Legend of Dragoon - Retroview

Beating a Dead Horse
By: Michael Beckett

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 5
   Music & Sound 6
   Originality 2
   Story & Plot 1
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Completion Time 50-60 Hours  

This is one indicator. ONE. So why does it look like four?
This is one indicator. ONE. So why does it look like four?
Legend of Dragoon

   Three years it took to make Legend of Dragoon. Three years, and this is all they could come up with. Basic facts: this game's combat system had a big impact on later game designers, from Shadow Hearts to the upcoming Lucasarts RPG, Gladius. Its FMVs were moderately impressive for it's time. Its plot was crap, and thankfully influenced no one. Sony's attempt at an epic RPG ended in lukewarm failure due to an aggravating combat system design, an inscrutable interface design and a plot my seven-year-old sister could have written.

   Let's start with the combat system. Though I'm willing to give Sony credit for introducing a modicum of activity into the traditional turn-based combat system, I'm also of the opinion that a system as poorly executed and as irritating beyond measure as the Additions system is deserves little or nothing in the way of praise. The system that combat runs on works like this; when you select attack, a square target appears in the center of the screen. A second square - the indicator - zooms in towards it from the edges of the screen. If you time it correctly, you can hit the X button and get an extra hit, an addition, to your attack. With time and practice you can open new additions, and so forth. The problem, that single aspect which makes the Additions system unviable, lies in the indicator. Later in the game, as you get longer and longer additions and the number of flying boxes on the screen at one time increases, the indicator becomes harder and harder to pick out amongst the fields, trees and whatever else is on the screen at the time. It comes to the point where it is literally impossible to pull off some of the most powerful additions, and failing in an addition will quite often get you counterattacked on top of the near-pointless damage resulting from a screwed up additions.

   Character development is a neglected aspect of this RPG. Characters gain experience; build levels, blah blah blah. It's nothing original. It seems almost as if Sony wanted to make an RPG but couldn't figure out how to do it without aping the oldest RPGs out there.

   One of the major grievances I have with Legend of Dragoon is its need to aggravate the user beyond all recognition without rhyme or reason. The number of perishable items (potions, attack items, et cetera) is limited to thirty-two (and I'd like to know how they came up with that number. Was thirty too restricting, while thirty-three just seemed permissive?), while heavier, larger items like full plate armor and giant battle-axes can be carried around in the hundreds. Control at least seems responsive, but I object to the arrows showing you where to go next. If the field design had been done properly, the arrows would not be necessary. I do like the idea of the arrow over Dart's head, showing how close you are to getting in an encounter, so some points for that.

The FMVs are good. The rest is fairly craptastic.
The FMVs are good. The rest is fairly craptastic.

   Dennis Martin and Takeo Miratsu's soundtrack is one of Legend of Dragoon's few bright spots. While I certainly don't agree with a largely techno-based soundtrack in a fantasy setting, the themes are at least pleasant to listen to. Standout tracks include one or two of the boss themes and the main theme, "If You Still Believe".

   Other sounds, including the voice acting, are very forgettable. Sword slashes and footsteps are just the usual stock stuff, and the voice acting is fairly dull and uninteresting. A bit more work would have been appreciated, but apparently the development team was too worried about making their combat system suck properly to pay attention to their American voice actors.

   The list of original ideas in Legend of Dragoon could fit on a matchbox. As I said earlier, the game gets a few extra points for the idea of the Additions system, but gets points taken away for its execution. Further points taken off for the background-less cookie-cutter characters based on elementals, cities with no point or unique characteristics, and plot points based on other game's plot points which were in turn based on the first stories told by amoeboid fantasy authors.

   Seriously, the game's plot is not at all good. Well, the setting is good, with some fairly original ideas coming forward in the Dragoon Campaign and the creation myth. Unfortunately, the characters personalities are based completely upon their elements, and so are completely one-dimensional. Dart is determined, Albert is noble, et cetera. The only character who gets even a little bit of development is Rose, and what she develops into makes her less interesting as a character. What a bad, bad job.

   Legend of Dragoon was released in 2000, which means, assuming the 'three years in development' claim is true; development on it was probably begun as a response to the phenomenal response Final Fantasy 7 received. In localization, Legend of Dragoon resembles FF7 somewhat - there are errors of literal translation, unnatural bolding, inaccurate punctuation and sins of omission. The localization drags across the brain like a rasp, leaving scratching and bleeding in its wake. At least the voiced lines aren't horrible is the best I can say.

   There is little or no reason to play Legend of Dragoon through more than once. Perhaps you missed the single side quest, perhaps you want to try out the other characters. That's about it. The dull plot and aggravating combat system certainly don't do anything to enhance its chances of being played again.

   Legend of Dragoon so desperately wanted to be a Final Fantasy. The graphic style, the attempted story, everything about the concept of this game says "I'm epic!" while the game itself is simply a collection of cliché events taking place against a cardboard background. To be fair, the graphics are fairly well done. The monster design is fairly good, and one of the better parts of this game. The FMVs are quite well done, and obviously where the three years and goddess knows how much money went.

   Legend of Dragoon isn't all that difficult as long as you have a good sense of timing and a whack of persistence. Most importantly, you should have a reason for pushing your way through a sea of poor design. A moderately long game, Legend of Dragoon will probably take you around fifty to sixty hours, depending on how thorough you are.

   Crappy battles. Crappy plot. It was an attempt at greatness that relied on a shaky foundation, low-quality design, and a plot with no significance or even point. I like to think of myself as a harsh reviewer, but this is pathetic. All I can say is, with Legend of Dragoon now on the Greatest Hits list...Sony is certainly getting its money's worth from this corpse of a game.

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