Vanillaware is best known for their PlayStation 2 genre-bending and evolutionary RPGs, Grim Grimoire and Odin Sphere, as well as the critical darling Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Nintendo Wii. Now, with their new title, it seems as if the Japanese developer has stepped into something of a firestorm. Though the line to have posters signed by art director, George Kamitani at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles was consistently long, not everyone is a fan of the over-the-top art style. Somewhere between the original Heavy Metal film and the latest envisioning of Capcom’s 2D fighters, the character designs in Dragon’s Crown have certainly garnered attention.
While the art could certainly be considered off-putting, the cries of overt sexism are in my opinion, overblown. Always the diplomat, I don’t usually take a strong stance one way or the other on design decisions that don’t seriously impact gameplay. I do find it terribly disingenuous of reviewers to slam Dragon’s Crown when there are plenty of other games that objectify women in a much more real way. Those games are often given scores of nine or 10 out of 10 with barely an acknowledgement of the bigger social picture it portrays. Games like Mass Effect 3 and God of War actually objectify women in the gameplay, which Dragon’s Crown does not.
None of those arguments directly deal with the gameplay of Dragon’s Crown on either the PlayStation 3 or Playstation Vita. So, let’s talk about that. Dragon’s Crown was made as a homage to classic arcade games like Golden Axe. Similar to Deep Silver’s Sacred 3 prequel, Sacred Citadel, Dragon’s Crown puts a serious RPG twist on the effort. It is almost a shame I have to mention the two in the same sentence, because Dragon’s Crown is in almost every way the better game. The most effective way to sum it up is to say, if Diablo was a side-scroller, it would be just like Dragon’s Crown.
Dragon’s Crown has six playable characters in the game: Amazon, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Sorceress, and Wizard. They also offer a number of class specific combos and upgrades for each of them. They do recommend that novices start off with the fighter class. As any RPG veteran knows, magic users are tough characters to keep alive, at least until their skills are better developed. The story starts off in the typical fashion, sending you on a quest into a dangerous place to prove your worth. As you travel, you will find piles of bones that you can take to the church and have resurrected into party members to fill out your group.
Like Diablo, Dragon’s Crown uses a small city as a hub though in this game, with the whole title rendered in 2D. There is also a map that can be used for fast travelling. The face buttons are used for two types of attacks, blocking, and jumping. The tutorial will help with learning the combos. The horizontal buttons on the d-pad will cycle through your equipped inventory and potions. Pressing up or down will use that item. Food can also be found on missions, but your characters will only eat it when idle. Another parallel to the iconic dungeon crawler is the paper thin story, though some credit should be given for actually writing a story to go with the game.
There is nothing really groundbreaking about Dragon’s Crown which is available for both PlayStation 3 and the Vita. Unfortunately, no cross play is available for this four player co-op game though saves can be shared between versions. The art is likely to turn many off to this title, but there is some really great gameplay behind the garish artwork. True, there isn’t much variety to it, but the bosses are well executed and the combat is satisfying, to say the least. There is also so much loot to be found that on the PlayStation 3, the right stick is used exclusively for “searching” the environment for treasure. All in all, it’s a unique RPG experience with some remarkable art.
Dragon’s Crown is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence. This game can also be found on: Playstation Vita.