Review by AintThatSerious
This game is one to last for ages. Although it is not perfect, there are many reasons why you won't get bored. There is an endless amount of game play value that ultimately makes this title the one worth buying a Sega Saturn for. I've invested countless hours and am still entertained to the day, despite its age. Unparalleled in the RPG-strategy genre, Dragon Force will not disappoint if you are patient enough to understand the controls, menus, and mechanics. Although biased, I will attempt to give a fair portrayal. Let us review in greater detail:
The opening cinematic is beautifully constructed for its time, as the story of Legendra unfolds in an anime-esque 2D format. Paired with engaging dialogue, the player can easily get drawn into the Dragon Force universe. The second cinematic features the 8 playable monarchs appearing in a similar quality. Once you select your monarch, you get to view a few stills portraying the opening storyline. All the scenes appear in an anime' fashion, and really contribute to the overall feel of the game. There aren't enough of them however, and the gameplay graphics make up the bulk of the game. The character portraits are mostly charming and unique, and give true personality the denizens of Legendra. The over world map has a 3Dish feel wit a top-down view, with 2D characters and landmarks- nothing too impressive here. The battles are charming as well, but not without flaws. The troop and general sprites look good for the most part, again being 2D in a side-view of a 3D environment. Troop and general animations are limited, and are very pixilated. Spells, however, are visually impressive, and add a lot to the graphical aspect of battles.
The opening cinematics have the best sounds of the entire game; the opening dialogue is very charming and the only voice recording of the game. The start menu theme music is pleasant as well. Again, the quality is great for its time, but has aged. Each monarch has their own individual map theme, which gets repetitive at times. Some are more exciting than others. The enemy engage, and battle music also gets repetitive. One nice feature is that different environments contain different battle music, for example: Snow, forest, etc. You'll have to look hard to get into these battles, because most of the battles will be fought in castles. When evil' arises, there a few great ominous tracks that play as well. Words that scroll across in text boxes produce a sound that is typical- as well as the confirm/cancel sound effects. Spell sounds are average as well, but are appropriate and are worth keeping the volume up for.
The Dragon Force story itself is bland and predictable. However, there are a few side quests and ways to play though the game that add to the overall story. With cool secret generals, unique characters for each nation, and each Monarch's personal dilemmas, there is much to be appreciated. Each Monarch achieves the same goal, but with varying circumstances that aid in character development. Ultimately, the story won't be the reason Dragon Force will draw you in.
This game has a lot of text. Seriously, a lot. Working Designs did an amazing job, giving personality to the many faces of Legendra that gives justice to its Japanese origin, while simultaneously putting a comedic American spin on many of the characters. There are a few grammatical errors, but they are mostly negligible.
This is the biggest obstacle to overcome if you want to appreciate this game; and I can guarantee that once you do get the hang of it, you will learn to love this game. This game has menus, upon menus, upon menus. Your weekly kingdom maintenance (A.k.a. Domestic Affairs) has a main menu, and an action menu. Selecting an occupied castle has a menu, selecting a moving unit has a menu, engagements have a deployment menu, and battles have troop and spell control menus. Once you recognize the terminology and understand the consequences of each action, you'll be immersed into an incredible gaming experience. I'd say it takes an entire play through to grasp the controls in its entirety. Despite the initial difficulty, the controls grant you immense freedom, and contribute to the quality of gameplay.
One of the areas where Dragon Force truly shines, there is room for unlimited creativity while playing. The world map is fun to observe and partake in, as you send your generals to conquer other castles, direct mobilized units, and defend your own castles from invasion. The battle system is enthralling to say the least; you can have truly epic battles consisting of a maximum of 200 troops, which are fought in real time. This, combined with devastating spells, differing troop formations, and a great deal of troop diversity (Calvary, Samurai, Archers, Zombies, etc.), the battles are amongst the most fun of any console strategy game. Once the hourglass runs out (Located in the top-right corner of the world map), you are forced into domestic affairs. Here you can give awards to generals who fought during the week to increase troop count, persuade captives to join you, search for items or generals, fortify your castles strength, and talk to your generals to see how the feel about wartime. Kingdom maintenance is hard work, but satisfying. Between the world map, enemy engagements, and the domestic affairs, there are many options to customize your army and limitless ways to play. You'll feel as if you're in strategy-gaming heaven.
Being able to choose amongst 8 monarchs in a RPG results is a lot of gameplay; but the game also can be played multiple times with the same monarch that will have entirely different feels, resulting in an abundance of worthy game play hours! I am still not finished playing this game, despite owning it for over 10 years. The variety of troop types, generals, items, and strategy you can use is outstanding. There are always new ways of manipulating the game, and testing the AI- and this is only once you've played enough to recognize and predict the CPU's movements and strategies! A lot of the characters share histories as well, and have entertaining exchanges when you send them out to do battle. The great gameplay paired with the amount of information to be discovered leaves you with a game that has near unlimited replayability. As been said before, this is probably the #1 Must-Own game for the Sega Saturn, because of the amount of hours you will be entertained.
I have never been more satisfied with a Strategy-RPG as I have Dragon Force. The graphics, music, sounds, artwork and gameplay all contribute to a very charming and addicting video game experience. I strongly recommend buying this game if you can find it for a reasonable price. I wish you luck, if you so choose to search for this video game treasure.
(Note: Although 10 is a perfect score, I feel a game could never truly achieve perfection. I rate this game a 10 in a comparative way towards other games available on the market, implying that this game is better than the vast majority. Other personal 10s: Final Fantasy Tactics, Suikoden 2)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/08
Game Release: Dragon Force (US, 11/30/96)
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