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Dragon’s Crown Review: Reigns Supreme
If you recall the first time anyone really heard about Dragon’s Crown, it was due to the over-the top character design and the controversy that many video game websites stirred up. While the controversy died down very quickly, Dragon’s Crown notoriety didn’t. But now it’s time to judge the game on its own merits and I can safely say that Dragon’s Crown is a fun game with great depth that covers the few minor problems that it has.
First let’s get the storyline out of the way. There isn’t much of one. Dragon’s Crown has a very simple story where you are trying to find a titular object and make sure that EVIL doesn’t get its hands on the object of power. There is a narrator who guides you during the story, though as the game goes further, you get the ability to change the voice actor, which is an interesting feature.
If you’re familiar with other Vanillaware games like Muramasa Rebirth, then the combat in Dragon’s Crown shouldn’t be a problem for you. The attack button is the same as your blocking button and you can execute upward and downward thrusts by using the directional pad. It’s a pretty easy control scheme to pick up on, but the interesting thing is that every character controls very differently so you never feel like you’re playing some kind of cloned character. The Fighter doesn’t have much range but moves very quickly while you could argue that the Amazon is his direct opposite with far more range but not as much speed.
Each character has specific moves and traits that belong solely to their class. For example, the Sorceress and Wizard will cast various Fire and Ice spells while the Fighter, Amazon, and Dwarf all smash their weapons into the ground and strike at the enemies around them. As for the Elf, she uses her special attack on her bow, so if you want a challenge that’s the character I recommend playing.
Dragon’s Crown uses skill points to level up the characters, and for the most part you’ll be able to use those points either in a class-specific tree or a common one. By using class trees you can strengthen each character’s unique attacks and learn new uses. Or by using the common tree, you can raise your health, increase the item slots, and more. The decision on what to use your skill points on is ultimately yours, but I suggest focusing on things that compliment not only your play style but your character as well.
Now for the most part during your playthrough of Dragon’s Crown you’re party is going to be made up of NPC characters. What’s interesting is unlike Fire Emblem, where if a party member dies they’re gone forever in a heartbreaking experience, Dragon’s Crown allows you to pick up bone remains and use them to resurrect fallen warriors. And trust me, you’ll need these bones because the NPC characters don’t level up with you and die off pretty quickly. You’ll have the option to not take any of the NPC characters into a dungeon with you, however they’ll randomly join in at various parts of your play-through.
Dragon’s Crown supports both local and online co-op play. Here’s the problem, though: playing online is a mode that needs to be unlocked. Online play can only be accessed after beating the first 9 stages, but once you do that you’ll be able to quest with your friends and other players online. The system is really interesting, as it allows other players to pop into your game as you play along. The integration of new players is rather seamless and doesn’t interfere with your own gameplay, because there are no menus necessary to set up lobbies. All you have to do is play and allow people to join in.
The art style of Dragon’s Crown is where Vanillaware got in trouble when the game was first announced. The controversy was due to the enhanced features of the female characters, more specifically the large chested Sorceress, which ignored the fact that all the character’s features were exaggerated. That doesn’t change the fact that Dragon’s Crown is a beautiful game and reminds me of a pastel painting. The characters pop out at you from the background, the designs of the monsters and bosses are imaginative and in some cases disturbing. The layers of detail that went into every character design and animation makes it feel hand drawn. If you’ve played other Vanillaware games, then rest assured the level of attention to detail is still high. I appreciate creativity in the way a game looks, and Dragon’s Crown has that in spades.
Where Dragon’s Crown stumbles a bit is right after you complete the nine stages. Alternate paths open up, allowing for a different gameplay experience. In order to succeed in these alternate paths, your character will have to be a certain level. But that doesn’t mean that you have to grind for hours to reach that goal. Instead, you can go on quests and have fun while you wait for you character to level up. If you’re not a fan of this kind of system then it might turn you off as a player.
I played Dragon’s Crown on the PS3, and there were times that the game slowed down but it wasn’t a major problem for me. The downside of the PS3 version is that you lose out on the touch controls, which is something only available on the PlayStation Vita. A large chunk of the game relies on you activating chests, hidden objects, runes and more by touching them and using the analog stick can make things a little uncomfortable. Also, the game doesn’t support either cross-buy or cross-play, but you can upload your save file to the cloud from either version and play on the other.
Dragon’s Crown is a really fun game to play and you’ll have a great time playing alone or with friends. It’s really one of the best looking titles that Vanillaware has ever made. It’s a great take on the beat’em up and deserves a look.
(Note: This game reviewed on the PS3 after 20 hours of gameplay and is also available on the PlayStation Vita. This game was provided by the publisher.)