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Dragon's Crown (Vita) artwork

Dragon's Crown (Vita) review

"Everything in the design and atmosphere is played straight, but just barely. It's a very loving, very Japanese look at the silliness of Western fantasy."

One glance at Dragon's Crown will tell you it's a beautiful game. The art is simply incredible, and is a joy to see in motion on the Vita's OLED screen. If you're anything like me, you'll be pressing the PS button+START repeatedly to screencap the NPCs you encounter and the unlockable art you attain. But it's once you get past the surface that this game starts to really shine.

Dragon's Crown is a 2.5D fantasy beat 'em up, a lot like Golden Axe, only with leveling, loot and skill trees. There are six characters to choose from: Fighter, Elf, Amazon, Dwarf, Wizard and Sorceress. Each have their own specialties, which are all obvious and simple at first but increase in complexity as you level and add points to your skill trees. For example, the Fighter starts off as a typical tank type player with huge defense and reasonably high attack. As you play you'll have to decide how much you want to increase: his ability to block effectively, the likelihood of him blocking automatically, the attack of his standard combos or special attacks, and much more. By the time you're deep into Dragon's Crown's Infernal difficulty, a proper fighter will likely automatically block about half the time he would be hit, his shield will cover any close by allies when blocking, and allies protected this way will get an attack buff. A party of co-op players who have been careful in building their characters will find themselves tearing down even the toughest bosses like a well oiled D&D play group.

There are nine levels available, each with an early branching point, for a total of eighteen areas. Looping through these same places repeatedly can get a little tiresome, even with the myriad bonus quests that encourage you to find new interactive backgrounds, hidden areas and ways to defeat bosses. It's fun to loop through the areas without returning to town for increased experience and loot, but eventually I found myself wishing there were a few more levels to add into the rotation. A late game randomized area dubbed the Labyrinth of Chaos is fun and challenging, but only recycles areas and enemies you've encountered before in new combinations.

Another issue in Dragon's Crown is the slowdown present when a lot is happening on screen. It isn't gamebreaking, but it is annoying. NPC allies can also leave something to be desired, you're definitely going to want to play online if possible. Speaking of online play, I never had a problem finding people to play with at different times of day and at different difficulties. However, Vita games with an online component often see their communities die off quickly due to the low install base. Thankfully, Atlus recently patched the Vita version to allow cross platform play with PS3 owners which should ensure some extra longevity.

The story is simple, pretty much existing just to hit as many fantasy tropes as possible. Ancient evil? Dragon with a hoard of gold? Royal Court intrigue? Ghosts? Vampires? Mermaids? You got 'em! And that's not a bad thing. No one can accuse Dragon's Crown of taking itself too seriously. All the angry clickbait “journalism” about the Sorceress's bust size is safe to ignore. The character designs, like the plot, are almost parody. Everything in the design and atmosphere is played straight, but just barely. It's a very loving, very Japanese look at the silliness of Western fantasy.

Dragon's Crown is easily my favorite game of 2013 so far. You can sink tens of hours into each character type despite the repetitive loop of levels, and growing your abilities is deep and rewarding. The presentation is as good as it gets. Overall, a hugely entertaining game. Play it.

Germ's avatar
Featured community review by Germ (October 16, 2013)

Jeremy plays video games, sometimes.

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