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The Legend of Dragoon (PlayStation) artwork

The Legend of Dragoon (PlayStation) review

"When Legend of Dragoon made its way onto the PSX RPG scene, Sony foolishly billed it as a Final Fantasy killer. Gathered together in angered hoards, FF fanatics lit their burning torches and waddled aggressively through the streets, rioting and looting Cheeto stores nation-wide. "This is no Final Fantasy!" some cried while others sobbed over their Sephiroth plushies; it was a dark day, but somewhere behind all the rantings and unbridled hate, a game somehow got forgotten. "

When Legend of Dragoon made its way onto the PSX RPG scene, Sony foolishly billed it as a Final Fantasy killer. Gathered together in angered hoards, FF fanatics lit their burning torches and waddled aggressively through the streets, rioting and looting Cheeto stores nation-wide. "This is no Final Fantasy!" some cried while others sobbed over their Sephiroth plushies; it was a dark day, but somewhere behind all the rantings and unbridled hate, a game somehow got forgotten.

Since this disaster took place, philosophers have rounded up some of the rioters that survived the infamous assault on Sony HQ, where insurgents used a giant slingshot to hurl their wobbling bodies at the corporate giant's building. Strapped to hardy restraining table and force-fed a cocktail of drugs, they are questioned daily by some of the sharpest minds the world has ever seen. "Why?" they ask. "Why do you hold so much hate for this game?" These are the most common responses.

It's just Final Fantasy VII with a new coat of paint!

Research shows a shocking fact that many current-generation RPGers seem blind to -- FFVII didn't actually invent the RPG genre; it simply alerted a younger audience to its existence. Evidence shows that many draw direct comparisons between the medieval settings that both FFVII and LoD in which both frolic. This ignores the rather obvious fact that the former is based in a futuristic/medieval setting, one littered with hi-tech gadgetry and bleak metropolis soaring high above the more simple towns and villages where poorer populaces reside. Legend of Dragoon has none of this: instead what is presented is a pure fantasy setting exhibiting towns with deep historic meaning and stone-built fortifications that shield their citizens from the barbaric civil war that has consumed their homeland.

Conclusion: Endiness has nothing in common with Midgar.

But LoD's lead, Dart, is nothing more than Cloud dressed up!

Another refutable claim. Both are energetic young men with spiky hair and the ability to swing a sword who amass a gathering of misfits and heroes to rescue a doomed world. This is a common affliction found in many video-games and anime known as 'Leadcharacteritis'. In Dart's case, he takes a sabbatical from searching the world for the aptly named 'Black Monster', who was responsible for the destruction of his village and death of his family, to mount a daring rescue attempt. His surrogate sister, Shana, has been taken by pesky hostiles and is being held in the oppressive castle-turned-prison, Hellena.

Conclusion: Any shared character traits are purely cosmetic and hardly exclusive to the games in question. Claims that LoD is a FFVII clone are about as feasible as FFVII being a clone of the earlier-released Phantasy Star 2.

The plot is cliché and slow!

Extensive testing shows that Dart's epic story starts at a slug's pace. The first few hours will see our hero trekking through his recently-torched adopted home on his way to the aforementioned Hellena. While things start off slowly, the pace will subtly accelerate throughout, throwing Dart and his army of stereotypes into a series of rapidly climbing events and stunning locations. Perhaps his early trip through the Limestone Cave will show you nothing new; you'll find a moss-covered trail carved through a moutain range ending with an easy boss battle with the mammoth serpent that resides there, but the inventiveness picks ups shortly thereafter. The company need soon after visit the Valley of Corrupted Gravity: a mystical wasteland filled with floating debris and island-sized rock splinterings that levitate, littering the ground and air alike with boulders and large slices of land that prompts your team to employ the peculiar gravitational void that governs this relic of an ancient magical battle. You'll leap great distances to reach safe passage, have to dodge soaring rock formations that zoom around the landscape, and pull yourselves onto the undersides of obstacles to merrily traverse them upside-down, held steady from the overkill of residual magic.

