Review by Sinspawn_X

"The Square zombies are too afraid to admit that this is BETTER then FF7."

The year is 1997, and Squaresoft has just released the latest installment of their smash hit of an RPG series, Final Fantasy, known as Final Fantasy VII. The hearts of millions were instantly zombified by their mysterious, blond-haired Cloud with a sword big enough to chop down a 100-year-old oak tree with one swipe, and the ultra-cool Sephiroth obsessed with becoming a god by hurling a Meteor at Earth. Popularity of the Final Fantasy Series would not be bettered until Final Fantasy X, but that's not the point.

Though the battle system of Final Fantasy VII was altogether well-done, it lacked a key factor: SKILL! Battles consisted mainly of Circle, Circle, Circle, wait. Circle, Circle, Circle, wait. Battles eventually developed into pure tedium and monotony. It personally bored the crap outta me.

But then, out of a mysterious void, created by SCEA, ''The Legend of Dragoon'' surfaced without any warning. Looking at the back of the gigantic case capable of holding the 4 discs required to run this game made it SEEM like a mere Final Fantasy VII ripoff. But it's much, much more. Not only is the storyline and gameplay nowhere NEAR that of Final Fantasy VII, it had the key factor that Final Fantasy lacked.

So, without any further ado, let me review the horrendously UNDER rated game that the Squaresoft zombies are too afraid to admit that this is better than Final Fantasy VII.

(WARNING: Square Zombies should not go any further, as it has many comparisons to Final Fantasy VII that some zombies may deem inappropriate.)

The WHAT gave birth to WHAT?! And Humans were freed from WHAT?!?!

The storyline is one of the most well-developed I've ever seen in an RPG. It's so vast and complex that there is no way I'm going to be able to fit it all here in this single review. Not to mention that this storyline lacks something that Final Fantasy VII was abundant in: PLOTHOLES! The story flows smoothly, and it's easy to follow, without being too broad. At every waking moment, you'll know what is going on, and most likely how you should resolve the situation at hand. It's obvious that the storyline in this game was well-thought and took some time in developing.

What was that? You mean these AREN'T photographs?

One of the first things you'll notice in this game is the quality of the graphics. While the characters in Final Fantasy VII looked blocky and pixellated, the models in Legend of Dragoon look whole. You can't tell the graphics of the legs from the graphics of the torso, for example.

If you look closely in the short cutscenes after some boss battles, you can see the characters' mouths moving, a feat considered to be astonishing back in the day. While the many FMV sequences are scattered, the graphics are utterly mind-blowing. They look almost like the FMV's of Resident Evil 2, and we ALL know how good those were.

The background scenes look almost like they are photographic. In some, you'll see leaves falling, or little squirrels hopping around. In some places, battles are initiated by touching one of said roaming background creatures (most apparent in the Death Frontier).

The cursors that mark your location actually tell when you're going to enter a battle: blue means you're fine, yellow means to get ready, and red means that a battle will start any moment now. The arrows indicating possible exits also tell you if the place is a hotel/clinic (yellow) or a shop (blue). Interactive items make a yellow diamond with a black ! appear above your head. So wherever you are, the graphics never go wrong.

Lemme guess, it's a remix of Beethoven, right? No? Mozart? Bach? It's original, you say? NO WAY!!!!

The music in the game is absolutely stunning. While Final Fantasy VII had a few good tunes and that was it, almost ALL of Dragoon's music was memorable. My personal favorite is the Seles/Neet theme. Every tune is one you will be one you'll be humming for weeks after you hear it. I only had a problem with a few, like the Barrens theme and the second battle theme. But other than that, you'll be astounded, and surprised that the classic composers didn't think of 'em first.

Now, the main point. Legend of Dragoon involves SKILL, not tapping the Circle button repeatedly.

The off-battle gameplay is your standard walk around gettin' stuff and talkin' to people, solving a few puzzles along the way. But what would an RPG be without a stunning battle system? That's what Dragoon is mainly about, and trust me, there's plenty of action. While Final Fantasy VII's battle system a monkey could learn if you taught him how to use the Directional Pad and the Circle button, Legend of Dragoon's battle system will actually take some practice to master. First off, attacking is totally innovative, something previous and succeeding RPG's have been unable to reproduce. You see, each character attacks using things called Additions. To execute an Addition, you must pay attention to the glowing cube that is your TV. A blue square will appear in the center of the screen, and more squares will approach the initial one. You must press the X button at the precise moment the second square lines up with the first one. If you hit X too quickly or too slowly, the attack will end, and the damage dealt won't be very good. However, hitting X at the right time will allow you to continue attacking until the squares run out or you miss. You get new Addition attacks as you gain levels, and each one is special in its own special way. Certain Additions have more hits than others, but may attack stronger. Some hinder your ability to transform into a Dragoon (which we shall discuss later), while others nearly double the speed. The more you use an Addition, the more powerful it comes (until it reaches MAX Level 5, in which case it doesn't get any better). Each character has a certain amount of Additions they can learn. If you have the capability to master all of their Additions, you will be able to use their Ultimate Doomsday Addition, in which case the hits are many, but the rewards of success are oh so sweet.

