RPG Review #60: The Legend Of Dragoon

NuMetalManiak Finally. This took forever for me to do. A lot of real life stuff was happening to me around this point, including tough final exams as well as getting a new and unfortunately taxing job for the summer. Either way, I'm glad to have some experience playing this particular RPG, which was made by Sony in an attempt to cash in on the weighing popularity started by good ol' Final Fantasy VII. The Legend of Dragoon is an often forgotten RPG of the Playstation 1 era, and a truly interesting and long game. This marks my 60th RPG too, another somewhat important but then again not-so-important milestone.

Gameplay: The overall aspects of a turn-based RPG show their marks in this game. Basic commands and attacks are there and all. However, attacking is quite different from the norm we are used to. You know how in the Mario & Luigi games you have to press the action command to do extra damage when attacking solo? Well, that's in this game, where you have to concentrate on the rotating square, and when it hits the mark, more damage is done. This is called an addition. More additions can be gained by leveling up, and they will require more hits of the X button to utilize. Messing up an addition combo is easy to do unfortunately. It has to be just right, not really early or really late. Additions, when fully complete, also level up, up to 5 levels where they are mastered and boost for more damage. But that isn't all. Enemies can sometimes counter during additions, shown by the blue square turning red, and this time, the Circle button needs to be pressed. It really can screw up the timing of an addition. The main problem with the additions though, is the fact that they really are the most reliable form of attack for this entire game.

With the word Dragoon in the title of the game, would we be seeing some things like Kain from Final Fantasy IV in this game? Sure we will, but of course it's always something different. There's a special kind of points known as Spirit Points, accumulated in battle with additions (so this factors with additions as well). When you reach a certain level with a character and that character has an elemental dragoon spirit, he or she can transform into a powerful dragoon warrior. Each dragoon is more or less doubled in stats, and has access to dragoon additions and magic. Dragoon additions are just as hard as regular additions, so it is much better to throw magic, although this costs MP which is a lot harder to come by in this game rather than in others that use MP. And then there is a Special command, which, if everyone is at the max SP level, transforms every one of your characters into Dragoons and makes the field the element of the person who used it. It's all cool, but in a way, a little bit impractical everywhere except in boss battles.

Magic in this game isn't entirely limited to dragoons though, even though that's the only usage of MP. This game uses elements opposing each other, Fire vs. Water, Earth vs. Wind, Dark vs. Light. Also Thunder and non-elemental with no weaknesses or resistances. This game also has buyable items that are elemental attack items in nature. Some of these can be further enhanced by mashing X a lot. I once got the damage percentage to be about 220% off of one item. Other items to use are actually repeatable items, in that they can be used once per battle, but don't leave your inventory. The power and speed items are these items, very important for boss fights. My favorite item was the Magic Sig Stone due to its ability to block enemy movement for a few turns. And of course, magic can be the beef of the damage that this game offers.

As far as navigation goes, the majority of it is like FFVII, where you've got rendered backgrounds and can toggle markers to know where to go. The world map is more linear in nature, although there are still encounters, sometimes with special monsters (you know, the ones who are really hard to kill and run away often but are quite rewarding). The Legend of Dragoon does employ random encounters in some places, while others have fixed encounters with enemies on the field. For random encounters, the icon above your character changes from blue to yellow to red before the encounter occurs. But overall, the combat system is generally unique and where the game takes center stage, although its performance and usage of additions really isn't entirely likeable with the wrong timing. Grade: B-

Characters: Dart: A bit older than a few other protagonists, Dart is a fairly standard one which means he never leaves a party and is good all around. He will eventually have the Red Dragoon Spirit, giving him access to fire abilities. Plus he has the most additions.
Lavitz Slambert: A knight of Serdio, meeting Dart in a prison in his own escape and wielding a trusty lance. Lavitz becomes a very close friend of Dart during the first disc and eventually gets the Jade Dragoon Spirit (wind). He's more of a physical fighter, a bit slower but stronger. Bad magic defense though.
Shana: The close childhood friend-turned love interest for Dart. She is astonishingly weak physically, and is one of two characters who never has additions, so she deal scratch damage with a bow. Her magic score is much better, especially with the White Dragoon Spirit (light).
Rose: The mysterious yet fan-favorite female of the group. Intrigued by Dart's power and the dragoon of darkness, Rose is easily a fantastic character. Great attack and magic abilities, her only true downfall is her low HP.
Haschel: Old Man Haschel is a fun guy to use. A fist fighter with a lot of tough additions to master, and eventually gets to be the Thunder dragoon. He's really a lot like Dart stat-wise, except much faster.
Albert: Takes up basically the same mantle Lavitz does by the end of the first disc. He plays differently, but otherwise the same.
Meru: An incredibly ditzy and fun dancer girl. Meru is actually a Wingly, in other words a winged human, and she fights with a hammer and dance moves. Her additions are among the toughest. She ends up being the Water Dragoon, with an excellent magic score and speed, though her HP is the lowest and physically not too good.
Kongol: He's the big Giganto guy and the last of his race. Also an enemy until Disc 2 when he joins the party in search of friends. Eventually he winds up with the Earth dragoon spirit. Overall though, he doesn't have a whole lot to him. Very slow, very strong physically, but an incredibly low magic defense. With the right equipment, he can be a great character though.
Miranda: She's technically the final companion, but is actually Shana's replacement, so she gets the Light Dragoon spirit. Not too different from Shana though, she fights with a bow, no additions, good magic score. That's about it.

