Review by Ethereal Blue
"A great game at its core, If only the characters weren't so stiff..."
Legend of the Dragoon at first glance, may trick you into thinking it's a final fantasy game, of course, i'm talking about the literal first glance. People who do not play this game for themselves may fear that LOTD is a final fantasy ripoff (looks great, emphasis on story, 3 person fighting parties, unbeleivable cut scenes) but of course, this is rather and understatement for anyone who's played rpgs before will know that no RPG is exactly the same.
Graphics (System-Wise) 9/10
I'd like to call the graphics perfect but I can't, really. First of all, if this were a game by square, you'd damn well beleive it because the cut scenes are inconceivably good, especially the opening and the ending scenes. The third disk has an overabundance of these cut scenes. Of course, I'm talking about FMVs, there's more than that. Cut-scenes using the battle character models and text to advance the story. The FMVs, i forgot to mention, have voice acting. Okay enough cut scenes, what about the game itself? Battle models are perfect although sometimes the battle ''arenas'' look a bit unrealistic (example: in one of the castles, you fight on giant floating cubes, which can't be found anywhere in the castle outside of battle). In the field, where it matters the most, characters still look great, but many will notice that characters will seem to twitch and fidget during story and dialogue scenes. Although sometimes this may look natural, like when dart's hand appears to move, but sometimes you notice that it isn't intentional, the twitches and movements are just poorly designed still models, sadly. Oh and by the way, spell effects, though few in number, all look really cool, especially Rose's. It's not unbearable though. Oh and by the way, spell effects, though few in number, all look really cool, especially Rose's. One last gripe, the sweet mushroom cloud that makes its appearance in the final FMV makes the game lag a bit on the PS1, much like the cut scenes on RE:3 Nemesis. But this does not affect the score as it is because of the system, not the game, that this happens.
Sound (System-Wise) 7/10
Although a few songs in LOTD are memorable and the battle sounds are all great, a few songs can grate the nerves if listened to too often. Nothing big, but not what you would expect from a great RPG. One cool thing is that most battle themes change with the area you're in. Coooool. Also, this game's cut scenes suffer from japanese-port syndrome, as in a few scenes, characters will not speak while their lips are moving and vice versa. Although the lip syncing isn't perfect, the voice acting is quite good.
Gameplay (Genre-Wise) 8/10
Though, like the graphics, not perfect, gameplay in LOTD is still great and feels fresh. Out of battle, the game controls just like a PS1 final fantasy game. The world map has a problem however, it lacks free exploration. You are forced to walk along one set path for the whole game, making it unnecessarily linear. Though one thing I loved was the fact that battle encounters are not all completely random (the exception being on the world map, where you barely fight at all). You see, the character you control (usually main man Dart) has this little arrow over his or her head that is colored silver when the chance of a battle is low, turns yellow when you're a bit edgy for an encounter and red when you will actually encounter a battle in a few steps. There are also potions you can buy that reset your encounter arrow. Now, for the thing that matters the most, the battle system. I was left feeling as if I had just eaten a vanilla ice cream cone after playing this game. I felt like something was mising when I was done. That thing was a proper magic system. While LOTD offers the cool ''addition system'' allowing you to pull off multiple hits, thus doing more damage and filling more of your spirit meter(Fill it up to become a dragoon), the great lack of magic and/or battle techniques make this feellike a rather empty fantasy-rpg. Don't get me wrong, characters DO get their own unique elemental spells when in dragoon form, but they can never stay in this form for more than 5 turns max and the more powerful spells can only be done twice otherwise you run out of magic points. The only way to ''use magic'' out of battle is by using attack items, most of which require you to rapidly mash the X button to increase the power of the ''spell''. Each character eventually gets to become a dragoon at some point or another in the game and once transformed in battle, his or her plans of action are reduced from 'Attack' 'Defend' 'Item' and 'Run' to 'D-Attack' and 'Magic'. Not that this is a bad thing, it just makes healing a bit hard unless the dragoon in question is meru or shana or a certain other character who comes along who i cannot mention for story purposes. First of all, Dragoon magic, unlike Item magic is all point and click, no interaction but a cool spell effect results. Spell effect are not extremely lengthy but if you transform into a dragoon and use magic often (Which you shouldn't need to do because normal battles rarely require dragoon form) you might become annoyed by the characters shouting the spell name a la Lunar: Silver Star Story. Which reminds me, each time a character successfully completes an addition, which can range from 5 to 9 extra hits in length, he or she shouts the name of the addition, except for bow users who do not have additions. Anyways, back to dragoons, now for D-Attack, or Dragoon addition as it is properly called. Dragoon additions are a lot harder to fully pull off than they look. Chances are, you won't be able to complete the additions of the sword, glove, spear and hammer users because the final button press is required to be PERFECTLY timed. The idea goes like this, a spark appears on a clock-like picture that appears on the screen. Upon signalling it release, it circles clockwise and each time it reaches the top, you must press the X button. For each successful tap of the X button, the spark moves