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The Legend of Dragoon (PlayStation) artwork

The Legend of Dragoon (PlayStation) review

"The connection you develop with each of the characters enables you to feel exactly as they do. Not even the occasionally rough translation interferes with the raw emotion that somehow manages to clearly express itself regardless of the situation. You’ll laugh at old-timer Haschel and naïve Meru’s goofy antics. You’ll hope and pray for the best when things turn grim. You may even weep during the most tragic moments where you’ll be left questioning what happens next. "

To anyone complaining about Legend of Dragoon’s “stereotypical” plot, I’d kindly request that they stop and think for a moment. Any clichés the game does have belong to JRPGs everywhere. I’d also ask whether they hadn’t slept through the game’s entirety because LoD has the deepest and most shocking plot I’ve ever seen in any RPG of that era. Indeed, the story weaves such a twisting and multi-faceted tale that it could serve as its own epic literature.

It begins with protagonist Dart returning to his adoptive home after a five year long search for the amorphous Black Monster that had destroyed his childhood village and rendered him an orphan. There he discovers all is not well. After a run-in with a massive, flightless, insectoid dragon from which he barely escapes, he learns that an enemy nation has razed the town, captured his long-time friend Shana and taken her to the most notorious prison on the continent. Thus he mounts a daring raid on said prison to get her back, earning the trust of a captured knight in the process.

The success of the mission naturally means the group becomes involved in the bitter civil war between the kingdom of Serdio and imperial Sandora, which they’ve been fighting until now. But the game doesn’t content itself with just that. What starts as a journey to rescue an old friend and end a war quickly turns into something much larger. The tale takes the trio through four diverse regions, each with its own culture and history, leading to a series of interweaving events that adds further dimension to the ever-expanding plot. The small trio becomes a band of seven as friends old and new decide to accompany them. Over time, all learn of and acquire the mystical power of the dragoon, or dragon knight, capable of flight and devastating magic. Betrayal shatters trust as those thought loyal to the group’s cause show their true colors. Former enemies join forces for various reasons. And a conspiracy involving ten thousand years of detailed history soon complicates what at first seems a “simple” matter of politics and anomalous events. (Dragoons and dragons had long since been thought extinct.)

Through it all, the player doesn’t know much more than the characters themselves do. As events both tragic and joyous occur, you’ll sense their emotions and express shock as new plot twists throw everything you once believed in completely opposite directions. When enemy forces capture King Albert of Serdio, his faithful vassal Lavitz rashly attempts to rush after him, only to be knocked out by a fellow party member. The sense of urgency is palpable; you’ll easily understand why the man acted the way he did, perhaps even sensing his loss of self-control. The connection you develop with each of the characters enables you to feel exactly as they do. Not even the occasionally rough translation interferes with the raw emotion that somehow manages to clearly express itself regardless of the situation. You’ll laugh at old-timer Haschel and naïve Meru’s goofy antics. You’ll hope and pray for the best when things turn grim. You may even weep during the most tragic moments where you’ll be left questioning what happens next.

Further conveying the mood is the beautiful and remarkably appropriate soundtrack. A soothing, sleepy melody accompanies tender moments, such as those between Dart and Shana. Moments of heroism are met with determined tempo that seems to channel the characters’ vigor and willpower. Times of tragedy produce a slow-paced and deeply moving sorrowful song that flows through everyone listening. Even the ambient music belonging to towns and the world map is acutely appropriate for the setting. Small port cities like Lidiera exude a sense of relaxation and warmth while the commercial town of Lohan carries pseudo-Arabian tunes to match its desert-like appearance.

In case the elaborate plot and fantastic storytelling weren’t convincing enough, the game went to extra lengths to ensure interest of one sort or another. Should story fail, the innovative battle system more than makes up for it. Almost everything about fighting is interactive, from using magical items to initiating individual attacks. Each character specializes in a particular weapon, and every character (save one) has a number of techniques, termed additions, that require precision timing to execute fully. Properly completed, additions add great strength to the character’s base attack, making what would have otherwise been a weak offense into something potent and effective. It is, to me, the first, and perhaps only, instance in which a JRPG actually requires the player to pay attention during the player’s attack phase.

