Review | Dragon’s Crown
When Dragon’s Crown was first announced a few years ago, I immediately had an interest because of Vanillaware’s graphics in the game and the combat.
However, some problems eventually developed clouding the game with a changing publisher and some choices made regarding female graphic styles in the game.
Even with the clouds, though, Dragon’s Crown shows why it’s a great addition to the beat ‘em up genre, even if it does drag a bit repetitive sometimes.
The game does feature a story about trying to help a kingdom and recover the Dragon’s Crown, but it really takes a backseat to the gameplay, like in most titles of this genre. Instead, you’ll take one of six classes through each level with friends or AI partners to take on various enemies and boss battles, which are some of the best the genre has seen.
The boss battles have a good amount of variety on their attacks and require skill to get through and dodge attacks. Battles range from a harpy and minotaur to a great battle with a dragon that also requires some platforming. My favorite was the horde battle where tons of pirates attack you and try to use a magic lamp. However, if you get the magic lamp, the genie will fight for you, either damaging all enemies on the screen or buffing up your team.
The six classes available are fairly standard: three melee (Fighter, Amazon, Dwarf) and three ranged (Sorceress, Wizard, Elf). The combat system does give more depth than just melee or ranged, though. The game features plenty of juggling and combos that can be performed between characters to give a lot more options in the midst of battle.
The game also encourages trying new characters out. You can easily switch between characters in the tavern in the game, and each save can have up to 20 character slots per file to try different character skins and skill sets.
Each class also has a unique ability that sets them apart from other classes as well. The Dwarf can pick up and throw enemies, and the Fighter features a block that can be used in a pinch. However, I tended to ignore the block and go purely on the offensive throughout.
Each character can also be leveled up by clearing dungeons as well. By completing side quests and leveling up, players can get skill points to be used in either a specific class try or a common tree that has the same skills for everyone, such as increased health or adding coin totals to the score.
Dragon’s Crown features nine stages to go through, which may not seem like much. However, each level has a B-side with another path to take that unlock after a certain point in the story, along with two new difficulty settings to unlock. Levels also reset on each playthough, giving new opportunities to get equipment and bones, which can be used to unlock new AI partners.
Also helping to make the challenge interesting going back through previous levels is the scaling abilities of the game. The game only scales up, not down. So, even the first level will become filled with level 30 enemies to match your level, along with level 30 gear and bones. This is great to still give a challenge when going back through to complete sidequests, which can unlock new artwork, money, experience and skill points.
The game also features a random level option that unlocks later on, where it will choose a series of stages to go through with a gold and experience boost for completing them. The option is great for random runs to increase your level and find new items. For those that still need more to do, there is the Labyrinth of Chaos that randomly generates and a PVP arena to try out against three other players or AI partners.
This brings me to one of my complaints in the game, the online co-op. A game like Dragon’s Crown had me immediately looking forward to running through with friends. However, you won’t unlock the online gameplay until five or six hours of gameplay, meaning you’ll have to get used to running with the AI partners you bring back to life from the levels.
The AI is good for the most part, although they seem to not care about avoiding damage. Whenever fire was on the ground, my partners had no problem standing in it, wondering why they were quickly dying.
The PS3 also features local co-op, but cross-buy and cross-play are lacking for the two games. There is a cross-save feature, though, letting you level your characters up at home and on the go. The two versions also play identical, although the Vita has a slightly lower framerate and a bit of slowdown when too many enemies get on the screen at once.
The highlight of the game for many people may be the graphics. Vanillaware, the same maker as Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Odin Sphere, has once again brought high-quality 2D game design to their title. The medieval setting looks great, and enemies and characters look extremely detailed.
Unfortunately, this is where one of the low points in the game comes in. I can understand wanting to make all characters look muscular and strong, but I still question the need to sexualize the women characters as much as they have. Two of the characters you can be, Amazon and Sorceress, have hugely disproportionate breasts, and even the NPC characters display large breasts that jiggle at every movement.
I have to wonder why some of the looks weren’t toned back to more realistic proportions, especially in a day and age where gender equality in games are hard to come by. This has nothing to do with the game itself, though, and more to do with a personal choice made by the artists of the game.
Dragon’s Crown is a great beat ‘em up experience with solid gameplay, even with a small number of levels. Except for the questionable choice of some character design, there really isn’t much negative to say about the game. If you have a Sony system, check the game out.