Dragon’s Crown

dragons crown box
9.3 Overall Score
Graphics: 10/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Replay Value: 9/10

Sometimes you just need to destroy a sea of enemies.

Think about it: every time you have the need to cleave your way through swathes of baddies without having to battle your attention span, whilst travelling across expansive open-world environments and questing endlessly just to enjoy the simple pleasure of putting an arrow through an orc’s eyeball. What’s a gamer to do? Do you fire up the ol’ 16 bit and break out some classic beat em ‘ups or shooters?  Maybe give Castlevania: SotN a 15th go ’round?

Or do we finally have something new…something better?

“Have fun storming the castle!”

Set in a medieval fantasy world, Dragon’s Crown is a quick-paced side-scrolling action RPG with stunning hand drawn graphics, lush environments and some of the most fluid animations seen in 2D games to date. If you’ve played Odin Sphere or any of Vanillaware’s other titles you know to expect hugely exaggerated characters, rippling towers of cartoony masculinity and female characters that make the Dead or Alive girls look flatter than Dhalsim. No doubt  you’ve seen how pretty the game is, and we all know how fun it is to have endless opposition to slash, shoot, and burn to a crisp…but is there enough innovation within to stand on the shoulders of the many titles that came before it rather than just plodding down the same worn path? If it’s up to George Kamitani,  the second coming of the 2D hack & slash is truly upon us.

This game accomplishes with ease something that many other titles aspire to: an equal appeal to both the casual and hardcore gaming communities. The weekend gamer should be able to hop on and slay a dragon without having to wrap themselves up in strategy and story, while a more serious gamer will find an engaging experience with great challenges and even greater rewards. Both camps will be ecstatic with Dragon’s Crown, thanks to the astounding amount of weapons, armor, and accessories available, as well as the inclusion of unlockable art, earned through completing specific quests made available to you throughout the course of the game. All of these quests will bring you back to log in many more hours over the approximate 20 that it should take to get through the main quest.

That doesn’t even take into account the increased difficulty/modes after completion, either!

Believe it or not, this is the character selection screen!

The game begins with you choosing a character class out of the six available, each having a different set of skills and abilities that make them feel distinctive from one another. Not surprisingly, the fighter classes tend to be a good fit for casuals, with magic-focused classes being recommended for players with more experience. The fighter is an absolute tank, with high defense and a fast attack that allows you to play in a no-fucks-given style while the Amazon is able more swift but still very powerful, though not as powerful as the dwarf, which may as well be a fleshy bazooka on legs. Any of these should feel familiar and make it easy for anyone to hop on and play whack-a-goblin at their leisure.

The Elf, Sorceress and Wizard classes take a bit more focus and skill to master, with them focusing on ranged attacks, offensive magic, and defensive magic respectively. The difference in mechanics between the warrior and magic using classes is refreshingly large enough to cause you to approach them in a distinct manner and amounts to much more than in many other games where the biggest variations amount to nothing more than slightly altered statistics.

“…AND STOP CALLING ME GANDALF!”

The story here is traditional fantasy fare, filled with dragons, kings and ancient magical artifacts, which plays a less important role than in the developer’s past titles. The gameplay is what is meant to shine, with a fluid style of play, distinct skill trees for  each class and a healthy dash of exploration through branching paths and secret rooms found on each level to keep the player interested.

Many of these secret rooms are located through to use of runes you gain along your quest that you match to ones you find inscribed on walls which can grant all sorts of power ups as well. This adds an interesting point-and-click element to the game, used not only to find runes, but also to locate hidden treasures to increase your score. I found this, as well as the inability to pause during the game, to aid me in staying focused on the game, as there is always some hidden gem in a crack in the wall waiting to be claimed. Although this element is obviously included with the Vita version of the game in mind it works well on the console version as well.

Click the runes, get the prize. Simple, right?

While enjoying the many varied fantasy creatures to split in twain with your favorite woodcutting tool, and exploring the branching paths found on each level you will often have an innumerable baddies coming at you as well as a total of 4 companions in your squad and on your screen, being bots, online companions, or your buddies in the same room. It should be difficult to keep track of what’s happening on screen but it’s surprisingly easy to keep an eye on your chosen warrior thanks to a the inclusion of a colored ring signifying your character’s location. This is also helpful when fighting the jaw-dropping bosses you’ll come across, which rival the bosses found in the glory days 2d gamings classics like Contra 3 or Super Metroid.

