Review by Happy Matt
"Only the strongest would survive."
The Legend of Dragoon is a Japanese styled console RPG developed and published by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan. It is one of Sony's latest effort to keep Sega away from its leading position in the video games industry. The development team of the game is huge. There are over 300 names written in the "credit" section of the user manual. According to some sources, it took the team three years to develop this game. So, it seems that the game must be huge in size. Indeed, the game features four disks and is compatible to the dual shock analogue controller. It also features a good mini-game for the PocketStation.
As the name has suggested, the game tells the story of Dragoons. In the Legend of Dragoon, the world began with the birth of the one "Holy Tree". With the Holy Tree, many races were born. Dragon was the 105th race. Human was the 106th and the Winged (humanoid) was the 107th. Of course, in such a world, the races would not be living in harmony. Ten thousand years ago, the human fought a deadly war with the Winged. It soon degenerated into a war of survival. Only the strongest would survive. The Winged was strong in magic, but the human found a better weapon. By combining themselves with the spirits of dead dragons, they were able to transform into dragoons. The powers of the dragoons were overwhelming, and soon the human was victorious. Both the dragons and the Winged disappeared after the war and soon the world was dominated by the human race alone. The story began ten thousand years after this war.
You play the hero Dart, who was coming home from his quest to pursue the murderers of his parents. On the way home, he was attacked by some strange but powerful creatures, and was only saved by a powerful but mysterious woman with raven hair. Upon returning home, he discovered that his home village is burning. Apparently, it was attacked by a squad of foreign army and the daughter of the chief, Shana (also Dart's childhood friend) was captured by the enemy. After you have finished the left over of the enemies, you will begin the quest to rescue Shana...
Needless to say, much of the developer's effort has gone into the graphics and it is definitely not disappointing. The game features some of the most beautiful graphics in the history of the PlayStation. The CG movies look stunningly beautiful, with everything being drawn in much detail.
Like most console RPGs, we can divide the main game graphics into 3 sections: world map, sub-map (towns and dungeons), and battle simulation. Both the world map and the battle simulation sections are drawn in full polygons, while the sub-maps have pre-rendered / texture mapped backgrounds.
Graphically, the world map is up to modern game standard. It is presented nicely with much detailed for the towns and the special areas. Pre-rendered backgrounds are ever so nice, and it is no surprise that the sub-maps all look pretty good. The use of colour and lighting in the game creates an atmosphere we have not seen in a while. The game has a medieval look in its high fantasy theme.
It seems that super-deformed characters are beginning to get phased out in newer Japanese games. The Legend of Dragoon features normal sized polygonal characters both in sub-maps and in battles. The characters in the sub-maps are less detailed than in battles, but nonetheless, they look pretty quite smooth and detailed in PlayStation standard.
Battle graphics are of the highest standard in the history of PlayStation. The backgrounds are drawn in extreme detail. The backgrounds in Final Fantasy VIII look plain when compared to the backgrounds in the Legend of Dragoon. The colouring and the lighting effects are very well implemented into the game. Much is usually drawn in the background but the loading time is compatible to that of Final Fantasy VIII, if not better.
Characters in battles are also drawn in extreme detail. With a high fantasy theme, the developers have concentrated their efforts in drawing the costumes the characters are wearing. Combining with a good camera, the characters look extremely detailed especially when you look at them from the back. Attacks and magic spells are also stunning. Some of the spell effects will definitely keep you staring at the screen without blinking. But by far the prettiest graphics in the game must be the ones featured when characters are transformed into Dragoons. Particularly the main character, Dart, his transformation looks more like a CG movie than ordinary PlayStation polygonal graphics.
The game is also pretty good in the sound department. The Legend of Dragoon features some good background music, and voice acting is featured in battles and in CG movies. It seems that Sony is rather different to the style of the RPG giant Square. For titles from Square, even the most cinematic titles are muted. After all these muted games, it is just good to play a game that features voice acting. It definitely gives the game an extra dimension. As well as the sound effects, the background music is nicely composed, suiting the mood in most situations.
Encounters on the world map are by random (by number of steps). They are either touched based or semi random in dungeons. Touched-based encounters are like boss. Once engaged, you cannot run away from them. In normal dungeons, you will have an indicator above your character's head. It is normally blue in colour. It will change to yellow then red just before you get a random encounter. This system is quite nice in a sense, because it won't give you a shock as in the other games that feature random fights.
The battle system may look disappointing at first, but it gets better the more I play the game. The game features a "Timing Input" system for physical attacks. Before going to a battle, you choose an "Additional" skill from a list in the main menu for each character. The Additional skill corresponds to an attack style. During battles, when you choose attack, you will get a large rotating square collapsing into a centre square. You are suppose to press the OK button just when they overlap. Some Additional skills require extra hits, and so you may be required to do this several times. If you get all the timing correctly, an additional attack will be triggered, but if you miss one, the chain will break immediately. Obviously, a perfectly chained combo will do more damage. This may sound complicated to some, and indeed it was quite difficult at first to get the timing right. But once you have played the game for several hours, you will be able to do it by instinct.
Once a character has obtained a Dragon Spirit, he / she will be able to transform into a Dragoon. In Dragoon form, he / she will get a statistic boost, as well as recovery from any negative statuses. As Dragoon, your character will also be able to use Dragoon magic. However, your character cannot stay as this super being all the time. For each Dragoon action performed, your character will consume 100 Spirit Point (SP). The maximum amount of SP depends on the Dragoon level. For example, a level Dragoon can have 100 SP, and a level 2 Dragoon can have 200 SP and so on. (Dragoon level goes up by gaining more SP.) A character gain some SP every time he / she performs a normal attack (Additional) while in human form. A Dragoon will turn back to normal when his / her SP drops below 100. In my opinion, this system is like a hybrid between Limit Break system in Final Fantasy VII, Force system in the Wild Arms series, and the Dragon transformation system in the Breath of Fire series. While each has their advantage, I think the Dragoon system in this game is probably the most flexible of all.
Other than battles, the game offers some exploration on sub-map level like any other standard RPGs. You can collect treasures and information in various towns and dungeons. The game also features a few mini-games in some of the towns. There are minimum explorations in the world map level, because you can only move along guided paths.
The PocketStation mini-game requires 9 blocks of memory. It is called Moguuru Dabas. It is an exploration game involving a digger. You will control a digger who will obtain items and money for the main game by digging up the ground. He will be engaged in fights in some underground caves. The battle system is real time and interactive and it is great fun to play. The digger will also obtain items to increase his HP and power. You will be engaged with a boss every now and then, and you will get a special item for defeating the boss.
So far, I have only had 3 games that feature PocketStation compatibility. They are Final Fantasy VIII (Chocobo World), Saga Frontier 2 (Go! Go! Digger and Combo Pocket) and this one. While the games in Saga Frontier 2 are not really games, the Chocobo World does not offer enough interactivity to the player. So, Moguuru Dabas is the best PocketStation game I have played so far.
Overall, the game is pretty good if not great. Although there are frustrating moments while you (not your characters) are learning to use some of the Additional skills, it is in general a fun game to play. Scores: Graphics and Loading Time 10/10, Sound and Music 8/10, Story 8/10, Game-play and System 7/10, Overall 8/10.
Copyright (c) Happy Matt 1999. All rights reserved.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/99, Updated 12/17/99
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