The Legend of Dragoon
Review by Kyle Bowen
"A solid addition to an RPG collection."
Legend of Dragoon is an RPG released in 2000 by Sony. Even though Dragoon takes conceptual design ideas from other games, namely Final Fantasy 7 and 8, it is ultimately a genuine, original game that is intellectual, challenging, deep, and fun.
The battle system sticks out a lot. Dragoon has a unique twist on the traditional turn-based RPG set up. Each character gets their turn like normal but when attacking there is a string of combos or additions as they are called in the game to put together to get greater damage. The concept works because of the gradual accumulation of damage given. If you put together 5 of the possible 7 additions, you don't miss your turn completely you just do damage equal to 5 hits instead of 7. I was always trying to complete the additions but I never felt bad if I missed because I was still doing substantial amounts of damage. Completing the addition to its fullest is recommended because with every 20 successes your addition will gain a level and thus become even stronger. This is a novel concept because it makes random battles go by faster which is desperately needed with how slow the battles can be. The load time is only a few seconds but it is noticeable. Once in battle there is always a brief pause before characters turns are granted. This is a slight technical problem not a conceptual one.
The worst conceptual idea in the game came with the confuse status. Yes the general confuse status seen in many RPG's. When confused your character does random things including attacking themselves and their teammates. Here is the problem I have with that; you can't normally attack yourself or your teammates. It is a hypocritical idea. Sure attacking yourself or your teammates might not be very useful but it is the principle itself that I found disturbing.
The last great piece of battle is the Dragoon transformation. As the title of the game suggests, Dragoons will be seen in the game. The character gains the ability from a gem that grants the power to transform during battle. This will grant them access to powerful magic spells and some decent attack power. How long and how strong you are with your Dragoon form all depends on your Dragoon levels of course. While in Dragoon status your stats all increase. This creates a good strategic value of the Dragoon form for certain boss battles because you are limited to a certain amount of Dragoon turns at one time. There are few battles that don't allow Dragoon transformations for whatever reason and they are annoying. My biggest complaint with the Dragoon from is the lack of an option to revert back to normal. Once you go Dragoon you can't go back until the fight is over or your turns run out. Because you can't use items while in Dragoon form not being able to revert can be annoying and a valid complaint. Overall the system makes good sense and works very well.
The game opens with an amazing FMV that has a wonderful sense of shadowy foretelling.
The story is incredible. First of all it is very easy to understand. The concept is so simple to understand. Unlike many RPG's where things get so convoluted with ideas that go over the head so easily, Legend of Dragoon is able to keep the epic feeling that an RPG should have but is able to do so in a way that is easy to grasp. The story is very character driven.
Dart the lead character is pretty easy to understand. His motivation is very upfront. However, there is sudden shift that transfers the focus of his motivation to something else making him abandon his previous intentions. How he deals with that is what creates his heroic presence and justifies his role as the lead character. The main conflict slowly unfolds in a traditional way that works, unlike some games which seem to take this route only to drop a sudden and asinine plot twist that ruins the entire of complexion of the game.
The game has a wonderful ending. I expected something a little bit bigger but I won't complain. The ending exemplifies the desperation that the party feels throughout the story and matches their will and determination to get what they want.
The FMV's are top notch. Passable by even the standards applied today in 2006. Voice acting was in the beginning stages of taking itself seriously and you can tell. There is a valid attempt to be sincere and sophisticated but sometimes the dialogue and the presentation of voice doesn't work very well.
The character design in the game is awesome. Tatsuya Nakamura's design is successful in relating the characters visual image with their personality. It almost relies on color a little too much (red for the passionate lead, white for the pure virgin-esque girl, deep purple for the dark girl, stone yellow for the earthy rock-like giant, green for the down to earth male) but it is deep enough to do the job. His use of asymmetry is perfect.
Dart is such a strong visual lead. His physical make-up is fragile which relates to his emotional and decision making capabilities but he is given Road Warrior armor that suggests he is not as weak has he looks. He does a good job of backing up the badass qualities in his design and leaving any thing about his fragile behind. He proves the fact he is capable of many strong acts.
Rose is the strong kick ass female lead. Her sexual undertones are strong, suggestive and symbolic. Rose is the type of character to use every thing she has to win a fight including her sexuality. One magic attack has Rose spreading her legs and then being split in two halves from her crotch up while the enemies are sucked in a portal in the shape of female genitalia and destroyed. The strong suggestion of sex with such a masculine character is a great way to balance her personality and remind the viewer that she is still female. It is also a great way to help the viewer trust in her when she is obviously a dark character that isn't concerned with trust.
Every character has great back story that is continually revisited. The cast is superbly presented with each character having a prominent role. There is a scene on a boat early on where you are pressed to find each character and talk to them. The nice part was once you found a character you switched control over to them and searched out a new character whom you would then control and so on. It was nice to control everyone for a while and have the interaction between characters that you wouldn't normally expect to see interacting like this.
Setting is also very prominent in the game. The game is full of unforgettable towns. Fletz was the best. The color and visual theme of astrology set it part from all the other towns. The music is also great. Very rarely have I have heard an OST that was as properly juxtaposed with visual imagery as in Legend of Dragoon.
One of the worst parts of the game is the world map. Not only is it linear but later in the game you need to re-insert an older disk to reach previous maps. It isn't horrible and you only need to switch if you are backtracking. It might put someone off if they are they are trying to complete side quests. I didn't have too much trouble with this and it wont ruin the game but it isn't one the games strong points.
I finished the game in slightly under 50 hours and I didn't do everything. The time was rather slow and methodical but man, what a fulfilling 48 hours it was.
If you are an RPG fan who likes to revisit games you have beaten this game is worth a buy. Sadly the lack of a new game+ hurts but the story, battles, and characters are well worth it. Playing through again with maxed additions or Dragoons, or Dragoon forms obtained later in the game would be nice.
I give it a 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/06/06, Updated 09/06/06
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