Review by Dayseed

"A Promising Start By Sony"

I have to say that this game is more of a disappointment than a success. Before buying it, I read the reviews (both positive and negative) and concluded that there were more positive ones than negative. The negative ones were right. Not to say that Legend of Dragoon is a complete waste of a game, but it falls short in key areas.


Gameplay


I would have expected that in an RPG, levelling up and character management wouldn’t have needed to be so difficult. The times that one has to spend levelling up just one character are ridiculously long. Especially since Sony decided to have experience divided between the
three characters in the party, levelling up is an arduous task. I’ve read other reviews that claim this feature was “to keep the gameplay at an appropriate level of difficulty through out the game”. Why? The battles aren’t hard, just long and numerous. I was also disappointed by the
combat system. A congrats to Sony for attempting to rectify the ‘fire-and-forget’ system that so many other RPGs employ. However, I found the Addition system tedious. The time-windows that are needed to advance the combo are too short. The Renzukokeken (forgive spelling) system in FFVIII was a much more intuitive system. Apart from the time windows being too short, the camera angle can obscure any other visual cues that the player may need to successfully complete a combo. I found that the Additions were easiest to pull off if there was a ‘side-view’ as opposed to the back of the character. Woe be to the character who doesn’t pull of a combo, the damage done from a single blow or partially completed combo are too low to be considered effective. Meanwhile, the enemies (especially bosses) can use single strike attacks that beat on the player’s party like they were a rented mule. Most unfair.

Aside from combat, I found that the ‘areas’ that the party explores were convoluted and cluttered. Stunning visual backdrops with 50,000 green arrows don’t a good game make. I got lost in certain areas more times than I could count simply because I couldn’t remember which green arrow led to which other green arrow. The ‘overworld’ system is rather disappointing too. Running along a dotted line to get from one area to the next seems to me to be a cheat, a shortcut by the programmers. It also kills the possibility of hiding secret areas, much like Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star have done before. I would also complain that moving from one city to the next is time-consuming as not only does the player have to run across the ‘overworld’ system, but must also move through previously completed
‘areas’.

My last massive complaint is….where is the magic? I understand that it was completely within Sony’s discretion to remove a traditional magic system from Legend of Dragoon but they replace it with a completely ineffective Dragoon system. Healing characters is a looong system of guard, guard, guard. Healing items are cheap and plentiful from merchants, but seeing as how the programmers opted for what
seems to be a totally arbitrary backpack size of 32 items, stocking up on healing items is a risky proposition. Will the character need Body Purifiers, Mind Purifiers, Sun Rhapsodies and/or Healing Potions? 255 weapons, armours and accessories can be trucked around with little effort by the party, but 33 bottles of stuff would completely overwhelm their precious strength. Which leads me back to my original point, readily accessible healing magic would have been greatly appreciated. The offensive magic can only be used when the character is in Dragoon form, which is cut off from the character until a set amount of SP are accumulated. And it ain’t that great to boot folks.


Graphics


Well, for a game released in the year 2000, these graphics look they were astoundingly ripped from a first generation PSX game. Considering the graphically far superior FFVIII was released a year earlier, there is no excuse for the backwards leap that Sony made with the graphics in Legend of Dragoon. The characters look flat, uninspired, with little to no realism in their movements. In the combat scenes,
the polygons clip together and break apart all too often to convince the player they’re witnessing an epic battle. The pre-rendered backgrounds in the ‘areas’ are rather impressive, lending a sense of epicness to the tale. Sometimes they’re appropriately lush and full of vivid detail. Other times they appear cluttered. Especially the ‘Commercial City of Lohan’. I can appreciate that it is supposed to be a bustling mercantile city, but I don’t need every square inch of the background cluttered up to relay this idea. The overworld graphics could easily have come from a late-generation SNES game. The FMV scenes in Legend of Dragoon were a mixed bag as well. Some of them
were breathtaking and well scripted, others were cheesy scenes that looked like they were pulled from a PBS documentary.