faster, until it usually goes around for the fourth time, then stops whether you succeed in the timed X button hit or not. If you miss the X button at anytime when it reaches the top, or press it when the spark is not at the top, the weapon charge will stop and your character will execute his or her attack. If you hit the final note perfectly and pull off a perfect d-attack, you will do a significant amount of damage if there are no dragon blocking statuses in effect and if the opponent is not of the same element color of the attack. That reminds me, almost ALL monsters have an element color which may or may not have a weakness, purple(lightning) and grey(non-elemental) have no weakness but purple has no particular strength either (non elemental does extra damage to all element colors including its own). Every character in your party has an elemental color, making LOTD very strategic. Wow, i've really droned on about the battle system. Okay to wrap things up, leveling up usually only occurs during a boss battle or during the early battles because each time you gain a level, the amount of experience you need to gain to reach the next doubles, making it extremely hard to reach the highest level (40). Also, the more spirit points you gain in total, the longer you can stay in dragoon form via Dragoon levels. Spells are also learned by dragoon levels. Okay as far as inventory goes, you're extremely limited but potions are potent throughout the game because they restore health in percentages rather than set numbers of HP. (See Tales of destiny series for more stuff like this). Speaking of healing in percentages, LOTD boasts the first ever USEFUL 'defend' command. Each time you use defend, you recover 10% of your hp as well as reduce all damage by half and block all status effects. Speaking of status effects, all do what they are supposed to do. Arm blocking (blindness) prevents you from attacking, poison damages you each turn, Dispirit prevents your spirit meter from rising (obviously), fear reduces attack and defence by half and so on and so forth. Gameplay in legend of the dragoon is solid and stable.
Story (Genre-Wise) 10/10
The story is rarely, if never, confusing. Starting off with the classic 'mercenary who left home a long time ago for reasons left to be explained returning to find his home town in ashes' maneuver, one may think this is going to be a straight up ho hum predictable rpg. Not so. The story twists and turns like that roller coaster i rode when I was eleven that made me throw up. This game also throws an FF7 party character death at you, which you don't really expect. I advise not reading the character section of the instruction booklet as it screws the story over a bit regarding the villain. Of course, like many great RPGs, nothing is what it seems and the true villain is unapparent till really close to the end of the game. The story is so great and compelling that once you start playing, you won't want to stop. The best part is it never really becomes so insanely complex that you have no idea what's going on (see: Final Fantasy VII) it strings you along nicely without being predictable in the slightest bit. Another cool thing is that EVERY character develops on a personal level, even some of the would-be villains! One thing i don't count against the score but am a little uneasy with is the fact that characters always sound stiff in dialogue. Sometimes they sound downright simple-minded. They speak like an essay would be written. For example, Shana repeatedly says 'I AM releived' throughout the game instead of something more interested like 'I'm releived that you were not eaten by that giant snake-beast!' The only people who don't sound totally stiff and simple are Meru and Haschel. Fortunately, they are my favorite traveling party. Bottom line: Solid story, somewhat simple characters, amazing alliteration on my part :)
Replayability (Genre-Wise) 7/10
Like all great RPGs, LOTD has a big side quest involving an unseen villain who doesn't really affect the story but requires a lot of ability to reach. In this game, you have to collect ''Stardust'' and give it to a woman named Martel who wishes to use it to heal her injured daughter yadda yadda yadda. Eventually she gives you an item that allows you to fight this unseen villain who is connected, yet, does not influence the story. Very cool, but not the most original. The game's fun to play over again as different parties require different strategies (Try beating it using Shana and Meru as Dart's fighting partners the whole way through, you're in for a challenge).
-I'd like to point out that Kazas, supposedly the most poverty-stricken town in all of LotD, has an overabundance of fat people, including 3 completely overweight children, one of which has lost the key to his home and is forced into torturous excercise in pacing about behind his house. Heaven forbid he should be forbidden to scarf down 10 more garbage burgers (poverty stricken town, remember?) and clog the other 400 thousand arterie passages in his body!
-Some characters have serious issues and make you hate them, beware their personality traits, if any.
-Dart will lose his Dragoon Spirit (an item that allows people to transform into dragoons) a few times through the game, so be prepared to build up high-sp additions to help his D-level catch up to the others.
-This game can be easy or hard, depending on how smart you are.
-I mentioned level-building didn't i? How experience is gained very slowly. Okay good.
-Sadly, you never get to kill the most annoying characters...(DAMN YOU, RUFF!)
Possibly one of the best RPGs ever to come out of a company other than squaresoft for the PS1. As always, it is seriously reccomended that you rent before buying, but in my opinion, RPGers newbie and veteran will be entertained by this gem from Sony. DO NOT buy this game off the bat if you are finicky with your RPGs because it has a very unique approach on turn-based battling.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/10/03, Updated 09/12/03
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