The retro revival has seen a surge in retro-inspired games, as well as the re-release of several 2D era classics, such as Sega’s Golden Axe and Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons games. While it’s been a blast replaying through some of the greatest retro games all over again, part of me still yearned for an all-new fully-realised 2D brawler that combines the best of retro and modern games. ‘Dragon’s Crown’ from Vanillaware and Atlus does exactly that, and does it brilliantly.
Beginning as an idea for a game 13 years ago, Dragon’s Crown is the creation of art director George Kamatani, who has worked on many classic games, such as Princess Crown (Sega Saturn) and Dungeons and Dragons: Castle of Doom. Kamatani had dreamt of a 2D brawler that would “advance the genre” whilst still keeping the game in 2D. Dragon’s Crown released in Japan in July earlier this year, and sold over 300,000 copies in its first week.
Similar to other 2D brawlers, Dragon’s Crown tasks players with completing various quests as one of six different characters, in an unnamed fantasy world.
- There’s the fighter, a steel-clad warrior who boasts strong offense and defense, but is unable to cast spells.
- The Amazon wields massive two-handed weapons to deal major damage, but wears light armour to maximise mobility at the cost of defense.
- The Wizard is a master of the arcane, able to cast spectacular offensive magic, but unable to fend off beasts by hand.
- The Elf is quick and agile, and able to attack from a distance with their bow and arrow.
- The Dwarf is a short and stocky fighter, able to wield a weapon in each hand, and able to pick up and hurl anything in sight.
- The sorceress is the ultimate support character in Dragon’s Crown, able to control various monsters, create food and support their friends in a number of ways.
The gameplay is fast-paced, but unlike retro fighters where the co-operative gameplay still contained elements of competetive gameplay (such as competitive scores and seperate experience) Dragon’s Crown shares the score and loot from each quest, meaning players can wreak as much co-operative chaos as they wish, without the fear of loot-hording. This also means that equipment purchases have to be carefully discussed between players, so that one player does not spend all of the collective stash.
As one would expect of a 2D brawler, Dragon’s Crown involves completing various quests in dungeons, castles, caves and other areas. You have your character’s default attack, but also have quick skills, similar to an MMORPG that can be executed with ease. Enemies will come at the heroes from all angles, as well as in the foreground and background. There are also boss fights at the end of some quests, which serve as a fun-yet-difficult challenge throughout the game.
Also similar to RPGs, Dragon’s Crown has a leveling up system, which allows players to unlock skills to further aid them in their quests. Stats also increase, but automatically, which takes the drama out of deciding what type of character build to have. When levelling up, players can choose to unlock a class skill or a general skill. Character skills are usually attacks or quick skills, such as powerful magic or a heavy attack. General skills usually involve acquiring more loot, gold or score, and are handy to unlock early.
Dragon’s Crown supports up to four player co-operative gameplay, either locally or through the Playstation Network. It also supports cross platform play, allowing Playstation 3 players to play with Playstation Vita players, which is pretty exciting. Also exciting, is the fact that you can share your save data between your PS3 and PS Vita, alowing you to take your game save with you when you’re out and about. Its a retro gamers dream come true!
The story in Dragon’s Crown is told through a narrator, with a very fantasy novel feel to it. The narrator’s voice actor does a terrific job with the story, and the story itself is written so well that when combined with the artwork, it feels like a fantasy novel has come to life. There are also times when players must make various decisions throughout the game, which cause the story and quests to take different turns. It’s great to have an input in the story, as opposed to a lot of older brawlers where you simply travelled from level to level, in an almost on-rails fashion.
In addition to mutiplayer, players are also able to recruit different followers throughout their adventures. Sometimes, the player will chance upon a pile of bones in a dungeon. These bones belonged to a warrior who has fallen in battle, but they can be resurrected at a temple through prayer (and a little money). Your followers may also fall in battle and it’s up to you whether you choose to resurrect them, or bury their bones at the town temple (which may give a bonus).
- Amazingly fun old school gameplay
- Gorgeous art direction from Kamatani-san
- Fantastically diverse multiplayer options.
If Kamatani-san wished to “advance the genre” of 2D brawlers, he has succeeded…and then some. Dragon’s Crown is the perfect love-letter to the brawlers of yesteryear, but also stands on its own as a brilliant multiplayer game in its own right. If you’ve love co-operative games, old-school brawlers or RPGs, Dragon’s Crown has got you covered with the best 2D experience, gameplay and art direction seen in ages.
Score – 9/10