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I figured it was about time for me to finally give my own review of this game seeing as I've played it several times.
The Legend of Dragoon was one of Sony's attempts to break into the RPG genre on its own without such company's like Squaresoft or Enix at the time, and overall it has seen fairly good sales reaching more than a million sales worldwide by 2007. It, surprisingly, saw more sales in the United States compared to Japan, mostly due to some seeing it as an RPG that borrowed too heavily on Square's Final Fantasy series of games as well as it being made for the original Playstation game system on the outward journey of that console's life cycle. Only a year later the Playstation 2 came out and is still the best selling console to date.
Over the years, The Legend of Dragoon has gained a strong following, spawning a petition to Sony to make a Remake, Prequel, or Sequel to the game. While it celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2009, the game saw a release to the Japanese PSN in December of 2010, with a release on the American PSN (finally) in May of this year. Hopefully they will put it out in Europe as well.
Since this is a far older game than most I've reviewed, I will be putting everything in perspective of when it came out instead of compared to what games are capable of nowadays.
The story of The Legend of Dragoon (LoD from here on out) spans four discs much like the later Final Fantasy titles on the Playstation, but each disc constitutes a chapter in the story. The first chapter starts out with introducing you to Dart Feld, the red-armored protagonist of the story, who has come back to his hometown of Seles in Serdio after his journey to find the being that killed his parents, the Black Monster. It's not the most original name for an evil entity, but when it kills everything in its path, people just come up with a simple name for it. Either way, Dart is attacked by a Dragon, which haven't been seen in ages, and barely escapes with the help of a mysterious women we come to find out is named Rose. He rushes to Seles after Rose tells him that the army of the opposing kingdom has come and destroyed the town. As he goes around town, he learns that his childhood friend, Shana, has been taken away and that she was the reason the town was attacked in the first place. Thus begins the journey of Dart.
The story itself involves an ancient race of beings known as the Winglies who once held power over humans in the past only to be beaten by great human warriors known as Dragoons. The Dragoons, with the aid of powers from the Dragons themselves, overthrew the Winglies in order to make a more prosperous life for themselves and not live in subjugation. Along with the defeat of the Winglies, however, a God of Destruction known, as the Black Monster, comes to the world in order to "cleanse" it and kill a divine God Child that could possibly save as well as destroy everything on the planet in one fell swoop.
So, as you can see the story of this game is fairly wide in what happens, and this is just scratching the surface with the history of the world before you even start the journey. Needless to say there are several twists, various sub-plots, and an extensive amount of history in the world and characters to delve into.
LoD covers all the bases when it comes to RPG characters. There are seven total, all spanning various types and personalities. You have the mild-mannered yet determined Protagonist (Dart), his love interest (Shana), the funny old man (Haschel), The king's knight (Lavitz), The quirky dancer with a hammer (Meru), The brooding female fighter (Rose), and the physical powerhouse (Kongal). Each one has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, Meru and Shana being the main magic users, with low physical defense, while Lavitz and Kongal are the primary physical attacks, with low magical defense. Others, such as Dart, Rose, and Haschel have more average stats and can be used for pretty much anything, battle-wise. Overall, though, the personalities and stories you will follow the most are that of Dart, Rose, and Shana. While the other characters do have fully fleshed out stories, especially if you do the various side-quests, you do feel as though this is really the story of the three characters above. Each character has an involved backstory, some of which lead to some of the bigger twists in the game itself. I find the fact that the stories are integrated so well into the main story refreshing. Sometimes in an RPG it feels as though the characters take a back seat to the story, but in LoD, they are the driving force.
You have your usual overworld map (albeit with linear pathways and not much in the way of deviation), town/area sections, and the battle screen. This, to me, is where LoD shines. The turn-based battle system of LoD revolves around the "Addition" system, which requires timed button presses for each attack you do instead of the typical "hold X to attack" mechanic from Final Fantasy. Each character comes with their own set of different Additions (attacks), ranging from the simple Double Slash that requires only one timed button press to some that span 7 meticulously-timed presses. Add on top of this already challenging system that enemies can counter attack you mid-Addition which requires a separate button to be pushed, and you add another layer of difficulty and (at least to me) fun to the equation. Each Addition also levels up, some giving more power, while others replenish more Spirit Points (which I will explain below). There is also an ability known as Guard which not only give you back 10% of your health, but also reduces damage by 50% and makes it to where you can't afflicted with status attacks either. It becomes quite useful for battles where things look a bit dire.
If that weren't enough thrown into the battles, you also have the added Dragoon powers to add onto it. In Dragoon mode, you can either attack (which involves a different kind of timed button press system) or use powerful magic spells on singular or groups of enemies. I will show some examples of all of these systems below.
Every character Addition Attack:
- You may notice that Lavitz and Shana are not present. Lavitz leaves the party thanks to an in-game incident (and is replaced by the Serdian king, Albert) and Shana has no addition skills since she uses a Bow and that hits for one attack.
Another thing you will notice in these attacks are the numbers in the bottom right corner of the screen. These are Spirit Points and are how you are able to transform into a Dragoon. They also help to raise your Dragoon level up to 5 levels, or 5 rounds, of Dragoon usage. As you can see, some of the attacks are not only challenging as-is, but with counter attacks on top of them it makes for a battle system where you HAVE to pay attention.
