Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past Nintendo 3DS Review - A Long Journey, but Not a Draggin' Quest

If you crave a meaty JRPG you can gnaw on for hours, make Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past for the Nintendo 3DS your new jam.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

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Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is a game about rebuilding a shattered world. Appropriately, when you play this Nintendo 3DS remake of Square-Enix's 16-year-old RPG, it's clear the gleaming new adventure is built on the bones of an ambitious but deeply flawed relic of the PlayStation era.

The original Dragon Quest VII – initially released on these shores as Dragon Warrior VII – is still considered a good RPG, but it swishes far below greatness for a significant reason: The adventure is as bloated as a dead gasbagon fermenting by the side of a river. Though many of us (myself included) missed out on Dragon Warrior VII when it had its first go-round, it's still widely known as the RPG nobody finished because to do so requires at least 100 hours of your life.

"Guys, emergency! I gotta pet that dog!"

It's not as if the entirety of that time investment goes into exploring cool new areas, either. Instead, you drift through a series of archipelagoes in search of the fragments that are necessary to restore the world to its former glory. In turn, that means stumbling through winding dungeons and going up against endless chains of random encounters.

As the words "review in progress" indicate, I'm not yet done with Dragon Quest VII for the 3DS. I can confidently say it won't take me 100 hours to get through its main storyline, though. I can also say, thankfully, that not a single minute of the 50+ hours I've spent with the game thus far feels like a waste. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is nearly 100% muscle-meat. No fat, no filler, no gristle.

Well, almost no filler. The vital story transition from "humble fisherman's son" to "stick-wielding adventurer" takes about 90 minutes. Once you hit the ground, though, it's all hustle and bustle.

Like other games in the series, Dragon Quest VII's overarching story is simple good-versus-evil fare. In this instance, a struggle between God and the Devil led to most of existence being wiped away aside from the small island you're born on. When it becomes apparent you're the Destined Hero (that mark on your arm ain't for show, boy), you must find fragments of tablets that let you travel back in time, cure whatever's ailing those ancient continents, and allow them to return to the peaceful sunshine of the present.

Catching up on gossip about Smaug, Toothless, et al.

Though Dragon Quest VII's story appears oatmeal-flavored from the outset, its appeal is in its individual events, not its bigger picture. Every island you visit and liberate has unique problems. The first realm you free is a standard "Help, monsters are oppressing us" scenario, but things quickly become more interesting. On one island, people have been turned into animals. On another, a poison rain is turning people into stone. On yet another, the monsters are seemingly at bay even though its human denizens have turned on each other. And so on.

Dragon Quest VII's story value comes from the people you meet and watching their lives transform as you help them out of their jams. Incidentally, "saving" the world in the past doesn't necessarily spell the end of trouble in the future. There isn't always a tidy solution or a happily ever after, and it's these twists that keep you invested. Simply put, there's an excellent story here that's well-paced (outside of the game's first hour or so, you're rarely expected to sit still while people jaw at you for ages), and it's nice to be able to experience it without burrowing through hours of aimless dungeon-crawling and tablet-hunting.

The Dragon Quest VII 3DS remake team actually set out specifically to make a slimmer, trimmer, and more accessible game than the original, and it's a job well done. Gone is the guesswork that infamously sucked the fun out of Dragon Warrior VII. A "tablet tracker" that lights up whenever a piece is in the vicinity makes tablet-hunting painless, as does a hint system that gently points you in the direction of missing pieces if you find yourself befuddled.

One of these characters is riding their mother.

The tracker and hint system blend well with other new time-saving features, like complete maps of every town and dungeon you enter, and the elimination of random encounters. As in Dragon Quest IX, your foes are visible on-screen. They may charge you if you're spotted, but it's usually not hard to give them a wide berth, especially in open areas. And if you're a higher level than they are, they'll ignore you or outright flee. Many of Dragon Quest VII's dungeons are full of twists, turns, and dead ends. It's easy to see how Dragon Warrior VII's lack of decent maps combined with random encounters would make for an agonizing journey.

But my very favorite thing about Dragon Quest VII is its accessible and streamlined job system. As is typical of Dragon Quest games, jobs are your primary means of picking up skills and spells. There are dozens of the gosh-darn things in Dragon Quest VII, including several monster-based vocations. It's an intimidating realization until you realize most job-switches don't require you to also juggle your equipment, nor do they penalize you if you're using the "wrong" type of equipment. Ruff the wolf-boy can be a boomerang-wielding Monk if you want him to be, and the game never wags its finger at you. This non-prejudiced job system makes experimentation a breeze.

