Review by Yami Shuryou
"It had potential; unfortunately, it wasn't developed."
Final Fantasy VII was the turning point of the video game market, selling in the tens of millions of copies worldwide, making RPGs the mainstream. The success that it had was the envy of many companies, Sony included. Thus started a first-party RPG project known as Legend of Dragoon, which took nearly three years to develop.
The problem is, Sony just wanted to draw the profit card by laying down the Make RPG card. Unfortunately, they succeeded, playing the Bring crappy game with good graphics to market card. Unfortunately?, one may ask. Unfortunately.
You see, Legend of Dragoon has few strong points, and the only thing that it had going for it as a selling point was its graphics, polished to the likes of nothing ever seen before. However, the aesthetics that Legend of Dragoon brought to the pile has long been outdated by even the most inferior of the DreamCast/GameCube/PlayStation2/Xbox era.
Story? Weak. Imagine a gathering of clichés so great that you could be smothered under the weight of them. Certainly, the clichés that are abound in this game are as apparent as being hit by a brick they're copied from dozens, hundreds of games from before them.
You take the role of 21-year-old Dart, who has come to his hometown of Seles after 5 years of hunting the Black Devil, a legendary monster who slew his parents 16 years ago. However, Seles has been burned by the Sandoran empire. The country that Seles is located in is in the middle of a civil war, with the populace and military divided into two the Sandoran and Bale empires. The Sandoran empire had burned Seles with one intention to kidnap Dart's girlfriend, Shana. From there, we go rescue her, choose sides on the war, win the war, go to other lands, try to gather certain magical items, face betrayals, and ultimately try to save the world. Anything that Legend of Dragoon had going for it beforehand in the way of an epic story was ruined.
Leveling. The thing that makes or breaks the length of an RPG. Legend of Dragoon has extraordinarily slow leveling, taking several DOZEN battles for your first few levels, and streaking faster than a shooting star into the hundreds and then thousands for higher levels. Not only is this infuriating, but it's more so because levels are split into two different systems Dragoon levels and normal levels.
Dragoon levels go up to 5 maximum. For each extra level, you can gather more AP by attacking enemies in battle, with the ability to gain an extra rotation of the AP bar. Every time you make a move as a Dragoon, an in-game counter keeps check of your experience as a Dragoon, and levels you up when necessary the unfortunate part is that you can't see this counter. Adding to this fault is the fact that you can only get a small amount of MP for each level you get, resulting in only being able to use even the weakest magic attack a few times.
The normal leveling up also contains its faults. The most noticeable is the difference in HP gains, which are fixed. Going up to Level 2 would give you 30 extra HP. However, by the time you get to the 30s, you're gaining over a hundred per level, and by the time you reach the 50s, you're gaining hundreds each level. Another is the absurd amounts of experience required, as said earlier. But the biggest thing is how tedious the combat system makes it all.
Imagine your standard turn-based RPG. You select a choice, and you attack. Not how it works here. For your standard attacking, you perform Additions. These Additions consist of the player pressing the Square and Circle button just as he or she is about to hit the enemy, signified by a large square on the screen getting small and eventually flashing white. At first, it might sound easy. But some Additions have you press the Circle or Square button more than once. When you get onto the Additions with six or seven hits, it'll be frustrating, as getting six hits will net you 50 damage, while seven hits will net you 120 damage. And the difficulty rate of pressing the buttons at the exact time that far in is insane.
Legend of Dragoon also features an elemental weakness system. Each of the Dragoons have a different element that they can use, and thus a different elemental weakness. The way the elements are paired is that an element is strong against another element, but weak when hit by that element. The matchups are Fire - Water, Earth - Wind, Light - Dark, and Thunder being neither weak or strong against any element.
Besides the standard attacking and Dragoon transformation, you have items, Run, and Defend. Items and Run are pretty self-explanatory, not differing from most traditional RPGs, but Defend allows you to resist all status effects for the next turn, cut damage in half, and gain 10% of your HP back.
While you might have freedom of movement inside a town or castle, out on the world map, you have to follow along a set route. Of course, although the restrictions are a bit annoying, it's not so bad. It's just the battles every three seconds of tromping that gets to your patience and changes you into a raving madman.
Of the sidequests in the game, there are two. Count them. One, two. Neither are available until late into the third disk, and by that time, any fun to be had in sidequests has been sucked away by the player's general demoralization regarding the game. Not to mention that they just consist of some powerful bosses and a small bit of backstory.
I have three things to say about the sound quality of this game. It's uninspiring, it's monotonous, and Legend of Dragoon's quality is being affected by gravity greater than a black hole thanks to the dreadful music. On a more positive note, the few voice samples done in this game are terrific. The few words that Dart, Rose, and others say are emotional, heart-wrenching, and packed with contagious enthusiasm that urges the gamer to go on for just a bit longer.
The graphics were this game's selling point. They have a sense of polishedness that you simply don't see in any games from the DreamCast/GameCube/PlayStation2/Xbox era. Unfortunately, the character models sucked. How can one look at Dart and honestly say that he isn't ugly? The problem exists with everyone else, from Shana to the Warden of Hellena. The same goes for the environments. Rather, the magic of the graphics exist only on the field of battle with environments that are changeable during Group Dragoon transformations to reflect the individual Dragoon's element, and in the three-quarter dozen or so FMV's that are played throughout the game. It's a shame, as to me, Legend of Dragoon had some promise, particularly in its story. Unfortunately, what would seem to be shoddy story writing in some areas, poor composing of music, a battle system with less chance of being terrific than a 1994 NES game selling well in North America, and the only excellent point being lacking in some areas, really destroyed the game's atmosphere and potential fun. Due to this, Legend of Dragoon, a game that gave me some fun for two weeks until I realized how incredibly crappy it was, gets a 2 from me.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 10/08/04
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