Whether you’re casual or hardcore, looking to play alone or with a group, human or martian, this game has something for you. Some may find the need to replay through levels to progress and obtain unlockables to be stale it’s hard to say the reward of such highly detailed concept art for the game isn’t worth it. With it’s astounding visual flair, imaginative design, ease of play, and overall depth this game feels like a rallying cry for the return of high profile 2d games, showing that there are still plenty of innovations to be made in even the most tried and true gameplay styles.

“We have reinforcements coming, right? RIGHT?!?”

Second Opinion

Cap’n Camacho was counting down the days ’til Dragon’s Crown’s release, like a kid anxiously going through an advent calendar. He’s extremely familiar with the Vanillaware pedigree, as well as the jaw-dropping art style of their games. I was not, however.

Sure, we’ve posted the press releases, I’ve watched all the trailers and introductions, but at the end of the day, I’m simply not a beat ‘em up person. Don’t get me wrong: I loooooooved spending afternoons co-op’ing Double Dragon with a friend, or even throwing down for a couple matches of Final Fight. But somewhere along the way, I just lost interest.

“I’M CHEESING SO HARD RIGHT NOW!”

Sure, the 2D side scroller genre has continued to spurt out half-assed titles throughout the years, but they were all so formulaic and boring, that I couldn’t be bothered to pick ‘em up.

So when Dragon’s Crown arrived at the office, I was the very definition of skeptical: was the massive wave of interest primarily in the big boobed, scantily-clad women? Was this another game that served only to appease the “rule 34″ market on the internet?

I sat down, expecting to play 20 or so minutes and hand it off. Instead, FOUR HOURS came and went like nothing. I was hooked! Not only is it an amazing-looking game, from models to backgrounds, but it’s easy to pick up and play for nearly anyone. Do you want to blast through walls of enemies for 10 minutes or so? Done. Are you a loot hound, looking to customize your character with the best gear? It has that too.

Oh yeah, but no doubt you’ll only hear about one thing: the boobs.

“Don’t dare make another ‘is it cold in here’ joke!”

Like Mike mentioned earlier, character models are all about exaggeration. At first glance, you’ll likely think that the game was designed by a 12 year old boy. Sure, it’s a T-rated game, but it earns every last inch of that T. Seemingly every female you come across is scantily clad, and all the men are either triangle-shaped warriors, or creepy corpse-fingered old men. But yeah, during the 20-25 hour quest, you’ll see LOTS of boobs. Sure, you don’t see any nipples, but daaaaaayum. Put it this way: as a teenager, I’d get red-faced if my mom walked in on me playing, during certain sequences.

But, as “hit you over the head” as the boobage is, after 15 minutes of playing, you stop noticing.

Seriously. And I’m the most mammary-conscious person I know!

The Amazon has thighs that put Wonder Woman’s to shame.

There’s simply just too much going on to get bogged down with boob staring. Sure, you’ll hit the odd full-screen storyline element with a scantily-clad nymph (or a muscles-on-muscles barbarian guy), but you’ll quickly get swept up in the narrative. And then, you’ll forget all about breastisis…until someone walks in on you playing!

No, the only real criticism I have with Dragon’s Crown, is that with all the co-op awesomeness to be had, it can severely clutter the screen. You can choose up to three AI, PSN or local (read: couch) people to help you with your quest…and in later levels, it’s not an option; it’s a necessity!

Unfortunately, having four independent characters on the screen can get really, really confusing. Throw in a pile of baddies, and you’ll be mashing buttons, hoping that you’re hitting the bad guys…and not your teammates!

“…AND MY AXE!”

Aside from that, playing the campaign in co-op is a BLAST! And if live co-op isn’t your bag, you can “find” adventurers to help you with your quest.

In nearly every level, you’ll come across piles of bones. If you recover them, and take ‘em to the in-town chapel, you can resurrect the fallen adventurers and recruit them to your team. Or, you can choose to bury them, and you could get a random item for your troubles.

“So, stop me if you heard this one: these three elves walk into a forest…”

Overall, like Mike said earlier, Dragon’s Crown essentially revolutionizes the 2D  fantasy hack & slash genre. Even if you aren’t a 2D fan, it’s well worth a look, if only for it’s stunning art. The difficulty is strong enough to keep you coming back, but isn’t weak enough to make you lose interest. And replay value? Each character has it’s own distinct tree, with 20+ hours of content for each class.

If you remember the days of tossing countless dollars into the Golden Axe or Final Fight machine, you’ll find a LOT to love with Dragon’s Crown!

- Mick

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Author: Capn Camacho View all posts by

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