Release Date: 8/6/2013
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Vanillaware is known for one of the hardest JRPGs on the PS2, Odin Sphere, and I was very excited upon hearing about the spiritual successor to that game. While Dragon’s Crown isn’t nearly as hard as that game (it’s much more forgiving) it still has a lot of challenges that await you. Dragon’s Crown’s biggest disappointment is its short length. There are almost no main quests and contain mainly side quests (about 50). Once you finish the game you unlock a hard mode and then an Inferno mode. Thankfully the game can be played with up to 4 players so it can be a blast.
The story is about a Crown that has been taken by an Ancient Dragon. Your job is to return this crown to your kingdom and kill the dragon. The story is very light and I know there could have been so much more here. But the super short length makes it impossible for a better story. There are very few cutscenes and not much-spoken dialogue (which is only done by a narrator). Once you jump into the game you can attack, use items, cast spells, and use the right analog stick to move a hand around the screen to collect treasure. You always have a non-fighting thief with you who can pick locks on hidden doors and open chests. Sadly, you can’t change out your equipment during a mission (most levels can be passed in less than 10 minutes). However, at the end of each level is a boss and they increase in difficulty throughout all 8 levels or so. Each level has two bosses at different levels for various players.
Once you finish a mission you can return to town to appraise your items, bury or resurrect bones you find in levels for new AI partners, level up, acquire new quests, and buy runes. Runes are found throughout levels in pairs which need to be matched with runes in your possession. These add various buffs to your party which can turn the tide of a battle. Outside of those main things there’s not much to do besides hit the level cap. The missions are extremely repetitive since you need to find 9 talismans before facing the Ancient Dragon (that’s almost all there is to the entire main quest line) and once you are able to beat the Ancient Dragon (probably when you’re around level 30) you do it all over again on a harder difficulty. It gets kind of boring after a while and extremely tough towards the end. It’s best to go in with actual people since your AI partners can mess things up. Thankfully, unlike Odin Sphere, you have lives and can even pay to keep reviving with your coins. This alleviates some of the frustration.
I just wish there was so much more to this game. It feels so small and claustrophobic. The short levels, the nearly non-existent questline, and story, but at least the characters you pick are fun to use and the controls work well. The art itself is stunning with beautiful water-color backdrops and crazy-looking enemies and bosses. This game is mainly designed for fans of the co-0p arcade RPGs of yesteryear from Capcom. Not much of a story, but tons of combat and enemies to kill and levels to acquire. If you want a story-heavy RPG like The Elder Scrolls or Fable you won’t find that here.