Japan Review Check: Dragon Quest VII, Ginga Force

A quick look at the highlights among the games coming out in Japan this coming week, courtesy of the review pages of Famitsu magazine:

- Dragon Quest VII (9/9/8/9, 35 points out of 40): The 3DS remake of the top-selling (albeit extremely long) PlayStation 1 entry in Japan's top role-playing series does pretty well in the ratings, although it didn't emerge from the review write-ups completely unscathed.

"The fact your characters' external appearance now changes with their job makes raising them much more fun," wrote editor Reona Ebihara. "The new orchestral soundtrack has a lot of depth to it; it matches well with the equally deep story and makes the entire package more charming."

Fellow reviewer Maria Yoshiike also brought up an improvement that old PS1 gamers should welcome: Square Enix has redone DQ7's intro and first dungeon, which was pretty drawn-out and boring in the original. "The puzzle bit at the start has been streamlined," she wrote, "making it a lot easier to get into the game. Managing your inventory and dealing with purchases and sales is still a bit annoying, but the rest of the interface works really well. The radar and other hints you get while searching for tablets leads to major improvements in terms of gameplay tempo, too."

- Ginga Force (7/7/8/8, 30 points): This is the latest shooter from Qute, whose last release was 2012's Eschatos and who appears to be the last Japanese company focused on producing traditional shmups on the Xbox 360.

"The quick tempo of Eschatos is combined with a new behind-the-ship view that's inserted into some sections, providing some graphical oomph," wrote editor Atsuhiro Fujiwara. "The mid-stage dialogue is pretty exciting, and it's all fully voiced, too. I like how you can power-up your ship through repeated playthroughs. The graphics are pretty unique, though, so you'll need to like them if you want to enjoy this."

Although Fujiwara wasn't the only editor to bring up the visuals (which go for an Ikaruga kind of style but lack similar polish), reviewer Urara Honma still rated Ginga Force her pick of the week for consoles. "It took a major effort even on Easy difficulty," she said, "but I managed to get all the way through stage 10. Fans of this type of game will like it, but I think anyone looking to polish their vertical shooter skills also needs to try this out."

- Silent Hill: Book of Memories (7/7/6/7, 27 points): Famitsu was just as non-plussed by the new PS Vita take on Konami's horror franchise as the rest of the world's reviewers were back last October.

"A new genre change means you now get to build up your character RPG-style, which adds some new fun to the mix," said Ebihara. "I like all the creatures from the older games that make appearances, too. However, all the characters are pretty tiny onscreen, which means there isn't much of a horror element to the package at all. The really long load times were also a concern."

"This game lets you enjoy the rush of bashing up enemies hack-n-slash style alongside the fun of solving puzzles adventure-style," added Yoshiike. "The problem is that the graphics are too dark to get a full grasp of what's going on, so if you miss a single key, you're stuck having to go back through each room with a fine-toothed comb."

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