Vanillaware has had a string of 2D gaming hits ever since their first title, Princess Crown back in 1997. And with the more recent classic, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, the world is always looking out for any of their games. Game director George Kamitani had been pitching the idea of a wonderfully drawn fantasy beat-em up to publishers for nearly 13 years, but at long last his vision is a beautiful reality in Dragon’s Crown, which is hands down one of the best tiles to come out this year or any other for that matter.
The story is pretty simple, the kingdom is slowly falling to chaos, and people are seeking the legendary Dragon’s Crown, a mythical object that can control any dragon, to use and help save their land. This is where you come in, as you pick your adventurer and seek out the crown, all while dealing with back-stabbing higher-ups and other people who will try to hinder you in your quest. There are six characters you get to choose from, the warrior, amazon, elf, dwarf, wizard, and sorceress. Each have their own unique set of skills and gameplay, with the warrior being the easiest to use thanks to simple attacks and good defense, to the more complicated characters like the wizard or sorceress that require you to be more skillful as they can’t take a lot of hits.
Once you’ve selected your adventurer, you’ll be treated to a tutorial where you’ll learn how to move with the left analog stick, using the square button while holding different directions such as up and down for various attacks, and more. After you’re done, it’s off to start your quest by signing up at the adventurer’s guild where you’ll find quests to do and learn new skills using skill points that you acquire as you level. There’s plenty of new skills to choose from, as you can pick from ones specific to your character’s class, or one that any character can use. This along with picking up new gear along the way is sure to keep die-hard RPG fans busy as they tweak their character to their liking.
Any RPG player and beat-em up fan worth their salt knows that there’s strength in numbers, and Dragon’s Crown has you covered. As you play, you will occasionally find piles of bones that you can collect and bring back to the temple in town to be resurrected in various AI controlled characters that you can add to your party. And to make things better, the AI is actually pretty good on them, as they’ll do nice combo attacks, heal themselves if possible, and more. I have to give kudos to the developers for this, as most times when I played, it would be some of my party members who actually saved me from dying or even finished off a boss before I could. You can have up to three other members in your party, and once you’ve made your way to a certain point in the game, you’ll be able to go online and either join other people, have them join you on your quest, or even fight against one another in PVP arena matches. There’s also offline co-op if you have a friend over as well.
You also have a rogue companion with you named Rannie who can open doors and treasure chests for you during your adventures. This is done using the right analog stick to move a hand cursor around on the screen, and then using L1 to select it. You can also use the cursor to click on areas of the stage to find hidden treasure. The reason for this is that the title is also available on the Playstation Vita, where you use the touchpad to perform these actions. While it would’ve been nice to use something like triangle or X to find / open stuff, the cursor gives a PC RPG experience as you play. Another neat feature is the cross-play option, meaning you can play a game on the PS3, save it, and pick up where you left off on the Vita and vice versa.
One of the best things about this title are the graphics, which are all hand drawn and mostly move at 60 frames a second to give off an otherworldly look that has to be seen to be believed. Though the artwork will be hit or miss for some, thanks to some of the females (the amazon and sorceress especially) having an overly exaggerated female form. To say their bodies are structurally unsound would be an understatement, as they border on the line of grotesque. You’ll also come across more females drawn this way throughout your quest that will make the two of them look tame by comparison. Despite this, the art is generally beautiful to behold with the musical score being just as epic, as it sounds a lot like the infamous music from Final Fantasy Tactics. The sounds are also spot on, as everything from monster screams to magic spells sound exactly as it should. You can also switch the voices from English to Japanese if you wish, and also change the narrator to sound like one of the characters with the free (for a limited time) DLC that’s available.
Despite the overly sex-charged artwork, I could go on all day about how amazing and awesome Dragon’s Crown is. From the beautiful high-definition graphics and music, to perfectly blending old school beat-em up fun with new school power, this is a title that simply must be experienced by any gamer out there. With plenty of quests to keep you busy (it boasts to have over 100+ hours of gameplay – and I can believe it) and the ability to play online with others, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more simple-but-fun game out there.