However, on the occasion, you may find that the blue squares suddenly turn red. The enemy is thus counterattacking (A feat Final Fantasy only WISHED they had). In this case, you must hit CIRCLE instead of X to block the counterattack and continue the addition. If you screw up, or you hit X by mistake, not only will your attack end, but you'll take damage to boot! Thus, mastering this part is crucial to your success, as later enemies will counterattack far more often than the lesser enemies.

Next, you can guard, which is almost like Final Fantasy's ''Defend'' command, except that you heal yourself slightly in addition to halving the damage received by any attacking enemies. This can save your life if your HP situation is critical. Also, Guarding protects you from any abnormal statuses that may come with an attack (like Poison, Fear, or Weapon Block).

Items are many in Dragoon (but unfortunately only 32 can be carried at a time!). They range from the traditional healing items to devastating magical items. While some do their dirty work on their own, MOST will require your help if they are to be effective. You must mash the X button to raise the attack % above 100. If you have a fast finger, or feel like cheating with a Turbo controller, you can devastate your enemies with these items. However, if a certain attack quota isn't met by a certain time, the damage is dealt and the attack increase ends. It is tough for normal people to go past about 185% (although the max is 270%). However, if used correctly, they can be your best friend.

Now, to the key entity of the Legend of Dragoon's battle system: Dragoon Transformation! See, during certain parts of the game, each of the 7 main characters will gain their Dragoon Spirits. This allows them to transform into a Dragoon and open up a can of whoop-***! However, in order to transform, you must gain Spirit points, gained by successfully completing Additions. Once the meter has at least reached Level 1, the Transformation command becomes available (but you can charge the meter higher and stay a Dragoon longer by increasing your Dragoon Level, done by gaining LOTSA SP). This allows you to transform into a Dragoon and opens up 2 new commands for you: Dragoon Attack and Magic. Dragoon Attacks are like Additions, but are also not like them at all. You see, there's a small bead at the top of this circle. Pressing X will start the bead going around the circle. You must hit X when the bead returns to the top in order to keep the addition going and thus increase your attack power. Pressing X at the right time 5 consecutive times will execute a perfect attack, but beware, as the light moves faster with each successive press of the X button. In fact, it is a rare occasion that you'll ever get a Perfect Dragoon Addition, unless you practice A LOT!

Dragoon Magic is a MUCH BETTER version of Final Fantasy's Magic, as it will almost always DEVASTATE the enemy when used. Each Dragoon can use up to 4 magic spells, gaining one new spell per Dragoon Level Up (barring Level 4). Each spell grows progressively stronger, and can hurt, heal, or both. However, be warned: Your Max MP level tends to be low, and you may find yourself unable to use Magic if you don't use it effectively.

A secret Special Icon appears when all three of your current fighters can become Dragoons and have their SP meters maxed out (this does not mean that they must be at Level 5). This transforms all three of your fighters into Dragoons and sends everyone participating into the realm of the fighter who selected the command's element (there are 8: Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Light, Darkness, Thunder, and Non-Elemental. The first 6 oppose each other [ex. Fire opposes water, and vice versa, earth to wind, and light to darkness] but Thunder and Non-Elemental have no opposites. All are weak to themselves.). Thus, that Dragoon will ALWAYS perform perfect Dragoon Additions and their Magic Power will be increased. This is GREAT when fighting a boss of an element that one of your fighters can oppose.

Oh, and one more thing. You don't have to waste a turn to tell your enemy's element and remaining HP. The background behind the enemy's name tells the element (Red = Fire, Aqua = Water, Brown = Earth, Green = Wind, Yellow = Light, Dark Blue = Darkness, Purple = Thunder, and Gray = Non-elemental) and the cursor over the enemy tells their relative HP remaining (Blue = fine, yellow = below half, red = critical). Sure beats wasting a turn in Final Fantasy sensing your enemy, and even risking no results coming back.

Should I Buy or should I Rent?

Need I go here? Rent only as a last resort, but buy if at all possible! You have NO CLUE WHAT YOU'RE MISSING!

THE MARILYN MONROE

Well-developed storyline and characters
AWESOME graphics
Easy-to-use navigation system
Soundtrack is SUPERB
STUNNING voice acting (even what few there is!)
Nice, innovative battle system
Counterattacking: Final Fantasy's DREAM.
Magic will blow you away along with the enemy.
''Guard'' is USEFUL
Vast variety of items
Simple enemy info system saves otherwise wasted turns (Final Fantasy's ''Sense'' materia comes to mind...)

THE MARILYN MANSON

It would've been nice to be able to carry more than 32 items.

Final thoughts (but not by Springer)

A horrendously under-rated game, led by Square zombies who are too afraid to admit that this is BETTER that Final Fantasy VII. Quit going along with the bandwagon, and try a change. You may find that this game isn't as bad as you may think (especially those of you who give it low ratings simply to go along with the bandwagon, knowing full well that you've never even played this game before. You know who you are, I should have to give out names.). Legend of Dragoon is a fun, addicting RPG that involves skill, a key element that almost ALL Final Fantasy games lack (Tactics is the ONLY exception to this). This is the first game I've given a perfect 10 to so far, and it truly deserves it. We can only hope a Legend of Dragoon 2 will surface soon, just as suddenly and mysteriously as the first. You can bet your last Gil that I'll have my hands on it the second it touches the wood of the shelf.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/20/03


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