The unique system doesn’t end there, however. Tossing magical items requires rapid button mashing to enhance their power. And, while not as difficult or even unique as the additions themselves, it’s still better than selecting an item from the menu and watching. Even dragoon forms require attentiveness as the physical attacks also require precise timing to pull off perfectly. About the only thing that isn’t interactive is powerful dragoon magic, but mana and the number of turns the party can stay in that form strongly limit that ability.

Since acquiring the game almost ten years ago, I’ve probably played through it a dozen times. Despite memorizing the plot and everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, I’m still just as enthralled as I was then. I may no longer be confused or surprised when certain catastrophic and unbelievable events occur, but the initial impact of experiencing it all proved strong enough to keep me coming back. That alone should prove how powerful the game’s premise and presentation are. If an old veteran such as myself will forever vaunt its greatness, despite its age, then hopefully anyone new must surely appreciate it. That is, if they can see it for what it’s worth.


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Featured community review by wolfqueen001 (June 04, 2010)

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Nightmare posted June 04, 2010:


Prior to reading this, my nostalgic desire to play this again was based solely on the battle system. I personally remember the story being only a watered down version of FF VII. You, however, mentioned a lot of things that I didn't recall, and did a very good job in describing them. Shamefully, I only read about the final 1/4 of the game through a hint book. It was a rental, and I had to return it before I beat it.

And brief captions below a picture can't truly demonstrate such, so I am strongly considering playing this one again based on your opinion.

I did want to mention/ask one thing though: It is, to me, the first, and perhaps only, instance in which a JRPG actually requires the player to pay attention during the player’s attack phase.

A true statement, at least from what I know. I wasn't aware of one prior, either. Since you liked this one so much, I'm wondering if you've ever played the Shadow Hearts series, and how you think they compare to this.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 05, 2010:

Thanks! I'll be honest and say that I never actually played all the way through FFVII, which is why I didn't try to make any direct links to it in the review. However, I do know enough of the plot in that game to safely say, at least in my opinion, that LoD's story is different enough to separate itself out. For one thing, I'd always considered LoD to focus a lot more on grounding a lot of its events in its own history, and, as a history major in college, this kind of approach pleases me greatly. Granted, I have no doubt that FFVII also uses history to some extent, but I never considered it to have quite the reach or impact as LoD.

In some ways, it's kind of sad that people compare the game to FFVII, though I will admit that such a thing is almost inevitable, because the comparison isn't really fair in many cases. And it's that sort of comparing, at least when done by avid fanboys (of either game), that possibly contributed to the mixed reviews this game received, which has prety much assured that nothing will ever be done with it again. But, I accept that everyone has their own opinions, and if they want and can draw comparisons, then there's no real reason to stop them.

That rambling aside, I'm not necessarily accusing you of anything, merely pointing out some of my observations and interests. I actually don't know as much about the FFVII vs. LoD thing as other people around here do. I actually think EmP does a pretty good job in both of his reviews of the game (one's under an alt) to make the parallels (or lack thereof) clearer.

As for the Shadow Hearts comment, I've never played that series,though I think that's one I wanted to check out sometime. It's interesting you agree with my statement about the battle system being as unique as it is, though, because I really wasn't too sure of it's accuracy, which is why I phrased it in a personal sense rather than generalizing. I tend to think that, while I've played a lot of games, I haven't played nearly as many as some others around here, so whenever I make potentially inaccurate statements like that, I try to put them in context of myself so that they're accurate in terms of how they apply to me.

Anyway, I'm glad the review did something for you. I hope you do decide to play through the game one day (and that you can still find it somewhere... I don't think it's commonly sold anymore). Even if, upon replaying it and refreshing your memory, you don't agree with my points about the story, then that's perfectly fine. I just think it's interesting to see what draws people to certain games and why. If anything, I'm just glad that one of these things (in this case, the battle system) worked for you.
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Nightmare posted June 05, 2010:

To be honest, my gripes are somewhat murky as I haven't played the game since it came out. And in reading your review, I realize they may just be vague similarities. I just remember an abrupt--rather sad--shift, and it seemed like they were trying very hard to play on tragedy; much like FF VII had with the end of the second disk. But that may have just been bad timing, and FF VII casting its shadow over nearly every RPG that would follow.

