Dragon’s Crown, a current PlayStation console exclusive, brings a nostalgic look and feel with retrospective action-role playing and a recently revealed cross-play option between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions. Published by Atlus and developed by Vanillaware, Dragon’s Crown has plenty of eclectic characters, beat ‘em up action, antagonistic boss challenges, simplified level design, and a great online multiplayer mode.
A nice homage to the medieval, role-playing game (RPG) game genre that reveals more than the apparent button mashing, beat ‘em up action. Strategy in teammates, equipment, and, of course, action always opens up dynamic scenarios where players easily navigate through the well varied environments.
Dragon’s Crown is a 2-D side-scrolling multiplayer beat ‘em up wrapped in the gorgeous storybook aesthetic Vanillaware is renowned for. Dragon’s Crown features an immersive skills system to customize individual play styles, a rich quest system that unlocks pieces of in-game art, and an expansive loot system that increases rewards with difficulty. Dragon’s Crown is no quick adventure, with well over 100 hours of gameplay to fully clear the game.
Dragon’s Crown thrusts you into a fantastical medieval world packed with labyrinthine dungeons to explore, vile monstrosities to smite, and nearly endless online adventure. Your mission is to dive into the dank underworld, uncovering treasure and strengthening your mettle as you unlock the secret behind the ancient dragon threatening the world. Simple, easy-to-learn controls allow anyone to dive into the fray and enjoy the breathtaking sword-and-sorcery action. In addition to gameplay, the game also features a vast array of character customization features – with six wildly different classes to play as, raiding the catacombs for epic loot remains fresh and engaging
The newly added cross-play feature between the Dragon’s Crown PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3 versions gives players expanded gameplay and considerate savings in this action-RPG experience. This recently added feature coincides with the European release (also both versions).
The story has familiar elements. Players must embark on a dangerous quest to prevent evil forces from gaining a legendary treasure. The combat satisfies. The bosses provide great challenge. Ally characters on your team/party help instead of hurt…so far so good.
Players advance their skills and meet interesting characters across the initial nine stages/levels. Beat the ninth to unlock the online multiplayer options, then get all the bosses beaten to unlock the hard mode. Complete hard mode to get inferno mode, so the replay value using all character classes can be quite high.
Players acquire XP points to gain experience and level up along with an arbitrary point score that functions more for morale than advancement. Maps are easily accessible and very helpful though the linear, 2D format really simplifies movements.
If all else fails, then players can “resurrect” deceased players using acquired bone piles, which also provide additional character options to each team/party.
Each eclectic character has specific weaknesses and strengths that players must consider throughout the game. Power, speed, magic (rune), and leveling elements all factor into each character’s battle impact. Players can customize character performance with various options, choices and weapons. Players can even steal items from bosses.
Character classes include amazon (low defense, strong attacks), dwarf (carries two weapons at a time, strong enemy throws), elf (long-range arrow attack), fighter (high defense, short weapon reach), sorceress (strong battle support and magic), and wizard (low physical attack, strong magic in large area).
Fighters work well for newbees while underdeveloped wizards and sorceresses can be challenging to sustain. A lot can happen quickly and the screen often gets crowded, especially with a full team/party. All character classes have effective combination moves and special upgrades. The characters have enough variety to warrant repeated game play.
The point and click selection features work a bit better on the Vita than the PS3 due to the touch screen control options and mainly involves accompanying characters unlocking loot chests while other characters do battle.
The simplified level design keeps a linear, side scrolling style. Players gear up at the local tavern (far left) then move right to advance to various areas that are accessible by moving up or forward.
The beat ‘em up action includes two types of attacks, blocking and jumping amid dungeon crawling. The tutorials really assist with the learning curve on the combination moves. Players eat discovered food when idle, which is not often. Players can backtrack to get enemies to follow them into different areas and create more space instead of trying to fight through a crowd.
The online multiplayer mode offers four player cooperative action while the cross-save is compatible with any combination of local/ad hoc, online and AI players. An online communication system helps teams coordinate while fully deceased characters (totally out of lives) can still be “resurrected” into the game by their team, but only as an AI-controlled character.
Developer Vanillaware (Grim Grimoire, Odin Sphere, Muramasa: The Demon Blade) impresses with their visuals, which are showcased in a special bonus artbook (64-pages). The hand drawn character design and backgrounds impress and take special licenses on the male and female anatomy. Developers also rotate the visuals and maps for a nice 3D feel once players venture out of town. An effective visual tactic similar to the classic “pop-up” storybooks.
A great pick-up and play experience with deep overall adventure. Great style and easy navigation (linear) makes the game hard to put down. Additional downloadable content includes voice packs that replace the narrator’s voice with any of the six playable character classes.
Dragon’s Crown (with cross-play)
MSRP: Buy one to get the other; separate PS3 $49.99 (Amazon and other stores)/ PSV $39.99 (Amazon and other stores)…so save $10 by getting the PSVita version and downloading the free PS3 version.
What I Like: easy controls/navigation, unique artwork, challenge level, unique artwork, character advancement system, high replay value, boss fights, exploration
What Needs Improvement: ”friendly fire” and confusion from characters overlap, repeated content, arbitrary point scoring
Source: Reviewer copy provided by publisher