Dart, Lavitz, and Rose's Level 1 Dragoon Magic:
- I figured a small example would work here. As you see, the magic attacks range in type, each character having a specific element that the attacks hit for. Dart is Fire, Lavitz is Wind, and Rose is Darkness.
Dart's Dragoon attack:
- What you don't see in this video is the spinning button timer in the top right corner. You have to hit it dead-center each time it rotates or else you lose out on the entire dragoon attack.
As you can see, the battle system is quite involved, but not so much to where it's overwhelming. The battle system has given me the most fun in this game over the years and for its time was quite innovative. The only RPG series I've played to have something this interesting in a battle system are the Shadow Hearts games.
For its time, LoD sported gorgeous cinematic, lush pre-rendered backgrounds and well done character models. Even today the graphics are surprisingly good for a Playstation game. Sure, compared to what we have on consoles nowadays and the basic character models even at the time, LoD, is not the most amazing looking game, but it stands the test of time quite well. The battle animations, even with tons of things on the screen, are smooth and the dragoon magic looks great as well. In a way, this game pushed some aspects of what the Playstation could do, especially with the various attacks mixed with counter attacks and such. Despite all this, however, things worked smoothly.
Barring the very orchestral musical pieces of Final Fantasy VIII and IX (as well as many other great RPG's of the time), LoD went a more typical route in terms of music. This is, however, not a bad thing, nor is the music bad either. With the almost unheard of composer, Dennis Martin, and his partner Takeo Miratsu LoD took a heroic, post-medieval, and yet magical route with the music, to great effect.
I'll show a few highlights below.
1 - If You Still Believe - Main Theme
- As you can see, I adore the main theme song of this game, as apparently do many others. It really captures the feel of the game and carries on to be a great theme.
2 - Ruined Seles - Intro Movie
- I have always liked the intro music to the game. It sets the tone for the beginning of the journey. It's obviously not a very happy one.
3 - World Map 1
- Each chapter has its own map theme. This one happens to fit the more militaristic and oppressive feel of the first chapter.
4 - Battle 1
- You hear this battle theme quite a bit in the game, though less so than you'd expect. Either way, it's a nice little tune.
5 - Prairie
- A simple, yet quite good song. It's relaxing and enjoyable.
6 - Minor Boss
- Despite this being for "minor" bosses, it's one of my favorite boss battle themes in the game.
7 - Imperial City Kazas
- Welcome to the realm of Emperor Doel, who is the one who sent troops to attack Seles.
8 - World Map 2
- Welcome to the calm land of Tiberoa. This area is surrounded by seas, so I think it fits.
9 - Meru's Theme
- Meru the quirky dancer. It's a bit odd and funny, but it's not a bad theme.
10 - Royal Castle
- I actually really like this theme. It only plays in a few castle areas so it's a nice treat when it does. Feels rather royal, doesn't it?
11 - Shana's Theme
- I love this theme because it's simple, yet effective. Evokes just the right feelings to me.
12 - Swamp Battle
- Really, you hear this battle theme more often than the usual one in the game. It's good as a stand-alone track, but after extended listens it begins to grind on you. I still like it though.
13 - World Map 3
- This is my favorite map theme in the game. It's for an area covered in snow, so it's just right.
14 - Whispering of the Trees
- This is one of the first area themes you hear in the game. Simple, but nice.
15 - Ancient Story
- "Once... long ago... there were seven great Dragoons". It usually plays for the historical story cutscenes. It's a nice tune for them.
16 - Boss Battle
- I don't particularly like this boss theme, but it kind of fits.
17 - Forbidden Land
- This is one of the tracks where the music of LoD shines. I love the feel and flow of this one.
18 - Forbidden Land Battle
- This track never made it onto the soundtrack, for what reason I have no idea. I love it and it's one of the more enjoyable battle themes.
19 - Wingly City
- Yet another song that didn't make it onto the soundtrack. I really think they left some of the better tracks off of it...
20 - Main Menu
- Since this game has no pause option, going to the main menu, with this song, was the only real option. Oh the hours spent here.
21 - Major Boss Battle
- My all-time favorite battle theme in the game, because it really captures that "I'm fighting something that will probably kill me" vibe.
22 - World Map 4
- This theme took some time to grow on me, but over time I've grown to like it quite a bit.
23 - Shana's Anxiety
- This plays more when something odd/bad is going on, not just when Shana feels bad about something. Either way, a good theme for that.
24 - Melbu Frahma - Final Boss Battle
- It's a great song, I just hate that it plays for each transformation in the battle.
25 - Ending
- I love this song because it fits the end of the game amazingly well.
The music in LoD is not up to, say, the orchestrated tracks from Final Fantasy VIII or IX, but it has its own flavor which plays well for the game as a whole. There are, however, far too many tracks (around 30 or so) that never made it onto the soundtrack and those are some of the more stand-out tracks. Either way, the music lends itself to filling out the world of LoD quite well.
LoD is a good game, and while it may lack a bit of shine here and there, the over-arching story, battle system, character development and some of the more enjoyable side-quests I've played in RPG's, make up for that. It's by no means perfect, and even I see the flaws in things including somewhat typical aspects of the story and characters, but it doesn't take away as much as some people are led to believe. It's a good effort by Sony to make an RPG of their own, that much is certain.
Overall Score: 8/10
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