Written by Twisted Ideas
Dragon’s Crown is brought to you by Vanillaware and Atlus, one of the kings of niche JRPGs. The game draws elements from games like Gauntlet Legends and the arcade versions of Dungeons and Dragons as well the RPG elements of Boarderlands. They take familiar elements and create a new beat-em up experience. Does this old, almost forgotten genre stand strong?
How does it play?
Dragon’s Crown is a fantasy RPG in the style of a 2D beat-em up. You can have a party of 4 players of local, AI or online players. You move in a 2D space but you can still move up and down along the screen as with most beat-em ups. You start with three lives when entering a dungeon but that can increase when you score reaches certain thresholds or when casting a certain spell. Your equipment has durability and will eventually break needing repair. The bones of dead adventurers can be found in dungeons. They can be buried for a chance to get one a piece of their equipment or revived to become and ally.
As you progress through the game you visit all the dungeons of the game while finding weapons and equipment. Equipment is randomly generated each with a rank and passive abilities. Lower level weapons can be more useful than higher level ones depending on it’s abilities. Characters earn skill points when they level and complete quests. You can choose from Class Skills or Common Skills. Each ability gets stronger the higher rank it becomes.
Dungeon’s consist of pathways littered with monster blocking your path and a boss at the end. Most areas need to be cleared of enemies before progress is made. On your journey there are rooms and treasures which your rouge ally, Rannie, can unlock. Treasure chests can contain weapons and small amounts of gold. Halfway through the game each dungeon will have a second route with stronger monsters, bosses, and better rewards. At this point after completing a dungeon, you can choose to continue without returning to town. Your score is retained but your life points and weapon condition won’t be restored until you return to town. Occasionally after a level your party will cook at camp. You can eat meals to gain bonuses during the next dungeon.
There are 6 character classes. The Fighter, Amazon, and Dwarf are the melee classes who are strongest in close combat and in the air. The Wizard and Sorceress are the magic users who rely on spells to deal damage. The Elf uses her Bow to attack from distances at different angles for heavy damage.
There are several runes that you will notice on the walls of levels. Later on in the game you will get your first rune stone which is used in combination with two other runes to cast spells. Rune spells vary from offensive attacks, to giving lives, items or money and access to hidden rooms or used to continue the dungeon..
How does it look?
Like all Vanillaware games, the graphics are composed of 2D artwork beautifully rendered and animated. So of the larger bosses are good examples of this. The amount of moving parts in these enemies provide a great effect allowing you to forget it’s just a 2D image. The game is much better suited on next-gen consoles as PS2 Vanillaware games suffered from severe lag.
Meet the ladies of Dragon’s Crown.
There was a lot of buzz regarding the female character designs before the game’s release. While they are over the top the same can be said about the male character designs. Most characters are either overly muscular, have large breasts or in the amazon’s case both. It stands out and it’s still great artwork but it isn’t the main focus of the game. You’ll seldom see these sexualised images but eventually you’ll probably be too immersed to care.
How does it sound?
The soundtrack is composed of a lot of medieval and fantasy music with a lot of harps, horns and orchestrated music. There isn’t much voice acting apart from the narrator. There are some main characters to the story who don’t get voices because the narrator speaks for them. The main characters and shop owners do have voices but they aren’t memorable.
What do I think?
Dragon’s Crown feels like a mash-up of Gauntlet Legends, Golden Axe and Borderlands. It’s a simply yet fun action game but there isn’t enough content to keep it from getting tedious. There are multiple difficulties that raise the level cap (An update added one more difficulty, raising the level cap to 255) and increases the challenge but you’re playing the same 9 dungeons repeatedly. Other than the satisfaction of beating the highest difficulty there isn’t much reason to keep playing once you start getting bored.
Dragon’s Crown borrow so much from Borderlands but lacks interaction with online players. You actually have to go out of your way to see their PSN name. You can’t chat in-game, trade, see their equipment or levels and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between a player and the AI. This is a simpler game and I know that people will avoid online but it’s a much better experience with other players. It makes going through the dungeons much faster and easier and it would be nice if I could chat with some of the players I met.
The game controls well for a beat-em up. It rarely has issues with lining up with enemies. Your can your attacks has a decent vertical range when your not perfectly lined up with them. However, there’s a problem with picking up weapons and choosing runes. You have to be directly above an item to pick it up but there’s a delay. Sometimes you’ll try to pick up the item twice but drop it because you didn’t realize you picked it up. Being online makes it worse. Choosing runes can be annoying because it’s designed for the Vita’s touchscreen. On the PS3 you have to use the analog stick but it snaps to your runes. To pick a rune next to one you’re snapped on is frustrating because you have to force the pointer off it and hope it doesn’t move past. Also, the screen is pulled by the players so you can accidentally choose the wrong rune if people are moving too much.
Should you get it?
Dragon’s Crown an enjoyable game but it isn’t a gem that games like Odin Sphere was. This is one of the few co-operative games where having partners feels necessary. While there isn’t enough content to keep from getting repetitive in the long run the game remains challenging throughout. Vanillaware has been active with providing updates fixed some issues and raised the level cap along with a new difficulty. If you think that a beat-em up game with Borderlands’ RPG mechanics is a good idea then you will have a blast with this game. P.S. the Killer Rabbit from Monty Python and The Holy Grail is a boss.