""This room is tidy. This shows a lot about this person's personality." "
"This room is tidy. This shows a lot about this person's personality."
Dart, a strapping spiky-haired teenage male of main character clichés, was standing in a small, dainty room when this box of text vomited out of his mouth. I knew it was my fault for pressing X at every dresser in a room - it is the job of an RPG-completionist - but I was already drenched in the verbal diarrhea spewing from this self-proclaimed legend. Clumps of invisible slime, composed of watered-down music, constipated battle systems, and stomach-churning dialogue, had already slithered down my skin and onto the curved, porcelain, oversized toilet bowl. I wanted to get out, but either more diarrhea came slopping down on my head or I was forced to backtrack through the slush. No matter how much I hoped that my journey would end, The Legend of Dragoon kept crapping. So I decided to sit down and wait until it was done.
As I anticipated the next crap attack, I wondered how I got into this mess. Was it the level design? As I sat, I remembered how each scene and backdrop gave attention to lighting, perspective, and misé-en-scene. Everything from nature's tender snowfields and dry pine forests to man's crystal citadels and cavernous prisons sheltered winding paths and earthen structures. Organic textures, spread across the scene, made even the tiniest branch a vision to behold. Even dim volcanic tunnels shared the same understanding of space as the leveled and layered teleportation pads in The Magic City of Mayfil. But then again, saying that I was hooked by the level design would be an oversight. I don't find anything gorgeous about crap aligning itself in harmony with feng shui.
Was it the music? Absolutely not. Not a single track was noteworthy in melody, rhythm, or construction. The music was either serviceable and strictly environmental or blatantly disruptive. Every time I wanted to change my character's status, the theme for the item screen would cut the music off without any aural transition. Moreover, every track was comprised of three layers at best. As soon as one boring looping melody would die off, another one began. It was a tortuous cycle I should have foreseen.
Design philosophies and musical foresight notwithstanding, it dawned on me that I had been entranced by the pristine lake that this disgusting swamp once was. I was fooled by the opening cinematic, sparkling with flowing animations and colors deep enough to dive into. I should have paid heed to how strained the voice-overs were. I should have seen the monster of horrible dialogue. But before I knew that my journey would be a whirlpool of backtracking, I was caught by the Mighty Morphin' Power Dragoons.
Dart and his mishmash of followers, through a bizarre series of events the game tries to call "destiny", can transform into winged humans with magical powers and dragon armor, which are both imbued with a taste-the-rainbow complex. I took a glance at Dart's red armor, Meru's blue ribbon, and Rose's violet chest plate, and I knew what colored Dragoons they were. As the monster of horrible dialogue came from behind, infecting the surrounding water with its foul excretions, the cherry-flavored Dragoon saved me. Dart lifted me into the air as I watched the Dragoons dodge the monster's attacks with their swift wings and destroy its limbs with enchanted weaponry and elemental magic. But after Dart cast his fire spell, his wings suddenly disappeared. I should have known their transformations only lasted several turns.
Plummeting back to shallow waters, I resigned to my fate, but Dart came from under me and broke my fall. Once I stopped tumbling through the rancid water, I scrambled over to him and was surprised. He was already standing. He said that he simply chose to Guard for a few turns, giving him one-tenth of his health back every time. I said, "Doesn't that make life too easy? I mean, doesn't that make you practically immortal?" He replied, "No. I cannot Guard outside of battle." With a puzzled look on my face, he dashed back to his friends, whom had also Guarded back to full health. After fifteen minutes, I sat bored - watching them Attack and Guard over and over again - now knowing that practically every battle was trivial.
To be sure, I was engaged for the first few minutes, amazed at all the attack combinations. If the Dragoons pressed X - or O for counterattack threats - at exactly the right time, they could extend their attack and inflict more damage. Having watched them perform their techniques on the monster about five times, I asked Dart whether I could see other Additions. He replied, "No. I can only switch Additions outside of battle."
Where have I heard that one before?
"Well, then can I see your best Addition after the battle?" He replied, "No. I do not know it yet. I must use each of my Additions eighty times before I know it." Shrugging my shoulders, I was left with disappointment.
To keep the long story short, here were a few more replies within the next three hours:
"No. I cannot use magic outside of battle."
"No. I cannot carry more than 32 items."
"No. I can carry 255 pieces of heavy equipment but cannot carry more than 32 items."
"No. I cannot take you back through the water because I have forgotten the way, even though I have been through it many times before. I must revisit and backtrack at the same time."
"No. I cannot go around or fly over the water. I can only follow dotted paths on the world map."
"No. I cannot let you leave before you hear our epic story."
It was then that I realized that the Dragoons had been a part of the monster of horrible dialogue all along. The monster had possessed them to make me stay and listen. So I quickly remarked, "I wish I could hear it but… No. I cannot handle any more of this." But it was too late. The Dragoons turned into the monster and caught me by the ears.
For four discs, I was in a screenwriter's nightmare. Whatever the potential for the storyline, however interesting the concept, was squandered by the complete ignorance of the fundamental rule that governs fiction writing: "Show, Don't Tell". Trapped in a story that stood only on plot twists, I was sent to a one way trip to a land of clichés: war-torn countries, a mysterious hooded man, and political espionage, all wrapped in a scant love story. Hardly a single line of dialogue, despite the occasional interesting twist, had depth. From the opening scene, verbal diarrhea was flung in my face, with lines such as "I gotta do something or I'll be killed!!", "What a monster!", and "It's coming!" when it's obvious that a dragon is attacking him. In fact, a simple "Crap!" would do.
A few moments later, Dart's hometown village of Seles came under attack (another cliché) and Shana, his childhood friend and girl of mysterious abilities (another cliché), is taken to Hellena Prison. I am told three times that Dart should have come back earlier, and talking to the survivors, one of them blurts, "…what are you going to do about my feelings for Shana." When I was not bombarded by overplayed conversation, I was agitated by underplayed character progressions. Personal conflicts are quickly presented and then quickly disposed. Haschel's quest to find his daughter, Miranda's issues with her parents, and Kongol's quest for friends are all resolved in one fell swoop at the end of disc four.
So with as much subtlety as the plot, I concluded that **** happens. Why did the game not warn me that I couldn't leave the final area? What's the point of having both an Inn and a Medical Center when they heal me just the same? Why does Lavitz say "Blossom Storm" when the skill is "Flower Storm"? Out of curiosity, I tried visiting the early towns of my adventure, and I actually had to remove disc four and reinsert disc one. I then went back to Seles, back to the first screen that I could ever control Dart, and the music reloaded. As if Dart's hometown was burning again, the same nerve-wracking track I heard at the beginning of the game vomited into my ears. Just when I thought The Legend of Dragoon was done, another pile of crap comes full circle.
I guess this shows a lot about this game's personality.
Community review by draqq_zyxx (June 30, 2006)
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