Vanillaware, a Japanese studio that is mostly known for its excellent craft work in 2D fantasy, and action games, has come out with their latest game. Dragon’s Crown, a 2D-brawler at heart with action role-playing elements is a game that has rightfully earned the privilege of wearing that crown.
Enthusiastically, I loaded the game up on my Vita, and put my face up to the screen as I was greeted with the opening of the game. This left me only more curious about how well the animation would flow as I played Dragon’s Crown, and once I finally did, it felt delightful. The game was whisking my breath away as I took in all the eye-candy it had to offer. However, Dragon’s Crown might not sit right with everyone as it is a visual vomit of vibrant colors, especially in the beginning. The environments ooze richly towards your eyes while smaller details add much life to the otherwise 2D artwork of the game such as the cloth of robes, and loose material flapping from the wind, or orbs flying around the top base of a staff.
Your adventure begins by being greeted to a round table full of the characters that you’ll be able to choose from that are all fun to play. From here you can pick between the melee intense Fighter, Dwarf, or Amazon. If you prefer to fight from a distance there is the arcane casting Wizard, or Witch. There is also the Elf which plays as a fluid role between melee and ranged combat. Every character plays uniquely regardless of what may seem similar on their exterior. After you make your selection you’ll find yourself able to customize your character’s outfit colors, their name, and preset messages for combat, death, and more. I was glad to also see a choice between English and Japanese voice overs for the characters.
Once you have figured out how you want your character to be you will be thrown into a tutorial. Quickly getting familiarized with that character’s uniqueness helps you get into the action fast. The narrative path of the story does a good job with guiding you throughout the game. As a short note I should point out I was playing the game with the story teller add-on, and it does a bit to add to the feel of the game. If anything I was surprised that the game had a few moments in the story distracting me even though it isn’t anything refreshing to the realms of fantasy.
You’ll make your way throughout the game in nine stages that in the end doesn’t feel like a whole lot, but you’ll revisit these same stages later to play through alternative paths set there. The controls responded greatly on the Vita, and the combat was chaotic. Although, all the chaos never felt like I was out of control, and every moment I spent with it brought lots of joy. Picking up a certain character, regardless if its being recommended as an expert-level, never got in the way of me enjoying the game from battle to battle.
At the end of every stage you’ll gain experience to level up, and likely have plenty of spoils to check out. The leveling system is deep, although you have no control of your stats by leveling, you do through your spoils. Leveling comes with lots of choices when you get to your skills and there are plenty to choose from. Be it ones specifically for you class, or just a common selection that all classes can use there are options to tailor your character’s combat skills actively and passively. There is also a side quest system that follows up on places you’ve battled through which rewards players notably with additional skill points and gorgeous artwork.
One of things you can look forward to in this game is the spoils you get at the end of your adventures. As to be expected with most Action RPGs is the repetition of grinding for loot, know as spoils in Dragon’s Crown, but if you’re playing something in this genre you’re probably here for that. Throughout my experience as the Elf, on Normal mode, I never had much of an issue getting equipment that were usable by my character. It was pleasing to not feel like I was being held back by a need of strong loot that is typically present in a game like Dragon’s Crown, and that stems from rarely running into the issue of having under level gear. The spoils that you get after you end your adventures are ranked with a letter system that will help you know what’s the best of the best, and you’ll definitely be chasing after those that are S rank which is the highest quality. You won’t know what the stats are for the loot without spending some of the gold you’ve earned, and even then sometimes revealing the stats can end up in you profiting if you decide to sell the item. This feature adds to the replay ability of the game, and will have players coming back for more. Although, this is one of the few massive repetitions of the game, and this may wear some players out thin only after their first play through.
Thankfully, there is also an online mode which can be played with three of your friends. If you’re having a Sunday night at a friends place you can always hop into the game through the use of the Vita’s Ad Hoc mode. That’s as close as you’ll get local play on the Vita, but at least the PS3 version features couch co-op. Oddly enough, people on the PS3 and the Vita version can not play with each other online, so you and your friends will have to decide on playing together with the Vita or the PS3. If you end up buying both games individually you’ll be able to comfortably transfer saves between the two versions. Which also raises curiosity as to why Dragon’s Crown doesn’t support the cross-buy functionality that Sony has to offer.
With the huge amount of replayability the game has to offer, and the throw back to old school RPG grinding I’ll find myself playing Dragon’s Crown for days to come. All of it pulls me in, topping it off with the wonderful soundtrack that tingles my ears with enjoyment, and I can’t seem to get away from wanting to achieve further progress throughout the higher stages of difficulty it has to offer past the normal mode. Vanillaware has nothing to fear with this game having such a strong core, and I look forward to what they will come up with next. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on a preference or differences of playing on the PS3 or the Vita version as I only have Dragon’s Crown on the Vita. However, it is wonderful playing on the Vita despite there being a few frame rate dropping issues when there is too much going on the screen at once.
Note: I recommend playing the game with a pair of earphones, or headphones on your Vita to further intensify the feeling of the game’s atmosphere.