Review by Halron2
"Synonym for the word ‘samurai’: ‘dragon-slaying madmen’."
The Sega Saturn was a console that paled in comparison with the Playstation in terms of popularity and sheer number of games. However, there are enough reasons to own the console. Actually, there are some reasons why everyone must play the Saturn. Without a doubt, Dragon Force is one of these reasons. A balanced mixture of strategy and role playing elements combined with addictive gameplay and general quality, make up for one of the most unique games for the system. Hell, one of the most unique games ever.
In Dragon Force, you choose among six kingdoms and play the role of its ruler. There are eight kingdoms in all and, in the beginning of the game, they are at war against each other. You mission is to send the generals you control, among them your ruler, to conquer everything else. Each of the rulers have a different story and, although in the end their mission is pretty much the same, lots of events change according to what kingdom you selected. What seems a generic war-themed plot at first, later becomes a typical RPG story, with demons who want to conquer/destroy the world and everything else that comes with it. The story is definitely not one of the game’s strong points, although the great characters give a hand in keeping the player interested. The cast in Dragon Force is huge. However, only the rulers and some other generals actually get some development. The main characters, however, are good, even though they fall, for the most part, in cliché RPG standards.
The world in which the game takes place, Legendra, is one of these concepts that would never work outside videogame dominion. Each of the eight kingdoms is completely different from the others, adding diversity to the game, but at time same time, making the setting an odd mixture of beastmen, samurai, knights, elves, mages, monks and so on. Further in the game, even a giant robot appears. But, since we’re talking about games here, the mix actually works and give Dragon Force its personality.
The gameplay in Dragon Force is what makes the game great. You must conquer other countries by sending your generals to their castles and beating them. When you encounter enemy generals, the two appear in a battlefield with their troops. Each general chooses their troops’ formation and strategy and yells commands at them during the fight. If all troops are killed and none of the generals is defeated, they must fight each other in a duel. Apart from the many different kinds of troops that can be used by the generals, these also have up to three of a big variety of spells that can be used against enemy troops or generals. Also, other commands, like running away can be used, at the expense of troops and risk of capture. Apart from the invading, each passing week you are given the chance to resolve domestic affairs, which means you can award your winning generals, fortify your castles, search for new generals and hidden items, try to convince the captives to join you, talk to your generals and so on. The game requires a reasonable amount of strategy and, even though it isn’t at all hard, some times you’ll be forced to lose something in order to gain something later. But it shouldn’t be an extreme challenge to anyone, although it would certainly be of note to beat the game with all kingdoms.
The graphics in Dragon Force are really good, all done in 2D graphics. I guess everybody has heard about the two hundred troop thing, which is really quite something. All main characters and some of the generals have their own design in battles and a big amount of characters have unique faces. All the animations in the battles are also pretty cool. Considering the huge amount of characters in the game, this is also something of note. Apart from that, during story events, there are beautifully made cutscenes and even animations sometimes that are pretty impressive. In a time of obligatory 3D polygonal graphical prowess, well done 2D graphics are great news to me.
Music is another great aspect of Dragon Force. The most important point here, apart from the overall quality of the writing, is the diversity: for example, each different background in battles (snowland, desert, forest, etc.) result in a different battle tune, each kingdom has its own theme for the world map, the duel has its own tune as well and so on. The battle themes are specially worthy of mention, setting the perfect mood for the grandiose conflicts in the game. The game also makes use, although rarely, of voice acting. However, no compliments may be done about that, since it’s pretty much standard game-acting, which means, there’s no quality at all.
Dragon Force is one of those unknown games that could have been much bigger if only the Saturn was more popular. Its unique and perfect gameplay is enough reason for anyone who has some interest in strategy or role playing games to pick this one and be the next person to fall for it just like anyone else before.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/03/02, Updated 06/03/02
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