Sound


I must say that I didn’t find techno-music to be appropriate to the battle scenes. Other than that, hit and miss with the music. Some of the tracks were appropriate to the scenes they were used in, some of them were above average tunes, some of them sounded like tone-deaf hippies wrote them after a night of sexual orgies high on chiba sticks. I wouldn’t recommend the soundtrack to anyone, not after hearing the inspired music of FFVIII. Even FFIX had a much better soundtrack. The sound effects used through out the game didn’t seem much inspired either. They always seemed to be ‘there’. Clunky footsteps, annoying voice-overs, whooshes and zings didn’t put me in the mood to wade my way through the game.


Story


Again, here’s a major disappointment in the game. The storyline is completely laughable. I’m certainly not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last, but this seems to be a rehash of FFVII. It isn’t until far too late in the game that it becomes it’s own story line. But, other reviews expound upon that point more thoroughly, so I’ll focus on two beefs I had that haven’t been touched upon.

Firstly, the whole Dragoon concept seems to be a rehash of those Power Ranger fellows. Each character in Legend of Dragoon has a nifty dragoon add-on which changes them from mild-mannered hack ‘n slasher to super-buff hack ‘n slasher. I thought that the whole TMNT team craze thing had died down. I was wrong. Not only does each character have a different coloured costume, but each dragoon has a
differently themed element! Here’s the Red Fire Dragoon….the Dark Shadow Dragoon…. the helpful healing White Dragoon! There doesn’t seem to be any real fate involved in dragoon selection either. One of the characters continually waxes philosophic about the choices that the dragoon powers make, but from a storyline point of view, these dragoon powers slide around from character to character like they were a beer in the stands at a highschool football game.

I also found that Legend of Dragoon tried way too hard to inundate the player with backstory. I constantly felt like I was being brow-beaten for not having played Legend of Dragoon Zero: The Prequel You Should Have Played To Fully Understand The Story Of the Dragon Campaign Which Forms Approximately A Good 30 Seconds Of Game Time In The Sequel “Legend Of Dragoon”. There are plot twists along the way
which add some spice, but for a storyline that attempts to build upon an 11,000 year old war (and what fantastic history books these folks must have…the Egyptian Dynasties ended roughly 3000 years ago and we can’t even figure out what half of ‘em were trying to do!), it is excruciatingly short on detail. Why do dragoons only appear when the planet is in dire straits? Why couldn’t they hang around during peace times, dig some irrigation, fix some roads, run for municipal offices etc? Seriously though, the game attempts to build upon tension and drama that was never witnessed by the player. Ramifications of the prologue published in the game manual are going to come and haunt
the player, so look out! Phantasy Star builds upon this much more effectively. When Phantasy Star II alludes to disastrous events from the past, the player has already had an opportunity to experience those events as they happened in Phantasy Star I. Phantasy Star I just flat out
‘starts’. Here’s the character’s situation, here’s what’s happening NOW, go fix it. When Phantasy Star IV reveals to the player the sinister plan of the final baddie, the backstory has already been written AND played through PLUS it goes back to answer unsolved questions the
player may have had from PSI and PSII. It makes the events seem all the more personal and the stakes higher. FFVII, FFVIII and FFIX are able to get around this lack of backstory by having the player become involved with well-defined characters. It doesn’t matter necessarily why
the world needs to be destroyed by the Sorceress in FFVIII, but it does matter that it’s Squall’s and Rinoa’s world. I just never felt connected to the characters in Legend of Dragoon. Their dialogue was incredibly childish. Translators be damned, it hurt the storyline, character
depth and interaction. I never truly discovered the motivations of the characters. For instance: Why was Lavitz so dedicated to his role as a knight? The story never says, leaving me to speculate why that may be. That is not good story telling.


Overall


I don’t think I would recommend this game to any long time RPG gamer. There are too many elements that are missing from Legend of Dragoon which would have made for a better game. However, what Legend of Dragoon does do is show incredible promise for Sony’s in-house development team. For a first effort, it’s better than most. Looking back at FFI, Dragon Warrior I and PS1 (arguably the three most
recognizable console RPGs), the Legend of Dragoon outshines them all. Not merely because it exists on the PSX platform, but because a lot of heart and effort went into this one. Hopefully, Sony listens to complaints made about Legend of Dragoon and improves upon them in Legend of Dragoon II which could turn out to be a fantastic game.

All in all, I’d give a 6/10 to Legend of Dragoon. A promising start, but not much else.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/01, Updated 04/05/01


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