Review by Snow in August
"Not the best, but one of the best I've seen."
The Legend of Dragoon has been called a Final Fantasy killer, and with a little work and a few sequels, it just might be. While having enough typical RPG elements to be familiar, Legend of Dragoon has more than enough unique points to warrant a fun time. So why not elaborate...
Gameplay: No rideable turtles, no non-aerodynamic but still flying airships: in LoD, to get from place to place, you have to hoof it. This makes sense, actually, as LoD takes place in a non-technological world, and the world map is done on a linear system: no free-roaming, unfortunately, to get from place to place, you travel on a line. While so much more could be done with the space, this isn't too big of a letdown.
Where Legend of Dragoon shines, however, is battles. It's just familiar enough so that people who are familiar with the RPG system won't get lost, but adds just enough to spice it up and make it interesting. Guarding also heals, which takes some of the weight off of the rather irritating 41-item limit, but the Dragoon and Addition systems are quite intriguing. Instead of simply pressing a button and attacking, with the Addition system, you have the ability to hit more than once. These additional attacks can be countered, however, and you have very little warning when a counter is performed. While simple Additions can hit only one extra time, more difficult additions hit up to seven times - difficult, but extra powerful, and absolutely beautiful to watch. Rose's Demon's Dance and Haschel's Omni-Sweep are rather impressive bits of fighting.
The Dragoon system functions as a sort of souped-up reverse limit break. Every time you hit - indeed, every time your blows on an Addition connect, another reason to get better and bigger Additions - you gain Spirit Points, or SP. Once your Spirit Point meter is full, you can transform into a Dragoon, which gives you heightened attack and defense abilities, while allowing you to access the Dragoon Additions and Magic. However, Dragooning has it's downsides, as while you're a Dragoon, you're unable to guard, run, or use items. An invisible Sp meter ticks off how much SP total you gained - as you reach that unseen level, your Dragoon Level rises, and you can access more magic, as well as remain a Dragoon for longer.
Random battles are still a part of this RPG, but occasionally there are touch-activated battles as well. One of the things I rather enjoy about Legend of Dragoon is that when you level up, you NOTICE. You're suddenly MUCH better than you were, no slight increase. As an offset, it takes a large amount of EXP to level, and most random battles don't give that much. Bosses, on the other hand, give plenty... so expect to be fighting many bosses :p. As well, other, rarer battles occasionally give more EXP, allowing you to get a leg-up on the monsters.
Altogether, the gameplay achieves a stunning 10 out of 10. Familiar enough so I don't get lost, but innovative enough to have me wanting more.
Story: Rich, with much history and much hinting at lost things, and much painful past revealed by time. The characters all endear themselves to you, and working through the storyline is rather fun. There are a few Game Cliches, especially in the characters (Kongol, The Big Guy, Shana/Miranda, The Healer, though what happens with Shana quite effectively takes her out of that persona and into something terribly interesting), but otherwise the story is very interesting, giving you just enough mystery to have to think on it afterwards. A sequel set in Legend of Dragoon's rich past would cause spontaneous orgasms.
The story receives a 9 out of 10. The ONLY thing that hampered this was the absolutely horrible translation that oftentimes bogged it down, and indeed, seemed to get worse as the game went on. C'mon, guys, you can do better than this.
Visuals: Lodged between the visuals of FFVII and FFVIII, Legend of Dragoon, while looking simplistic at times, still looks rather good, especially in the absolutely stunning FMVs. Thankfully, FMVs are littered throughout LoD, giving us much time to admire the looks. The backgrounds are beautiful, and the elaborate Additions in battle look incredible; I'd sell bits of my soul to be able to pull off a Demon's Dance in real life.
The visuals get a 9 out of 10. A point was taken off because, while LoD can look amazing, occasionally things look like they were done rather slapdash. Characters occasionally have annoying tics (but it's funny watching an aged doctor in Lohan's pelvis randomly thrust forth :p). But other than that, great, especially in the FMVs.
Audio: I've known people who bought the game just because the end/theme song was very, very good. The music is impressive, very impressive, and quite often sticks with you afterwards. I honestly don't think I ran into a song in LoD that annoyed me or made me wish I had The Tea Party on instead. The ONLY pseudo-negative thing I have to say about the music is, with some tunes, especially the Wingly-themed music (battle themes for Wingly ruins, the music in Ulara and Wingly Forest), it starts off strange but grows on you. A lot.
The voice acting, however, is on the opposite end of the scale. While the voice acting in battles (Lloyd's voice, the voices used during Additions) are not half bad, they use different actors for the FMVs... actors who, honestly, have no bloody idea what they're doing. Dart randomly emotes things he shouldn't, Rose sounds like a whiny high school girl, Melbu sounds like he's drowned. They would have done SO MUCH BETTER to just let the battle-actors do the voices for the FMVs.
Overall, the audio receives an 8 out of 10. You hear MUCH more music than voice acting, which is good enough to save this and push it up, but the voice acting is absolutely abysmal.
To Rent or to Buy?: Rent first. Most of the people I talk to who've played Legend of Dragoon rather like it, but there are some who think it's awful. Rent first, to see if YOU like it, but if you do BUY BUY BUY.
Replayability: Since LoD is rather linear, you won't discover anything new simply by playing again. However, it's worth replaying just for the story value: there are lots of things you'll catch second time around that you won't catch first time through.
Well, that's my take on what I believe to be a rather impressive game. If they keep the good and throw out the bad for the sequel, it might, just might be the Final Fantasy killer people say it is.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/11/02, Updated 08/11/02
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