Don't be fooled into thinking the new Dragon Quest VII is underweight, however. Even with all its filler blasted out, it's still an adventure of considerable heft. As I stated earlier, I'm over 50 hours into the game and I'm still not done. I can see the sun peeking over the horizon, but I'm not quite there. And I know the game won't be "over" once I've restored peace. There are still Tiny Medals to hunt, monsters to tame, and traveller's tablets to collect. Traveller's tablets work much like the treasure maps from Dragon Quest IX and are similarly sharable via StreetPass, so if you enjoyed sinking hundreds of hours into Dragon Quest IX's post-game, prepare to keep Dragon Quest VII nestled in your 3DS's cartridge slot for a long time.

(Unless you download it to your SD card.)

I'll pile on more observations about Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past day-by-day until I finally plunge my sword into the Devil's heart (or the heart of whatever abomination is waiting for me at the end of all this). For now, it's an easy recommendation for RPG fans of all shapes, sizes, and stripes. If this is your first crack at Dragon Quest VII, welcome to the fold. And if you were burned by Dragon Warrior VII in 2000, don't be afraid to downsize.

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Comments 57

  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #1 cldmstrsn A year ago
    YEEESSSSSS!!!!!!! so excited for this game.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #2 Godots17thCup A year ago
    Friday can't come soon enough!
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  • Avatar for mnicolai #3 mnicolai A year ago
    I've been waiting for a remake of DQVII before it was even announced. It's a great game that just needed a little more time in the oven. This week has been the longest week.
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  • Avatar for nilcam #4 nilcam A year ago
    This will be the game that determines if I still like RPGs. Ever since Chrono Trigger, I've found RPGs hard to play. Most of them are too long for their own good. I love the SNES era of RPG as they maxed out around 40 hours. I tried the DS releases of several DQ games and none of them ever stuck.
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  • Avatar for Paunchberry #5 Paunchberry A year ago
    After all these years, I never thought that we would get this remake! I really hope it does well over here and that plenty of people give VII a chance; it would be nice for the series to actually sell well and have a future over here again.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #6 Modern-Clix A year ago
    Cannot wait to play this. I too bought the original game when I got my PS2, and I never finished it. Heck, did not get that far because it was so daunting to be tethered on my TV for all that slow roasting meat.

    My copy arrives on Friday from Amazon, but unfortunately I am about to reach the end of Part 2 of Dragon Quest 5, so have to wait until I finish that up.
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  • Avatar for Mr.Spo #7 Mr.Spo A year ago
    @Modern-Clix Haha, I'm replaying the Final Fantasy games at the moment, I'm on the DS remake of IV (because I've never done that version) and am going right up to XV (mainline games only), so it's going to be a while before I'm done with them. After that, I'll be playing all the Dragon Quests that are playable on 3DS, so the DS remakes of 4-6, the 3DS remakes of 7 & 8, 9 (DS) and 11 (3DS). This remake sounds great, but it's going to be a long, long time before I play it!
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #8 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @nilcam This game definitely isnt for you then if you didnt like the other DS DQ's.
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  • Avatar for nickn #9 nickn A year ago
    @nilcam This game is 100 hours long. Sounds like this isn't what you are looking for.
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  • Avatar for nilcam #10 nilcam A year ago
    @cldmstrsn I think you're right... Cancelled the pre-order.
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  • Avatar for kevinbowyer34 #11 kevinbowyer34 A year ago
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #12 The-Challenger A year ago
    Thanks for the spoiler about that dudes mom. Or was that furry joke?

    I guess I will check back to see the full review in a few days. Even if you did already sell me on this game.
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  • Avatar for moochan #13 moochan A year ago
    I was wondering who Jeremy got to review DQ7. Guessing he would love to but he is busy with other things I'm guessing (and DQ Builder is also pack with wonderful slimey goo). Remember playing and beating this game over 15 years ago and told myself "never again." Can't believe I'm breaking that rule I set for myself.
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  • Avatar for himuradrew #14 himuradrew A year ago
    The game is preloaded and waiting to unlock on my 3DS. RPg goodness!
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  • Avatar for Thad #15 Thad A year ago
    @The-Challenger Yes, a "spoiler" for a game released in 2001.

    It's not a spoiler, any more than "the hero is a fisherman's son" or "Kiefer is a prince" is a spoiler. Gabo is a wolf. That's his whole deal. They changed his name to Ruff in this version, for God's sake.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #16 The-Challenger A year ago
    @Thad Oh my, I wasn't serious.

    Now I await Friday, for some reason I thought this came out on the 9th. I'm an idiot.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #17 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @The-Challenger I mean you can at least see that its really hard to gauge a serious comment with a joking one especially in this age of everyone getting in a huff over spoilers.
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  • Avatar for LunarKnite #18 LunarKnite A year ago
    This is by far my favorite story in all of the RPGs I've played. And I've never even finished the game. But the combination of time-travel and a focus on town/island vignettes instead of a constant overarching plot line throughout the game is just so great. It makes you feel for the places you visit. I'm just so happy this game is finally being released soon!
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  • Avatar for Shorap #19 Shorap A year ago
    @Mr.Spo Hah, I'm playing FF 4 on DS as well. Figured I'd play an rpg that can be stopped when DQ 7 arrives and then picked up easily afterwards.

