7th Dragon – 2020 is a Japanese exclusive turn-based RPG for PSP. It is set in a near future Tokyo, unlike its DS predecessor (also Japan exclusive; fan translation available) having a more traditional fantasy setting. 2020 has psychics, guns & futuristic hackers. You are part of Murukumo, an elite group of hunters turned defenders against this newly unleashed draconic apocalypse. Rescuing survivors, destroying dragons, taking back territory or plain old surviving, there is plenty to do for you & your team.
Your team consists of a three-man party of customizable characters & 20 or so more characters in reserve. Early on you are told to create your protagonist, though this is just a role-playing formality as cutscenes will play out with whichever member of your party is the ‘Leader’. Customization involves the choosing names, class & portrait. While portraits represent the various classes (Samurai, Trickster, Destroyer, Psychics & Hacker), they won’t lock you into that class if chosen. To top off the customization, each gender has 15 voices to choose from for the various grunts & squeaks they make during battle. The game is voice acted, but your characters have no spoken dialogue outside of combat.
On the matter of combat, ranging from your cutesy rabbit-like monsters to the 200 or so dragons, 7th Dragon – 2020 is the standard turned-based affair. Combat is presented in 1st Person with your party’s stats at the bottom & enemy sprites in the middle, character models only shown when performing their action. At the start of your turn, you are given your choices of Attack, Skills, Item, etc. Prominent of these abilities is the ‘Exhaust’ command. This action functions similar to Etrian Odyssey’s ‘Boost’ command, meaning its usage grants an extra bit of “oomph” to whichever action you take after activating it. It functions on a bar you must fill, any damage dealt or taken fills it. Unlike EO, it thankfully stays full when changing maps or returning to HQ, ready to be unleashed next time you need that extra bit of power. Lastly, enemies are separated in ground/aerial units versus the usual Front/Back rows, though it functions somewhat similarly, some skills dealing extra damage to aerial units
What is combat without skills, eh? Thankfully there are plenty to choose from. Class specific, Field & EX skills are at your fingertips. Each class having a myriad to choose from & bring out the last aspect of customization. Each skill is not earned but rather “bought” using Skill Points gained after every battle or even through some items. The roles each class can have, the amount of skills, your ability to buy or have any & all, certainly adds to the customization. Field skills are general use skill, usually gained through quests or plot advances. These cost no MP but have their own set amount of usage, replenished after a quick rest in a bed. These skills are basic stuff, like healing to much more. EX is the standard ‘super’ class-specific skill.
Of the titular dragons, well there are certainly plenty of them to contend with. They come in a variety of shapes & sizes, from fearsome winged beats to adorable puppy-like ones, to imposing fortress-like giants & that is not even counting the bosses. Sadly, despite their numbers & role in the plot, they are nothing more than slightly stronger monsters in relation to the ordinary random encounter mobs, or just figurative & literal walls impeding progress through either a dungeon or the plot. All dragons of the same type follow a similar attack pattern, which puts a damper on having to fight them. It is something you will do a lot as they drop ‘Dz’, a form of currency that is used to repair the HQ thus unlocking beneficial things like the item shops, quest counter, or further advance the plot.
Presentation in 7th Dragon – 2020 is definitely up there, with cool music generally consisting of techno & some Hatsune Miku. Visuals are pleasant to look at, mixing vibrant “futuristic” colors with the dull gray tones of a city in ruin. Dungeons are typically easy to navigate & the aforementioned color palette gives the twisted remains of humanity that make up the dragons’ domain an otherworldly feeling. Characters are displayed in chibi format, which I found lessens the impact or some tension of impactful plot moments involving the gigantic dragons.
All in all, 7th Dragon – 2020 is an enjoyable RPG with some flaws. The chibi models in contrast to the giant dragons, the somewhat repetitive nature of fighting them, & the rather limited area of the world to explore. This ultimately doesn’t entirely detract from the music (Miku notwithstanding), the pleasing visuals, decent degree of customization & the serviceable plot. Thankfully the game can be played in English. So go out there & save the world… or well that rather small area of Tokyo (and not Miku).