Retro Reviews: The Legend of Dragoon
Before beginning the final installment of my ‘Obscure RPG’ trilogy, I recommend you go back and read my reviews for Breath of Fire and Tecmo Secret of the Stars. With that plug out of the way, I have saved my favorite for last. The Legend of Dragoon is a game I am passionate about. I enjoyed it more than some of the SquareEnix games I have played. It is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated RPG’s ever made and one of several games in dire need of a sequel.
The Legend of Dragoon was released in the US on June 11, 2000. The game’s development spanned several years and required a group of over one hundred individuals. While Dragoon’s graphical and cinematic qualities were widely praised, the gameplay and plot elements were panned by critics as being unoriginal, repetitive or too difficult for the average player. This being said, the game sold well and has garnered a cult following since its initial release. For these reasons, Sony has in the past suggested that a sequel is in the works, but none has ever surfaced.
The Legend of Dragoon is in many ways your typical RPG. The world map takes you from one area to the next on a track system similar to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. As you walk around in these areas on the world map you encounter random enemies that your party must defeat. Each of your three characters gets a turn as does your opponent. Sound pretty typical, right? The biggest difference, and what makes The Legend of Dragoon worth playing, is the Additions combat system. Unlike Final Fantasy (in which Cloud runs up, slices the monster and runs back), once you have chosen the ‘Attack’ option, your character will run up to the enemy and perform a series of additions. Two squares appear. The first square is fixed and stays a small, constant size. The second square encompasses the first and is much larger. As the second square shrinks to match the size of the first, you must hit the ‘X’ button just as the two meet. This causes your character to slice. These additions usually come in sets and increase the damage you deal out as you complete them successfully. While this does take a few minutes to get the hang of, I promise it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The game also sports the usual items, magic, and even a dragoon transforming phase that reveals other attacks and abilities. Perhaps not perfect, but definitely innovative and challenging.
Dart, the main character, has returned home from hunting the Black Monster that killed his parents. Upon discovering that his hometown has been destroyed and his childhood girlfriend kidnapped, he sets out on a mission to rescue her. This mission quickly snowballs, leaving Dart and his cohorts no choice but to save humanity from a madman bent on destruction. The plot seems fairly pedestrian at first, but as the game progresses, there are enough twists and turns to keep the player guessing. Also, the characters are very well developed. So well developed, in fact, that if one of them were to die (hint hint) I would react with as much emotion as I did when Aeris was killed. I think that the plot is a strength, not a weakness.
Now, maybe Dragoon isn’t the greatest game ever. While I love the game, I can also admit when something is done poorly. The battle system definitely has a learning curve. I remember that it took me an hour or so to get the timing just right. This could discourage a younger, or more impatient, person from playing. Also, the dragoon transformation segments, while cinematically stunning, are completely unnecessary. Turning into a dragoon doesn’t really add much to the game. Arguably, you could play through the whole thing and never use the ability. It just feels a little tacked on. Overall, though, the battle system was very innovative and could be amazing with just a few tweaks.
In conclusion, I just want to remind you all why I have written this series of articles. The RPG’s that I have reviewed are not necessarily the best of the best. I have done my damndest to present to you both their positives and negatives. The point of these articles is to remind the reader that there are games out there waiting to be dug up like so many hidden treasures in the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t be afraid to stray from the Final Fantasy’s of the world just because some magazine critic tells you a game isn’t that good. At the end of the day, the only reviewer that matters is YOU! If you only rent/buy one of the three games I have suggested, this is it. The Legend of Dragoon is a diamond-in-the-rough that, with some patience and understanding, can provide you with hours of entertainment.
Also, enjoy this video!