    First time playing the DS remake of my snes favorite and am really liking the production values. Wish they would've done the same with FF 1 and 6.
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  • Avatar for jimmyhill11 #20 jimmyhill11 A year ago
    Dragon Quest V? Who are you taking as a bride?
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  • Avatar for link6616 #21 link6616 A year ago
    I am really looking forward to playing this! I bought the import version a few months before the localization was announced, and knowing there is an english version out there makes the extra effort feel unneeded.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #22 Modern-Clix A year ago
    @jimmyhill11 I wanted to choose Debora cause she is so sassy, but ultimately I chose Bianca because the story made me feel guilty.
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  • Avatar for jimmyhill11 #23 jimmyhill11 A year ago
    Yeah I went the same way. I can't help feeling I've missed out on some feisty party chat shenanigans. I even started down the route of choosing Debora but her father started freaking out at the insane notion and then I got the guilt pangs and bailed. Tough decision though. I can't think of any one I've agonised over more in a game....Edited 5 times. Last edited September 2016 by jimmyhill11
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #24 Modern-Clix A year ago
    @jimmyhill11 Persona 4 made me agonize a great deal lol I went with Chie in the end, but that was a tough decision deciding between her and Naoto!
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  • Avatar for tvsadam #25 tvsadam A year ago
    I actually did finish the PS1 version, at just a hair under 100 hours. It remained the longest game I'd ever played until I spent 110+ hours finishing Xenoblade Chronicles.

    It sounds like the worst part about the original - the ease with which you can lose track of where you're supposed to go next - has been addressed here, and that is utterly fantastic news.

    The only disappointing thing about this is that I'd somehow gotten it in my head that this drops tomorrow and not Friday.
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  • Avatar for Getbetter #26 Getbetter A year ago
    Oh man I cannot wait to play this game.
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  • Avatar for Thad #27 Thad A year ago
    @The-Challenger Ah, Poe's Law strikes again, then.
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  • Avatar for metal_maniac #28 metal_maniac A year ago
    I have only played DQ VIII and that was on the PS2, but I loved it to bits. Hopefully this will give me another reason to visit the DQ-universe
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  • Avatar for GeoX #29 GeoX A year ago
    Man, all this "THANK GOODNESS it's not so long and lame like the original!" is bumming me out. I fucking loved the original more than almost anything, I had zero problems with anything about it, and reviews like this make me worried that the remake's gonna be significantly worse.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #30 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @GeoX you and me must be reading different articles because im seeing just a ton of stuff that tells you absolutely should pick up this game. If you loved the original there is no doubt in my mind you will love this too.
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  • Avatar for GeoX #31 GeoX A year ago
    @cldmstrsn Yes, it's a positive review, and PART of the positivity stems from "THANK GOODNESS they fixed all that crud from the original version." That's kinda my point.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #32 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @GeoX While I understand the appeal of less-than-perfect mechanics in flawed games (one of my favourite games is Secret of Mana, don't forget), there's no denying Dragon Quest VII is widely criticized for its length. So when a game remake specifically sets out to eliminate the original's problems I kind of have to acknowledge those problems, you know?
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #33 cldmstrsn A year ago
    @GeoX Well at least you have the original to play I guess.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #34 SargeSmash A year ago
    @GeoX : Don't get bummed. I loved the original version, too, but I have to admit it had some pacing issues. It's still a looong game, and probably even better now that some of the fat has been trimmed. If it comes in at the length of Dragon Quest VIII (around 75 hours to get the "true" ending there), then that's absolutely perfect.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #35 Modern-Clix A year ago
    @GeoX Well I enjoyed the original release, but I also feel it has issues in regards to the pacing and some of the localization, not to mention the artificial time padding involved with finding tablets without any direction.

    That said, even if this was a tit for tat remake regarding what I mentioned, I'm just looking forwards to the new visuals. For one, I love Toriyama's art and it's great to see it like this. Two, the original was an ugly game for its time. Dragon Quest 6, Chrono Trigger and FF 6 looked a lot better than DQ 7.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #36 The-Challenger A year ago
    If it's even half as good as DQ 9 I will be ecstatic...only one more day!
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #37 Captain-Gonru A year ago
    I'm really looking forward to Streetpass functionality. Assuming I can get tags, of course.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #38 Godots17thCup A year ago
    TBH, I've always loved SE's post-VIII localization style for Dragon Quest, silly non-English dialects and all. The only time I remember feeling like it truly got out of hand was with Dragon Quest IV - parts of that game could be a slog to read at times.

