Dragon's Crown

How To Fit An Arcade In Your Pocket

Dragon's Crown on the Vita is the real deal.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: August 5, 2013
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Please Note: The PS3 and Vita versions of the game are identical for all intents and purposes and this review will serve for both platforms. While the game does support cross-save, it is neither cross-play nor cross-buy. Any differences between versions will be noted in the summary section.

Vanillaware is not a name that jumps to the top of most gamers minds when they think of development houses. Although the Japanese company has already put out 3 games over the last seven years they’ve never made anything that leaped into the mainstream. Serious PlayStation 2 aficionados will tell you a tale or two of their time with GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere, a pair of games which defy genres. Those few hardcore Wii owners will undoubtedly regale you with effluent praise for Muramasa, and an updated version (Muramasa Rebirth) was released for the Vita earlier this year.

One thing that jumps out at you when you look at any Vanillaware game is the art. If there were ever games that defined the “hand drawn” look it would be Okami or any Vanillaware game. That tradition carries over to their latest game Dragon’s Crown.

That very artstyle was the root of a bit of controversy leading up to the release of the game. Some of the early media for the game focused on some of the females in the game, all of whom are scantily clad, well endowed and not afraid to show it off. It’s actually so anatomically and physically impossible that I find it to be comical but enough people are offended by that sort of thing led to a lot of backlash for the publisher (Atlus). Enough of an outcry was raised that there was talk of censorship which sensibly quickly died down.

It’s sad that such a trivial thing was the focus of the hype prior to release, because folks should be paying more attention to the excellent modernized arcade gameplay. We’ve seen a bit of a revival in “deep” arcade games with [game=XXXX]Dungeons and Dragons Chronicles of Mystara[/game] but Dragon’s Crown is taking it to a new level with a game built from the ground up over the last three years to be the ultimate fantasy-themed arcade-style beat ‘em up. It’s a recipe aimed right at our hearts and begs for four friends to get together (only on the couch instead of at the bowling alley arcade) and team up for a night of fun.

When you first start the game, you’ll choose from one of the six classes. There is the usual fantasy array with a Fighter, Wizard, Elf and Dwarf. On top of that are the more exotic Amazon and Sorceress (surprisingly the Sorceress is more scantily clad than the Amazon). The decision here is pretty significant as the Sorceress and the Dwarf play decidedly different games. A complete run through of the game can last ten hours if you are being thorough, so choose wisely. Would you like to hang back and deal with situations in a variety of ways, carefully balancing the limited use of various powers? A Wizard or Sorceress for you, good sir. Just here to bash some buttons and whack away at the bad guys? Say hello to the Dwarf or the Fighter.

No matter what way you go, you’ll find yourself running left to right in classic arcade style as the orcs and lizardmen wander in from both sides. Most of your input will come from tapping or holding down square with the occasional jumping around. There are actually a few deeper systems at work but it still feels like something that COULD be in an arcade. While there are never too many enemies on the screen at once you almost always have four people in your party and when spells are going off and enemies are hopping around it is pretty easy to get lost even with a little colored circle to theoretically make you easier to spot.
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