Remember the old arcade beat-’em-ups like Golden Axe and Magic Sword that were in a fantasy fiction setting? Vanillaware does, apparently. Its Dragon’s Crown game is throwback to those games. I’m not against nostalgia. I’ll still enjoy a Mario game. But I really don’t think this particular game deserves the glowing reviews it got from Metacritic. It’s fun enough, but bland, repetitive, and after awhile, tiring.
Plot: 5 out of 10
Pretty much just filler. You get missions from multiple people, but none of them actually display much personality. One interesting bit is your revolving cast of helpers. They never advance in level so you have to keep replacing them. It’s a change of pace from utterly ineffective supporting heroes (Pippin in the Lord Of the Rings, John Connor in Terminator 2, almost every horror protagonist ever) who stuck around anyway. Not here! Someone fallen too far behind you can be fired.
Graphics: 9 out of 10
Outstanding 2D graphics. This game uses an animation-like graphical strategy similar to the kind used in, say, the Dragon Ball Z games. It works quite well here. Some think of this game as sexist because of the proportions of female characters. That criticism is often on the mark yet I feel it misses the mark here. All the character models have wild proportions in this game. It simply can’t not be meant to be funny.
Sound: 4 out of 10
Music is rather weak. It’s just oft-used tunes that are often associated with fantasy. Voice acting is also weak, but the ironic humor (like with the character models, some of the voices seem comedic) makes them about average.
Gameplay: 6 out of 10
There are a few RPG elements in Dragon’s Crown. You gain levels and buy stuff from some local stores. Additionally, you get computer-controlled helpers by collecting bone piles of them on adventures and then having them resurrected at the temple in town.
The main nerve of the game is the adventures, which are in a beat-’em-up fashion. The controls are pretty good. You have several playable characters to choose from and a fairly wide range of attacks for each. It’s like playing the fantasy beat-’em-ups in the arcade again. Except updated for a new generation.
Unfortunately, this game does not have the best level design. It’s not bad but it’s rather unimaginative. Also, you’ve got to complete the game before multiplayer becomes available. What the? At least you can use multiple controllers to let a friend play the campaign with you.
Challenge: 3 out of 10
Aware that simple games attract casual and non-gamers, Vanillaware made this game easy. I don’t actually mind that, but the whole game is you basically doing the same thing over and over again. This is because of the weak level design and lack of variation in enemies. After a few levels, it gets boring.
Overall: 5 out of 10
It’s worth a rental, but there’s much better arcade action out there. Dragon’s Crown gets some things right but is just too monotonous to be great. It is so-so at the end of the day.