Even the game's townships and cities will drastically improve as LoD rolls on. The simple village of Bale is one of the first towns you can explore, a small, charming location of simple houses with thatched roofs surrounding a regal, fortified castle that towers royally above the smaller structures. Delve further into the world of LoD and discover places like Deningrad, a capital city crowned with a palace made of sparkling crystal. Spend some time in Furni, a water-choked city peppered with canels where you need the aid of a small canoe to move between well-stocked shops, quiet residental homes and the grand mayor's mansion that sits surrounded by a serene peaceful pond of clear blue water. Explore the ruins of Zenebatos, the long-forgotten law capital of a defeated and dying race. Pick through the mutated monster wardens and avoid the attentions of the security robots that chase you around dilapidated ruins, vying to hurl you into a cobweb-strewn jail cell, searching all the while for the courtroom that lies dormant.

The plot itself gains just as much momentum. Dart's once simple goals of vengeance and protection become twisted over time to something more epic. Old debts are collected or forgotten as one-time enemies join forces with his collective; things he once treasured are thrown into a new light, and a civil war that threatens to tear his world asunder is discovered as just the tip of a hulking iceberg. His team's ranks swell. Loyal knight Lavitz has his dedication to his king tested while unravelling the death of his beloved father whose footsteps he's desperate to follow in. Diminutive Shana must fight besides the man who sees her and nothing but a little sister and an obstacle while trying to deal with her unrequited love for him, desperately trying to prove herself as anything but the burden she is taken for. Aging martial artist Haschel searches for the lost daughter he drove away; each day's search drains what little hope he has left, though he prays that latching on to Dart & Co will help him discover the answers he so desperately seeks. The questions each individuals ask weave together into a thrilling backdrop that highlights just how deep a world they exist in. And the history behind each location backs this up to perfection.

Conclusion: You have to do a bit of digging to find the depth and brilliance that Legend of Dragoon exhibits, but it is something worth the effort needed to uncover.

The cast can carry 255 items of equipment, but only 32 items!

A common complaint is that the balance is unrealistic. Realism is redundant in a video game containing 90-foot-tall praying mantises and magical armour that sprouts wings.

Studies show that the item limit serves a valid and vital role in the progression of Legend of Dragoon. After extensive testing, it was found that the lowest end healing item would restore 50% health on a single target. Theory: if unlimited storage was presented, such potent potions could be easily stockpiled, making the party of would-be warriors invincible. Higher-end items can bring entire parties back to full HP, while powerful attack items can be flung at foes to replicate puissant magical strikes. Unlimited supple of such items would destroy to challenge of a game that already verges on the easy side.

Another complaint is that to pick up items gained from battles or to claim goods from any treasure chests you might find, you must discard existing items from your inventory. This introduces a new element not much seen in RPGs: item management. Do you throw away that Healing Rain to pick up the magic attack item? Do you save room in you inventory for status aliment cures or stock up on ice spells? Legend of Dragoon dares its players to plan ahead rather than strap a veritable warehouse to their backs. Which direction do you want to stock your items towards? Choosing incorrectly could cause fatal problems, so choose wisely!

Conclusion: Not only is the item limit necessary, it challenges the player to strike up a happy medium between the hugely potent healing and attacking items. Being able to carry 255 equipable parts should hold no bearing in this, as that ability itself only further allows players to diversify their tactics.

The additions are repetitive, and I can't change them in battle!

In researching RPGs, we found that most employ a static battle system in which a player picks a command from a set menu and then watches as their onscreen avatar carries it out. Legend of Dragoon was not content to recycle this and instead invented the Additions system. Upon attacking a would-be foe, the player is invited to partake in a series of timed button presses; each successful press pertains to a landed blow in the character's chain of attack. Each cast member has several additions that get powered up when completed satisfactorily. This works because the player is involved with each blow; they are responsible for the hits, must change the tempo upon an attempted enemy counter-attack, and must take the blame for each miss.

If this weren't enough, the much vaulted Dragoon system comes into play, allowing in-game characters to morph into magical winged warriors that can level targets with graceful combos and mana-fuelled strikes. LoD allows you to switch between these two systems at will, giving the player a wealth of interactive options rarely seen in the menu-driven norm the genre stagnates in.

Conclusion: When the only valid complaint made on such an adventuresome battle system is as petty as 'not being able to switch attacks mid-battle', then you know you're on to a winner.

Last Word

Legend of Dragoon seems to have something for everyone: a unique premises, a well-built -- if not slowly paced -- plot, a fantastic setting, and a fresh battle system. It is our recommendation that this game is experienced by all.

End Report

bside's avatar
Community review by bside (July 09, 2006)

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