Review by Suffurix
"One of the most under-rated games of all time"
I fell in love with this game from the moment the intro started. It delivers on many levels what a quality RPG is expected to deliver. A great storyline, decent plot twists, innovative but not boring gameplay, amazing music (most of the time), and graphic style that...well, you have to get used to it, but once you do, it's amazing. Not to mention the voice-acted FMV cut-scenes. I bought this game at a Game Crazy store a few years ago. It was up on a shelf of the last few PSX games that the store had left. As me and my brothers had just come into possession of a Playstation, we went out to get some games for it. I got Tekken 3, my younger brother got some Jurassic Park game, and my older brother got The Legend of Dragoon. The moment I saw him playing it, though, I completely forgot about Tekken. That marked the point in my life where I became a fan of RPGs.
The Bright Side of Things:
Probably the best thing about this game is the storyline. It has many plot-twists, a bit of wierdness that completes the fantasy RPG feel, and four entire disks of it. The fact that it has so many plot twists makes it difficult to explain it without spoilers. But the basic structure of the story line is that you play the game, going around doing stuff, but you don't really know what the end goal of the game is until you start the fourth disc. In essence, the first three discs are basically side-quests that bring the player toward the fourth disc. Upon starting the fourth disc, you are actually starting the main quest of the game. But that's what I liked about it. You start out not really knowing what's going on, something mysterious seems to be happening, and near the end you find out something huge that changes everything you've been working toward in the game so far. And the character development is pretty good, with building issues that are all eventually and individually resolved in the final dungeon of the game, making for a satisfying ending.
The gameplay is usually pretty simple. For field navigation, there's the directional pad, and you can hold Circle to run. At certain points a chime will sound and a yellow exclamation point will appear above your head, and you will be prompted to press the X button which will do many various things, from causing Dart to jump across a series of stepping stones, to getting into a boat, to activating a teleporter. You also use the directional pad to navigate menus, X being your "yes" button, and Triangle being your "no" button. In battle, there are seven types of action you can take: Items, attack, defend, run, and transform to Dragoon (And while in this form you can either do a special Dragoon attack, or use magic) . Items basically act as spells. There are items that deal differing elemental damage, ones that restore HP or MP, ones that inflict status effects on your enemies, and ones that give benefits to your party. For most damaging ones, you must rapidly tap the X button to make it more powerful, thus dealing more damage. Defending will cut all damage done to you while defending in half, and it will restore 1/10 of your Max HP per use. While this may seem cheap, it can be very useful for getting yourself out of a fix. Running obviously causes you to attempt to run away from battle. Attacking is very interesting. Characters use something called "Additions", which are basically like combos. You have to press X in synchronization with a box that circles inwards toward another box, pressing it right as they overlap eachother. Doing so will cause the next attack to initiate, repeating the process until the combo is finished. This also means that each individual combo has a set amount of maximum hits you can pull off. Completing the combo will reward you with the most amount of damage possible and your character shouting the name of the combo (And SP, which you use to transform into a Dragoon). The fun part is learning each individual combo's timing and learning how to coordinate your button presses with your characters movements. And also, by successfully completing your Addition multiple times, it will level up (the max being level 5), raising the damage output and the amount of SP you gain from it. Gaining new Additions is entirely dependent on set levels your characters must reach, with the exception of each character's final Addition, which can only be acquired once you have mastered all their other Additions. The fun part about this is that it gives you something to work toward, and because you barely gain any experience at all from normal encounters, leveling up your Additions replaces Experience grinding. You also will level up as a Dragoon (again, the max being 5) the more SP you earn, so that's another reason to practice at your Additions. For Dragoons, every 100 SP you gain fills up one bar. For each bar you fill up, you can take an action as a Dragoon (The amount you can fill up depends on your Dragoon level). So, what this means is that, if you're a level 3 Dragoon, and you gain 300 SP, filling up 3 bars, when you transform you will be able to act as a Dragoon for three turns. This may seem like a rip-off, but in actuality, if you were able to stay as a Dragoon any longer, the whole game would be way too easy, as your stats gain a huge boost while as a Dragoon. You can either attack, or use Magic while as a Dragoon. Attacking brings up a Circular symbol with a line at the top and a blinking dot on the line. Pressing X initiates the counter, causing the blinking dot to rotate around the circle. You must press X each time the dot reaches the top of the circle. If you miss it, the counter will stop and your Character will preform the combo up to as many times as you successfully hit the mark (Once again, up to 5). Hitting it all five times will reward you, again, with the most amount of damage possible, and the words "perfect" flashing across the circle. For magic, each ability requires a certain amount of MP. They will do anything from dealing damage to restoring HP. They are accumulated based on your Dragoon level.
