Dragon Force (Saturn) review
"Sequels can be a mess and remakes can teeter on the edge of a needle between outstanding and horrific. While Iím adamant about never begging for anything, I surely wouldnít be opposed to send a request letter Segaís way asking them for a re-introduced version of Dragon Force. Of what few epics the Saturn actually producedómost of them being Roleplaying/Strategy gamesóDragon Force is the only one that, in my opinion, could go head to head with Shining Force and hold its own. Coming from me thatís..."
Sequels can be a mess and remakes can teeter on the edge of a needle between outstanding and horrific. While Iím adamant about never begging for anything, I surely wouldnít be opposed to send a request letter Segaís way asking them for a re-introduced version of Dragon Force. Of what few epics the Saturn actually produced--most of them being Roleplaying/Strategy games--Dragon Force is the only one that, in my opinion, could go head to head with Shining Force and hold its own. Coming from me thatís a bold statement but you donít have to take my word for it.
From serene creation to blistering destruction the cut-scene to introduce the game sears its way into your mind, unfolding the events to come. And if the graphics arenít enough to make you realize a classic is about to take place, the phenomenal John Truitt (Ghaleon) decides to once again lend his voice--this time as the narrator.
Darkness seeps from the ground of beautiful Legendra, a land created by the six goddesses and given life by the primary goddess, Astea. A kind, loving deity embraced and worshiped by the people, for she created them. But with creation comes destruction, and that darkness ebbing from the lush land--the jealous, malevolent god Madruk--has only that in mind. Towns scorch and cries of sorrow drown out the breeze as the god of destruction spreads his decay across this once elegant land.
As his wings span further and his insidious grasp of chaos moves further over the countryside a tiny, faint glimmer of hope rises in the distance. Harsgalt the sacred dragon, perhaps Legendraís last hope, engages Madruk before he can pursue his decrepit goal any further. For days--even months--the two deities are locked in a stalemate of a struggle as their battle shakes the very earth. In one final bid to gain the upper hand, Harsgalt uses the last of his power to cast Madruk into a deep slumber. Hoping it will leave enough time for the chosen Eight to be born.
And thatís just the opening scene. Once you actually have control over the game, you first must pick which of those eight heroes you wish to play. The agriculture and trade statistics donít play a part but the location of the main castle do. The best thing to do if itís your first time playing is to pick a general with a castle that has at least one defended front. If youíre attacked from all sides itís going to make it difficult, trust me.
You awake to find Astea in your quarters, begging you to gather the other eight--ďThe dragon forceĒ--and put an end to Madruk once and for all. A symbol burns brightly on your hand, as it will with the others when you find them. Shaken and confused you head to council where your chief advisor has even more bad news for you. The agreement you had with all other kingdoms--the fragile courtesy is now shattered, war has been waged by The kingdom of Fandaria and itís leader: Goldark ďThe Mad LionĒ He didnít get that name by sending flower baskets to the other kingdoms, so you best be on your toes.
Once the initial storyline unfolds, you find yourself on the world map. Each castle you reside in has a flag with the color of your army on it, empty castles have no flags and independent castles have black. You start out with four generals (five if you choose to have your leader fight as well) and this is where the campaign starts. You direct your army out of the safety of your castle and wage war on another castleís home turf. While this game is about strategy, this is not part of it. Letís fact it, walking to a castle isnít all that difficult. What takes a little bit of thought is picking which castle to attack and who will attack it. The terrain plays a good part of it, as there is more morale on the defending sides team.
The real aspect of this game is your troops. Soldiers, cavalry, dragons and a slew of others are available. You need to pay attention to the generals in each castle and you have to do a little bit of reconnaissance. For example Soldiers are average fighters. Pitted against other foot soldiers, like samurais, they fair well but against cavalry they are utterly useless. So even if you have a hundred soldiers and the enemy general has thirty cavalry chances are youíll get stomped.
While the strategy isnít all that hard to handle, it does take a little mental capacity to keep on top of everything. Like making sure your castles have enough generals in case someone decides to pay you a visit. The domestic affairs are another issue. Keeping your generals happy so they donít jump ship is probably the most time consuming task. Rewarding the generals after battles and simply talking to them is crucial.
If your mind doesnít feel like itís been in a paint mixer yet, prepare yourself for the actual content. While the cut-scenes seem minimal at times, their graphics par up to some PS games. The world map is a huge, vivid world even though it has countless big heads running around on it. The characters themselves can seem a bit bland, but some special attacks are enough to rip your eyes. With only a simple score during the actual campaigning, the music and sound only takes off--again--during a cut-scene. Itís well worth the wait, though. Emotion is played through a symphony that only profesional musicians could pull off. The voice-overs are stellar with returning talents like John Truitt. The controls are simple, and the cursor is very direct. It may seem like you wonít have enough time to plan everything before the sands run out, but you can pause it while still giving orders then un-pause it to set everything in motion. Itís a decent time saving element. The storyline flows and though you can sometimes battle for hours there are side quests that break up the seemingly endless war.
The first time I played this game the opening cinema was enough to draw me in, but it didnít stop there. It dropped a truck on my brain with an intense strategy I havenít seen since War Craft and the graphics stretch the limit of what one disc can hold. Dragon Force is a timeless classic in my eyes and dare I say maybe one of the last great legacies Saturn produced.
Community review by True (May 23, 2005)
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