard’s Tale you weren’t even afforded an in-game map and had to make one yourself on some grid-paper. It was much more immersive and enjoyable than most of the tripe offered today.

  • Geez, why don’t Shintarou Majima and Tomohiro Shibuya just get married already? I’m thinking a very simple ceremony, with lots of hand-holding ;) hahah

  • malek86

    His feelings about the audience being different today, I guess it’s understandable. Even though the adventure genre has been revived lately, logic-based adventures which had started with Myst are still forgotten today, aside from a few low-sized productions such as the Darkling Room games.

    I kinda miss it though, that feeling of being alone and solving puzzles in moody enviroments… it was a stark contrast to the zany, dialogue-based and inventory-driven adventures of old (and new).

    Would a Myst RPG work, I wonder? If they haven’t toned down the puzzles too much, maybe I should pick up this DQ7 remake.

  • ragingmerifes

    These changes will be good overall. It’s not like it will become a Call of Duty game just because the difficulty level may be lower.
    However, I don’t see why Nintendo president is butting in. Seriously, I like the localizations and all, but Nintendo should mind their own business.

    • Armane

      It’s Iwata Asks, he is conducting an interview; he wasn’t (as far as I’m aware) involved on any level in the production of this title.

  • Göran Isacson

    On the one hand, I am liking the sound of this new remake, if only because I am not much of a Myst-fan. At all. Anything that would remind me of that game makes me retreat into a shell and hiss at people.

    But on the other hand, maybe that just means that I wasn’t the intended audience, and that the version I play will be terrible for the fans of the old version? I dunnoy, it just kinda feels, reading the article and the comments here, that the game seems to be altered in a big way. Perhaps more to my tastes, but even so maybe I will play this and just find it “okay” since it’s not SUPER-catered to my tastes, and the ones who used to play and loved it will be really disappointed. Where are we then? A new audience that will just be okay with the game, and an old audience that have been truly let down.

    Of course, this could just be me being a doomsayer and reading too much into things.

  • Cameron Ward

    they better fix the pacing at the beginning. those were the most boring two hours i have ever played through. i mean, it was just awful.

  • Rollersnake

    I couldn’t get into DQ7 mostly because of the slow beginning and barebones presentation, but reading this makes me want to give it another shot. I had no idea it was such a puzzle-oriented game, and it saddens me to see them changing that aspect of it.

    Ultimately I just don’t want another DQ9. I have a decent amount of tolerance for grinding, but that game just about broke me.

  • One thing I would like to see be different: At the end of the game, there are 5 available PCs, but only 4 can be in the party. Considering the old guy was a completely optional sidequest, I think it would be really cool if the max party size was upped to 5.

  • Paul ‘Chinny’ Chinn

    I still have yet to encounter a single person via streetpass in my city with 41k people.

  • isfuturebright

    Wow that’s a LOT of changes o.o

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