What’s next? A ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ game?
In the evolution of the World, humans followed the dragons. And then came the Winglies. With their strength and power, Winglies came to rule over the puny humans. Eventually, the oppressed and enslaved humans rebelled, bringing about the Great War. The humans allied with the Dragons and in the end were victorious.
11,000 years later, a young man named Dart returns home from his travels only
to find his village in flames. Not only were people slaughtered, buildings destroyed,
and children orphaned, but his childhood friend, Shanna, has been kidnapped.
Dart goes off to rescue her, opening up a larger quest where the fate of the
world rests in the balance, etc.
That could make a good story, right? Sure, it’s nothing new, but it has some
interesting elements. Winglies? Sure, why not. And it’s got an interesting commercial,
eh? Guy gets his head chopped off. Big laugh.
Well, the commercial is completely in CG. And everything that’s on the back
of the box – about the staff of 100 people, the years in development – well,
in the end it don’t count for squat. The truth is that Legend of Dragoon
looks nothing like the commercials. All the different elements of Dragoon
are just substandard – lame characters, boring story, and unoriginal gameplay.
Don’t trust the commercials. Don’t trust the back of a game box. Instead, trust
me to tell you the way it really is.
Legend of Dragoon features the typical characters with the same clichés
amplified. The tough brooding guy, the happy, romantic interest, and so on.
And that’s how they stay, there’s very little character development. Of course,
worthwhile character development requires the character to at least start out
interesting. Their “dialogue” is just so cardboard, so vapid, that it’s plain
insulting to read. And the story is formed around this dialogue, which says
something about the plot.
The combat is a traditional turn-based system with slight changes. There’s
a heavy emphasis on “Guarding,” which provides both defense as well as minor
healing. This is an interesting new concept, but it’s not very well balanced.
When you face weak enemies, you end up guarding repeatedly simply to heal your
characters back to full health. And when you face major enemies, your defensive
abilities negate whatever you just healed.
Your normal attacks can be followed through with “Attack Additionals.” Press
the button at the right time to further your attacks and start a combo. There’s
no cost/risk to using them. Unfortunately, attack additionals are a straight
up rip-off of better games. In Vagrant Story,
for instance, there is a ‘risk’ meter that makes you vulnerable to combo overuse.
Even then, combos of this nature tend to sink towards rote button tapping. Legend
of Dragoon falls prey to this, as the long, drawn out battles lead to boring
button tapping exercises.
There are also Dragoon powers, which allow certain characters to sprout wings
and use stronger attacks. You can access the Dragoon transformation after you
use enough normal attacks. The whole Dragoon thing isn’t implemented very well
and adds little to the strategy of the game.
Generally speaking, however, Legend of Dragoon offers a good amount
of typical role-playing action. Spanning 4 disks, there’s a lot in here, even
though it’s not particularly thrilling.
The progression of the enemies lacks balance. At one moment, you might face
someone with brutal, one hit kills and status attacks you haven’t even learned
how to defend against. Then the next major enemy is a complete pushover. And
it goes on like that.
Another example: an enemy made out of fire is heavily damaged by fire weapons,
but an attack that’s water based does next to nothing. Geeez – even little 3
year olds hocked up on Pokemon know that WATER PUTS OUT FIRE! What kind
of thought was put into this? Is there somewhere in the world where fire puts
out fire? I’d sure like to see that 8th wonder. People would pay big money for
some of that action. When you see oversights of this nature, it shows that little
thought was put into designing the game system.
If there’s one thing Dragoon does well, it’s CGI. There’s a ton of video
in this game, and it looks really good. Of course, this is more eye candy than
There’s plenty of background animation, like smoke and a flowing lake, but
the characters never mesh into their world. The graphics are a composite, overlaying
the characters across the background, like in Resident
Evil or Final Fantasy. The characters
tend to ‘float’ a bit on the backgrounds, but it’s not that big of a deal. While
nothing amazing, the overall effect is decent.
The character polygon design is a bit substandard; blocky and lumpy with simplistic
animations. It seems like they made an effort to make the characters look tough,
but they’ve ended up more super-deformed than the FF7 clan.
The sound is adequate. The music is pretty bland, but what do you expect?
This is a Playstation RPG, not a concerto.
It may be the year of the Dragon, but it sure ain’t the year of the Dragoon.
You keep playing, waiting for something to change, things to develop, but that
never happens. Despite the hype, Legend of Dragoon is a soulless creature,
a subpar game held aloft by deceptive marketing. Don’t trust it.