    EDIT: I can totally get why the dialects can get old for some people, though.Edited September 2016 by Godots17thCup
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  • Avatar for Barelyhomosapien #39 Barelyhomosapien A year ago
    I got this for the flight and downtime during my upcoming trip to Japan, now I'm almost excited to be stuck on a plane for 12 hours!
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  • Avatar for Super-Boy-Alan #40 Super-Boy-Alan A year ago
    What I want to know is whether or not my favorite line from the PS1 version made it in. The localization was entirely serviceable, but as you probably know from the stories of how troubled at the development was, it's no surprise that there were some bumpy or awkward spots in there. As far in as you are at this point, I don't think that it's going to be much of a spoiler to mention it, since this aspect of the main quest would already have been alluded to at the 50 hour mark. From the protagonist's father:

    "It never ceases to amaze me that I saw the fruit of my loins revive God himself."

    I thought I remember reading somewhere that Kevin Gifford worked on the original localization, and I can totally imagine him translating that line.
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  • Avatar for scarritt #41 scarritt A year ago
    Of course my 3DS gets wet hours before the digital copy unlocked. T_T

    Hopefully I can get it repaired with my next paycheck, but I won't be able to play it until then. Looking forward to this game even more now.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #42 cldmstrsn A year ago
    Im loving the little nods to the other games in this. In one of the bookcases it talks about a huge vine wiping out a castle and if you played VIII you know exactly what its talking about.
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  • Avatar for reptilio #43 reptilio A year ago
    So.... since this way 6 days ago was day 2 the last day for this? I was enjoying reading them and I'm currently playing and loving the game. Also no final, actual review??
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #44 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @reptilio Yeah, usually we get reviews-in-progress done way more promptly, but since Dragon Quest VII is Dragon Quest VII, that proved difficult. Done now!
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  • Avatar for manny_c44 #45 manny_c44 A year ago
    @reptilio The 'Reviews in Progress' always just add an additional page with updates, the whole thing is the review.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #46 SargeSmash A year ago
    Very happy to see your take on things. I've been struck so far by how much hasn't changed more than it has. Given that I loved the original version, though, having this one with a bit more graphical pizazz is certainly appreciated!
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  • Avatar for TernBird #47 TernBird A year ago
    I am so glad this review went to Nadia. Nobody else is equipped with the puns to do Dragon Quest justice. :)
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #48 MetManMas A year ago
    Normally I don't go physical for games anymore unless it's the cheaper option (the growing trend of retail game boxes coming with nothing but the card/disc and the box and maybe a generic warnings sheet hasn't exactly persuaded me to keep buying physical either), but I'm definitely going physical with Dragon Quest VII when I get it next week.

    It's not 'cuz the boxers cared (they didn't; I watched an unboxing, card/box/sheet), but just because I'd like to have a new Dragon Quest in my 3DS's card slot and the box will be a reminder that "Holy crap...they actually localized it..."

    Even though I never finished the game (got as far as Disc 1's end), I enjoyed it a lot even back when it was ugly and badly translated and the job system was a mess. Of course, I'm the kinda person who WANTS to inhabit an RPG world and I like games that not only allow, but encourage exploration and chatting it up with the NPC populace.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #49 riderkicker A year ago
    I kinda miss the 2D effects, but the 3D is just so pretty, astoundingly the best I've seen in a long time on Nintendo handhelds.
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  • Avatar for Ghopper101 #50 Ghopper101 A year ago
    It's really a shame that this series is so ignored in America. I love it to death, but like you guys said on Axe of The Blood God, the series needs a compilation re-release of at least the first three games. I would love it if Square would localize the Wii Release, port the SNES games to the New 3DS, or the DS games to the Wii U.
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  • Avatar for daysofstatic65 #51 daysofstatic65 A year ago
    @nadiaoxford Given your adoration for the DQ series, how does DQVII stack up compared with other highly regarded entries in the series?
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #52 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @daysofstatic65 It's definitely up there, though my absolute three favourites are still V, III, and VIII. Those are tough acts to beat, though. ;) VII is probably my fourth-favourite.
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  • Avatar for daysofstatic65 #53 daysofstatic65 A year ago
    @nadiaoxford Very solid, then. Happy to hear that. Thanks for your input, and for the review!
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #54 MyNameIsMe A year ago
    @nadiaoxford Thanks for that in-depth review. Reading through your review I thought it was going to get a lower score. I'm about 15hours in and I'm enjoying it a lot, but so far it's probably my fourth favorite too: IX, VIII, V then VII
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  • Avatar for neilhood #55 neilhood A year ago
    Nadia, Thanks for the review. I am sure it was a lot of work.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #56 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @neilhood Thanks for reading! It was, but I enjoyed it. :)
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  • Avatar for reptilio #57 reptilio A year ago
    @nadiaoxford Meant to reply to this and say thanks for the heads up!
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