7th Dragon III: Code VFD (3DS)
This is technically already the fourth game in the series (II had two parts), but it's the first one that is released outside of Japan. It's not necessary to have played the previous games, because 7th Dragon III: Code VFD's story stands on its own and doesn't have more than a few loose references to previous titles. The video game company Nodens is scouting for capable fighters with a Virtual Reality game because the world is about to be threatened by the return of a True Dragon, namely the seventh one, VFD. You start off by picking one of four classes in a character editor, although it doesn't matter what you choose. Before you get to fight for the first time, you are urged to use the character editor again to compile a party of three and you can even get rid of your initial choice.
The battle system is classic turn-based style while the individual classes (a total of eight will be available eventually) have their unique skills. New skills are learned by freely distributing skill points to whatever you see fit, so planning ahead will pay off by the middle of the game. At certain points you will be able to permanently add a first and second backup party that can participate in battles in a limited form, either by granting stat boosts to your main party or an all-out super attack that allows all nine members to attack free of mana costs during a free turn; said attack requires several turns on standby to prepare, so it pretty much only comes into play during lengthy boss fights.
The meat of the game is clearing dungeons of dragons that are visible on the map and field screen. There are over 250 of them, so there is a lot of killing to do. While defeating a new kind of dragon for the first time is commonly an uphill battle and satisfying when you pull it off, it loses its luster when you are fighting the same dragon for the fifth time or more. The payoff for this repetition is a special dragon currency that can and should be invested in expanding the Nodens headquarters. But usually you only have a choice between up to three different things to build, so this isn't that big of an element.
The table below says everything else that needs to be said, but I think it's necessary to reiterate that 6 constitutes a good score. I do not regret buying this at launch. All of the DLC was free for a limited time, so I got all of it. You don't need to worry about missing out because none of the DLC offers anything important. Even the rewards of the quick money/EXP/skill points quests become quite meaningless once you are past the midway point of the game. If you are looking for another JRPG, this one is worth checking out. I was pondering if I should give it a 6 or a 7, but I went with the lower score because I don't want to become too generous.
||Not much that can be done wrong in a game
that is mostly menu-based.
||Turn-based JRPG with a party made in a character
editor. Freedom with skill builds.
||Centered around about a handful of noteworthy NPCs.
Relies on common tropes.
||Explore dungeons and clean them of powerful dragons.
Rinse and repeat.
||Only serviceable character models and locations,
but still occasional framerate dips.
||Definitely not Yuzo Koshiro's best work, but good nonetheless.
Sparsely used Japanese-only voice acting.
||~25 hours for the main story, plus a post-game dungeon.
Short length is beneficial, doesn't overstay its welcome.
||The dragon-slaying can already feel repetitive and a bit tedious
the first time around, so it's unlikely that you want to do it again.
||No glaring flaws, no outstanding qualities. A solid game that
satiates the appetite for JRPG. Nothing more, nothing less.