Regardless, if you liked the battle system I would definitely try Shadow Hearts. It's not quite as rhythmic as Dragoon was, but still implemented a style that forced you to focus during every battle.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 07, 2010:

Ah. Well, that's fair. I'm glad the review seemed to make you question your initial assertions and possibly made you want to replay it again, confirm things one way or the other if nothing else. That's really the whole point of the review in the first place, and that it seemed to have accomplished that, even for just one or two people, then I'm happy.

Anyway, thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to try that other game out some time if I can find it anywhere. Even if it isn't as smooth as LoD, anything that forces you to pay attention has to be worth something.
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windex posted June 07, 2010:

Do you really mean to insinuate that those who describe LoD's plot as stereotypical are not really people, but JRPGs, as the reflection in the mirror would therefore be a void-less black disc or stodgy old cartridge, and not that of an actual human being?
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CoarseDragon posted June 08, 2010:

Very good review. I believe you were correct when you surmised that this was the first game that made players pay attention to battles unlike most of that time which were "button mashers". I suppose I liked the game for the story and the fact combat was so very interesting not unlike Shadow Hearts which you already mentioned.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 09, 2010:

Thanks! I continue to be surprised, and pleased, that this review has appealed to just about everyone who has said anything about it so far. I'm starting to feel better about myself now.
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True posted June 09, 2010:

Very good review, Lobo. I was just thinking about playing this game, and wanting to see it on PSN, but it may be a while before that happens. And though I strongly agree with the statement Dragoon was the first to incorporate that type of a Battle System, I am curious if there isn't one buried very, very deep in retro history that tried it first though not as well.
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CoarseDragon posted June 10, 2010:

I may be wrong but Legend of Dragoon is the first one I remember using timed button presses to power up your attacks and skills. Other early fighting games may have had something similar but I think this is probably the first RPG that used a timing system. In the US is where I would be speaking of but there could have been games only in Japan that used some type of timing and those I would not be familar with.
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sashanan posted June 10, 2010:

It is not quite in the same style, but Super Mario RPG on the SNES did have timed button presses to upgrade your attacks and guard against enemy blows.
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CoarseDragon posted June 10, 2010:

Legend of the Seven Stars? That did have something very similar.
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True posted June 10, 2010:

Thank you, Sash. That's what I was thinking of.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 10, 2010:

Thanks, true. I honestly don't know if or when you'll see it on PSN. People have been clammering for that for ages now and still nothing. I honestly think Sony has given up on this game entirely in any form, which is quite sad.
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EmP posted June 13, 2010:


I’m not really sure where you’re going with the opening line and the mirror. Is this some American thing? “You think something that is wrong! Now, go look in a mirror!” What a charming custom from the colonies. Do you believe the reflection will steal your soul and this is punishment? Ho ho, you backwards primitives.

After a run-in with a massive, flightless, insectoid dragon, from which he barely escapes, he learns that an enemy nation has razed the town and captured his long-time friend Shana and taken her to the most notorious prison on the continent.

You’ve squeezed too much into this sentence. I’d break it into two after town OR not use and so much so it doesn’t look like so many deviants. And the giant mantis’ name is Feyrbrand! He likes climbing curtains and eating giant crickets.

This is a fantastic review, though; I think you’re right in saying that it’s the depth of history that Sony allowed their title to soak in that gives it so much appeal (that or it just helps that I too am a history nerd) and you managed to convey this much better than my ham-handed effort back in the day. Best review I’ve read on an RPG since my last one for a while now.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 13, 2010:

I’m not really sure where you’re going with the opening line and the mirror. Is this some American thing? “You think something that is wrong! Now, go look in a mirror!” What a charming custom from the colonies. Do you believe the reflection will steal your soul and this is punishment? Ho ho, you backwards primitives.

