Game Review: Dragon’s Crown – An Artistic Co-op Butt Whoopin’
Japanese developer Vanillaware is known for their elaborate 2D games date back to various talents taken from former employees of Atlus and Capcom which are heralded for such great 2D games as Dungeons and Dragons:Tower of Doom (an arcade title) and Princess Crown. They have managed to make a variety of 2D based games for various consoles and hardware dating back to the days of the PS2. Now they are taking on the 3D world with yet another 2D epic called Dragon’s Crown.
On the surface, this Playstation exclusive is the rebirth of old school beat ’em up games like Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Set in a fantasy realm, this co-op action RPG is stuffed full of just enough action, loot, and variety to keep PS3 and PS Vita gamers hacking and slashing for quite some time.
Instantly upon starting this game, the art style quickly grips you. The cutscenes have massive depictions of busty women, evil creatures, and fearless heroes that are only slightly animated to keep interest as a narrator reads through the story. Oddly enough, this 2D style approach works due to the wonderfully drawn characters.
Still, one thing is certain. The art style is unescapably hypersexualized. Various reviews for the game found critics disgusted by the unnaturally busty shape and animation of the sorceress and the amazon. Other critics simply wrote the depiction of women in his game as typical of Japanese anime characters. As a result, the result of the release of the game, there have been a number of discussions concerning sexism in the gaming industry in general. While nothing was solved by the debate, it is certainly interesting to see supposed ills of the industry brought to light. Whether this game is a prime example of that sexism is still questionable though. Those intimate with art history have shown parallels between ancient art and the depiction of certain characters and fantasy concepts that are quite consistent with Vanillaware’s versions.
With the artwork explained and the scene set, players are given a choice between 6 different heroes to control. Called the Fighter, Amazon, Elf, Sorceress, Wizard, and Dwarf, your heroes are commissioned to save the realm from all kinds of mythical and fantastic beasts. Each character has unique strengths, weaknesses, attacks, maneuvers, and skills that evolve as experience is gained through gameplay.
As you play as these heroes, the combat seems really simplistic. There are special maneuvers for each hero but once you have 4 characters plus summoned monsters on the screen chopping it up together, the action gets a bit muddled and hard to see. Also, the lining up strikes can be a bit tricky due to the 2D nature of both the enemy and the hero’s attacks. Although, once you land one of those strikes be it with magic or weapon, it is pretty satisfying with the damage amounts leaping into the air like an old Final Fantasy game.
Probably the most appealing part of the game is the loot system. Once each boss battle is complete, the treasure is tallied up like an old school arcade game. Each treasure found is given a ‘grade’ and this grade determines the strength of the items found. After spending a bit of coin to identify the loot, you can either sell it or keep it for future use. The bonus to this loot system is that you can share all of this found loot between the different characters you’ve created to play the game. So if you play as an Amazon for a while and decide that you’d rather try the Dwarf for a while (due to a new piece of equipment found that only he can use) then you can do that.
Speaking of which, this game was really created to play with other players. You can either play with computer allies that are found throughout the game or you can do local and online co-op. Oddly enough, you must play through a certain number of areas before the online functionality works.
Once you beat the game, there are two other difficulties that can be experienced without having to sacrifice your previously found loot. Yes the game is a bit harder but the real question will be whether or not the beat em up style of gameplay will capture your attention enough to pull you from the rest of your gaming library. The bonus here is that if you buy the Vita version as well (this is unfortunately not a cross-buy title) then you can save your game to the cloud and then upload it to your Vita to continue your adventure. The Vita is probably the platform that will get a majority of the playtime for many gamers.
Still, the loot based action gameplay is attractive enough to be a fun and simply adventure to experience with your friends. While it is probably not a good idea to allow immature pre-teens to play this one given the throbbing near naked characters, Dragon’s Crown is still a solid co-op funfest.