If you're used to the PSX Final Fantasies, then this will be little different graphic-wise. It uses the same combination of 2D Pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D polygonal characters on top of them (although these are much better than the ones from Final Fantasy VII) . In addition to this, there are additional 3D effects throughout the various environments such as running water in a river, heat from lava in a volcano, and other such effects. I think this style of graphics works very well for RPGs in that there is no camera rotation. While this may be considered as a bad thing, in actuality it helps to provide a lasting and unchanging picture of a certain locale that, with the addition of a particular track of music, emotionally cements it better into your mind. Essentially, it makes it more memorable. Now, as for the graphics in battle, there is camera rotation. Although it cannot be controlled manually, it is rarely irksome, and most often provides good, interesting angles on the battle. The graphics in battle are all 3D, and noticeably better than the Field character graphics. The special effects for the Dragoon transformations, Dragoon abilities and attacks, and the spell-items are stunning. And by stunning I mean filled with colorful rays and explosions and fluctuating energy waves and all sorts of mesmerizing effects. This, coupled with unique and good-quality sound effects make it fantastic to behold.
And now, to my favorite part of the game, the music. The score for this game is absolutely wonderful. I wouldn't necessarily say that they always fit the mood of what's happening ('cause a lot of the time, you're not really sure what to feel), but they always seemed......"right" somehow. Although that doesn't mean some of them didn't fit a particular mood. There's a very light and happy song that plays whenever you are in the presence of a certain fun and light-hearted NPC, there's a sad and sorrowful piano piece that plays whenever something tragic has happened, and there's a heroic and determined sounding piece that plays usually at the end of each disc, when the characters all decide to join together and pursue this evil that has changed their lives forever, and what-not. But besides all that, a lot of the music is just simply cool. I can't really describe it any other way. I just really like it. And as for sound, the sound effects are amazing. In battle, there are tons and tons of unique sounds for each individual ability, and outside of battle there are just a lot of really cool sounds. They're not clunky or retro-sounding, they just sound awesome. And they never get annoying either.
The Not-So-Bright Side of Things
Phew!! Finally the good parts are over!! But unfortunately, we now come to the downside of this game. The dialogue is almost always terribly stilted and cliche, littered with terrible attempts at humor, and explaining exactly what's happening as the thing happens. Not a good story-writing technique. Other than that, not much to complain about.
As for gameplay, working up to mastering every single Addition can get pretty tedious, and not so fun at times. Although, besides that, if you really do work at them, it can be extremely easy to make your party undefeatable. Before the end of the first disc, I already had one character's final Addition mastered and it made the Boss fight way easier. Not that I'm complaining, 'cause this game can get pretty hard at times, but more hardcore players want more of a challenge. As for World Map movement, it got annoying that I had to put in the first disc just to go back to the first area of the game, and also the limited movement made me feel very confined, and it made the world feel a lot smaller. And experience grinding is almost completely useless in this game. I think I only leveled up maybe twice from random battles through my entire time playing it. Another small gameplay issue was that the final Boss was kind of a let-down. It has several forms, and the forms get less and less-impressive as they go on, ending with a very boring looking final final Boss.
The graphics............they were pretty much all around awesome. No complaints here, except that, since it is a pretty old game, it's naturally no where near as sophisticated looking as some of our modern day games.
And music-wise, no real complaints here either. I mean, really no complaints. They were all amazing.
So, while I particularly liked this game (enough to have the entire soundtrack on my iPod), some people may not enjoy it. Like I said, you either love it or hate it. And if you're used to it's type of visual style, it'll be much more appealing. Now, I might say to use discretion when deciding on buying it or not, but it's probably so cheap by now you can pick it up on Ebay for 10 bucks or less. So, as a final score:
Story: 7/10 > Great story, terrible dialogue
Gameplay: 7/10 > Fun and innovative, but not very easy to grind, super-powering is a little too easy
Graphics: 9/10 > Simply beautiful, but an old game
Sound: 10/10 > A symphonic masterpiece
Total: 8.25/10 > A great game that's well worth the time
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/02/09
Game Release: The Legend of Dragoon (Greatest Hits) (US, 12/31/01)
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