Pfft. You're just angry that we tied you in our World Cup match yesterday and that our goal against you was far more embarrassing than yours against us. =D

Seriously, though, the expression itself is meant to mean that those who criticize this game for the things I mentioned probably have played other games with flaws that they criticize LoD for (i.e. FFVII) and so the mirror is a reflection of their own game preferences.

As for the other thing, I know the dragon's name but didn't want to add it so as to avoid confusion. Besides, I didn't want to risk spelling it wrong like you did in your review. xP I will try to condense it or break it down as you suggest though.

Anyway, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it and found it as good as you do. It's not often that you admit someone else's review of a game is better than yours. =P I really appreciate it, and the time you put into reading and critiquing, since I know you've been busy.
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windex posted June 13, 2010:

You are saying that a person, who looks into a mirror, is a video game.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 13, 2010:

I like how that's the only thing you're talking about here. I'll take that to mean you found nothing else wrong with my overall argument regarding the game and so are relying on this alone. That being said, you're taking the statement far too literally. I'm saying people who think LoD's plot is stereotypical should look at themselves in a mirror because they almost certainly enjoy other JRPGs with the same stereotypes they cite LoD has.
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windex posted June 13, 2010:

I didn't bother to read the rest of the review because the first line really took me out of it.

I know what you meant to say when you wrote that line. But you misused it. The proper way to use it would go like this, in the following example:

First you stayed silent when I brought up the point. Then you accused me of not understanding what you wrote, and now I'm telling you to go and look at yourself in the mirror, as you definitely misused that term and refuse to understand how to implement it in your writing.

The more you know!
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zigfried posted June 13, 2010:

I don't really understand the mirror line, either. I've never seen that expression used to refer to beliefs, and I don't think it quite works.

Outside of that, the people complaining about "stereotypes" are probably operating under the belief that "what once was cool, no longer is". In other words, FF7 gets a free pass for being first (even though it wasn't) but LoD should be doing something new. So, telling those people that LoD's stereotypes were in other games kind of reinforces their point in their minds. But if you can shine the light closer to their hypocrisy ("those stereotypes were established long before FF7") that would make the intro more pointed.

But that's not the focus of the review; let's not forget that we're discussing tweaks to bump an A up to an A+. It's easy enough to simply read then forget about that first line, and go on to enjoy the story you tell.

One grammar bit:
I may no longer confused or surprised when certain catastrophic and unbelievable events occur,

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wolfqueen001 posted June 13, 2010:

Very well. Because both you and EmP took issue with the statement and presented clear arguments as to why it doesn't work as well as I originally thought, I've removed the metaphor completely and said something else instead. What's there may not have the impact I thought the metaphor would, but at least now I don't think there'll be any complaints about it either. Besides, the rest of the review speaks for itself. Hopefully it better represents what I was trying to convey and what you so clearly defined, though I don't know how effectively I could do that without outright changing the intro completely. Either way, thanks for the insight.

I ignored windex completely precisely because he didn't read the rest of it (or, as I had mistakenly thought earlier, just merely focused on one thing), and I will continue to ignore him unless he has something else to say and can express it in a non-beligerant manner (though I will not deny that my assumptions and reactions may have instigated such a response in the first place). I don't have a problem with people pointing out my flaws - in fact, I welcome it - but when it seems like it's the only thing and they offer nothing else up besides, I'm usually inclined to think that their reasons for doing so aren't just merely to kindly point something out to me.
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Suskie posted June 13, 2010:

I didn't bother to read the rest of the review because the first line really took me out of it.

I didn't bother to read the rest of Windex's comment because this first line really took me out of it.
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fleinn posted June 13, 2010:

..I think you.. maybe should keep the original line, and just change it a bit to make the point more clear.

More like this: "Through it all, the player doesn’t know much more than the characters themselves do". That's.. near the same as the other one - it introduces the entire paragraph, and lets you in on what comes next. (That's what I like about your reviews.)

But I think you're maybe promising a little too much about the plot.. lol. It's interesting, but I wouldn't know why if I hadn't played the game.

Maybe if... suggestion for another review or something... maybe if you split the explanation between the overall drama (because the drama is a fairy-tale cliche), and the individual set pieces and the boss-fights (since those are well set up - could maybe compare those to FF9).. that might work better.

