The market isn’t flooded with co-op side scrolling RPG titles, which is exactly the gap that Atlus hopes to fill with Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown. The Sony exclusive, which fuses retro gameplay with modern role-playing elements, is definitely a niche title for the PS3 and PS Vita.
The easiest way to describe Dragon’s Crown to someone unfamiliar with the game is to compare its co-op gameplay to the arcade-classic Gauntlet, mixed with the daily spell system of Dungeons and Dragons and wrapped inside a visual package that appears to be inspired by Heavy Metal magazine.
A choice of champions
Dragon’s Crown gives players a choice between six heroes to take control of, each one bringing a different playstyle to the game. The Knight, for example, is a heavily armored warrior with the unique ability to block and protect his teammates. Meanwhile, the Wizard and Sorceress can cast devastating spells while levitating and teleporting around the screen. However, the game’s spell casters can’t take a direct hit as well as melee characters, so those controlling these magical artilleries must remain wary of enemy attacks.
In addition, every hero also has a different mechanic which the character class is based around. As mentioned earlier, the Knight is the only one capable of blocking. The dwarf, however, can pick up nearly any non-boss monster unit and hurl them towards other enemies. Those who choose to play as the elf archer will find themselves with a quiver which contains a finite amount of arrows. Each time an arrow is released it will remain on the ground after hitting its mark. The elf must retrieve the arrows by walking over them or their quiver will become empty.
Anyone taking on the role of a magic user must learn to watch their MP rating as they are forced to charge up a meter in order to cast their spells. Finally, the Amazon is a two-handed weapon fighter who can devastate multiple foes with each swing of her great-weapon.
Assemble a party for adventure
Players aren’t expected to take on the challenges of Dragon’s Crown alone. As such, the game allows up to four adventurers to band together in order to take on each stage. Oddly though, while the title does feature online co-op, gamers must first unlock the ability to connect to others via the internet. It’s understandable to have matchmaking remain gated behind introductory content in order to allow players to learn the ropes before being thrust into online play. Dragon’s Crown, however, seems to make gamers jump through too many hoops before being able to connect to others online.
This is a real shame considering that the title becomes much more enjoyable after getting the opportunity to play with others. Fortunately, Dragon’s Crown does allow for local co-op from the beginning for those with nearby friends. Until online play is unlocked, gamers must round out their adventuring partywith fallen NPC mercenaries which they have resurrected while playing through the game.
A tale of two systems
Those who own Dragon’s Crown on both the Playstation 3 and PS Vita can use the same game save on either system. This allows players to continue their progress from their PS3 on their PS Vita and vice versa. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t support cross-buy so consumers would have to purchase the title separately for both systems in order to use this function. This is a sham since the dual-system save support of Dragon’s Crown is one of the game’s more appealing features.
That said, since it’s unlikely that many will buy the game on both systems, the PS Vita version is the better edition of choice. The game seems to have extras that were designed with the hand held’s touch screen in mind. Both versions require players to interact with objects on the screen. Gamers need to merely touch the item in question on the PS Vita screen, while PS3 players are given the clumsy task of using the right analog stick to move an on-screen cursor over the object and must then click L1 to interact with it.
This is often necessary to do during combat, which causes a fumbling experience on the home console. Considering this mechanic is a main feature used throughout Dragon’s Crown, the task quickly becomes a chore on the Playstation 3.
Every adventurer needs a tavern
When not out fighting scores of monsters, players unwind inside the game’s only town. Everything an adventurer needs to prepare for battle can be found here. There are shops where equipment and potions can be purchased, a guild where players can train new class abilities, and a temple that allows characters to pray for various temporary buffs or resurrect new NPC companions. The town also includes a tavern, which is used to swapcharacters and select which AI followers gamers wish to take out on adventures.
Players can depart from town using either a magical portal or by taking a horse from the stables. After defeating the initial stages of Dragon’s Crown and opening up the ability to connect to online co-op, players will then go back through the game’s levels to acquire nine differently colored talismans. Each stage now has an alternate path that opens up halfway through each level which reveals new content that climaxes in a new, more powerful boss for each segment. Each of these bosses drops one of the nine talismans that are needed to unlock the final boss. Beating the main boss unlocks the ability to play the game on hard mode and progress past the level cap of 35 set inside the title’s normal mode. Gamers who play through hard mode will again unlock one final new difficulty setting which allows players to reach the top level cap of 99.
The game won’t appeal to all, but those who like it will love it
Dragon’s Crown certainly isn’t for everyone, but there’s nothing else really like it. Those interested in a fast paced, sidescrolling co-op RPG can’t really find a similar experience anywhere else. In the end the game does carry a surprising charm, especially after the ability to play online with others has been unlocked.
- Players can’t find this style of co-op RPG in any other current game
- A single save can be accessed from either the PS3 or PS Vita
- Takes a little too long to unlock online multiplayer
- Doesn’t support cross-buy
An early copy of Dragon’s Crown, for the Playstation 3 and PS Vita, was provided for the purpose of this review.