And the guy with number 5 on his back on the US soccer-team worked really hard yesterday :D real hero. They played good team on the last part of the game too. Will be fun to see how far they'll go.
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EmP posted June 13, 2010:

#5 is Oguchi Onyewu. He (rarely) plays for A.C Milan and I shouldn't know more about the American football team than bloody Americans. AARRGGGHHH!

He did have a good game, though.
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windex posted June 13, 2010:

I've read the new way your review starts, wolfqueen001. I think it's better that way. I enjoyed the rest of the review, now that I've read it.
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sashanan posted June 14, 2010:

At least the original opening got people talking. That's got to count for something. As for the point made, my position has always been that the clichés (though I prefer the neutral term tropes) are an expected component of the JRPG and to deviate too far from them alienates people - possibly the same people that complain loudly when they're played the book.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 15, 2010:

Flein: Honestly, I'm not really sure where you're coming from, though I appreciate the comments nonetheless. The way I have it now seems to make people a lot happier, so I'm going to keep it. As for splitting anything else up, I kind of wanted to keep this one short with an emphasis on the plot and battle system because that's what stuck out to me most. As far as bosses go, I thought about including something on them but didn't want to add too much. I think adding something in about that would actually detract from the point this review was trying to make now. Also, I didn't want to elaborate too much on plot specifically because I wanted to avoid spoilers, so if I'm a bit more vague with regard to actual events, that's why. Still, though, I appreciate that you read and commented on this.

Thanks to the rest for their opinions as well.
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fleinn posted June 15, 2010:

Mm. No, I agree that what you did with focusing on plot and story against that "jrpg cliche" made the most sense. I'd probably suggest that you should have done that if you did something else :D ..but the review does seem a bit compact in some places.

It is not necessarily because the sentences contain too much at once.. I think what I thought.. I was thinking.. is that when I read the review, I saw the opening sequence in the back of my head, with the music running - and the review made perfect sense. When I played the game, I also reacted in exactly the same way as you - I didn't understand in any way why in the world this game somehow was thought of as disappearing in the background of Final Fantasy, and that genuinely irked me while I played through the first couple of chapters. Because it's completely different, and only similar in terms of fantastic magical setting (and hilariously serious blocky expressions). The plot is also pretty deep, the characters are not one-dimensional, and with a very different focus than any of Square's other games, so..

But does the reader know that from the review..?

I don't know how to solve that, or even if it really is a problem (and I often do the same thing myself - and others have commented on how this is probably something of a theme of the reviews on this site - that they're a bit too internal. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to smuggle in some basics once in a while) - anyway.. I'm just typing down some thoughts. :)

..remember that review of this puzzle-game you wrote? You wondered why I commented on that review of all things.. - I had just read through a treatise of an internal narrative on another game. I didn't understand anything of what the game was about, except that the one who wrote it liked it an awful lot. But that puzzle-game review described the game perfectly, which allowed me to follow you completely on the rest of the more thoughtful descriptions, even though I hadn't played the game myself...
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wolfqueen001 posted June 17, 2010:

Hm... Well, whenever I write a review, I always try to write for those who don't know (with a few exceptions). That was the case here (or I'd like to think so), but I suppose I really can't be a good judge of that since I've obviously played the game (and would need to in order to review it effectively). Still, I really wanted to convey the emotion and everything else I thought was important about it. If I'd explained basics like how you move and how your inventory works or whatever (if that's even what you're talking about), it would have detracted from the review as a whole. As for other aspects that might be important to newcomers, I did explain the battle system, as that was critical to the points I was making as well, though I didn't say everything about it. I'm not really sure what else besides that I could have done except maybe go into more detail about things (and again, I wanted to avoid plot details because of spoilers), but again, I really think that too much more would have had negatively effected the overall outcome.

One thing I've been trying to do with my reviewing is prevent overcrowding. That is, one of my biggest and longest standing problems with reviewing is simply talking too much about things or going into detail about every little thing about a game. I've worked on cutting that down somewhat, but I probably still need some work. This was an effort to try and act on any improvements I had made there.

Anyway, thanks a lot for the feedback.

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