With elemental affinities and a staunch cast, I think the characters are pretty good, at least the main ones. Some of them like Kongol don't get a lot of development, but the game offers some good scenes for each individual character at times, even if it mostly focuses on the main ones. An alright balance of characters. Grade: B+

Plot: There's four discs. FOUR DISCS. For reference, both Lunar: Eternal Blue and FFVII had three discs. I had some emulator troubles with disc changing, where it would crash upon changing a disc. Not a problem on a first transition due to saving beforehand, but troublesome otherwise. So I rolled back to an earlier version to remedy it, and now dragoon spells and FMVs don't play sound! Urgh!

Anyways, Chapter 1: Serdian War. The chapters in this game correspond to each disc. For this chapter, Dart gets involved in a conflict between Serdio as well as an Imperial nation known as Sandora. Why? Because his girl Shana got kidnapped and his town has been destroyed (oh they just had to have the destroyed hometown didn't they). By breaking into the prison, he meets Lavitz, who is breaking out, but teams up to get Shana out too. Returning to the Serdian capital, this trio of characters find themselves on the frontlines of war, and here Rose shows up to help and gives Dart his fire dragoon powers in a battle against Kongol. When the war dies down a bit, Shana will eventually get a dragoon spirit (and she has some run-ins with some monsters too). Dart competes in a fighting tournament (again, always have to have one of these, don't they?), but is no match for the eventual winner, a silver haired swordsman known as Lloyd (it had to be silver hair too, this tells us something). Also Haschel joins Dart's group. King Albert of Serdio ends up captured in the meantime, and Lavitz stages a break-in again to save the king. It is here that Lloyd reveals himself as an enemy, taking the Moon Gem from Albert, and stabbing Lavitz with the Dragon Buster, a weapon that slays dragons and dragoons alike. Lavitz, sadly, dies, while the dragoon spirit moves to Albert. The final leg of the disc involves invading the imperial capital and taking down Emperor Doel (who, plot twist, is Albert's uncle, also has the thunder spirit which eventually goes to Haschel).

Chapter 2: Platinum Shadow: By guessing what that's about, you can bet this chapter is about pursuing Lloyd, who himself is pursuing the other two moon objects. This chapter takes place in a generally peaceful place known as Tiberoa, but is generally ravaged by bandits on occasion. Haschel ends up fighting one of his former dojo students, while Meru joins up at some point too. Kongol decides to also join to help friends and all. In the meantime, the royal town of Fletz is dealing with issues involving a princess of theirs, and a ghost ship is on the prowl in the nearby seas. The fake princess is revealed to be Lenus, a Wingly. Her climax is eventually reached when she retrieves the Moon Dagger for Lloyd, but then she dies fighting Dart's group while Lloyd escapes. Meru gets the dragoon spirit from Lenus then. Yet surprisingly, this chapter has a wonderfully happy and romantic ending before the heroes continue their journey.

Chapter 3: Fate & Soul: The search for Lloyd continues. Dart's group finds themselves in snowy Mille Seseau, and at the capital, Deningrad, we learn more about the Divine Dragon. Actually, there's a lot of lore to this game, stated by characters such as Dart and Rose. Dart talks about how his real hometown was destroyed by the Black Monster, while Rose mentions the Dragon Campaign and the former dragoons. Also Meru happens to be a member of the Winglies, but despite this is outcasted by her species because they hate humans and such. We meet Miranda at some point, and Shana loses control of her dragoon spirit, which floats to Miranda. The Divine Dragon of legend wreaks havoc on Deningrad, nearly destroying it, but Shana has some supernatural power that saves it. Dart's group manages to slay the Divine Dragon with some unexpected help from Lloyd, who finally battles Dart later on after getting his hands on the last moon object, the Moon Mirror. Meanwhile, Shana is captured by Emperor Diaz, and Lloyd decides to help Dart's group by giving the objects and journeying along (not as a playable character though). Loads of plot twists happen at the end. Lloyd gets sent down a bottomless pit, Diaz is revealed to be Zieg, Rose's former lover and Dart's actual father, Rose is actually the Black Monster, and Shana is the Moon Child, the soul of the Virage Embryo and the God of Destruction. Rose, supposedly, was supposed to kill her, but failed.

Chapter 4: Moon & Fate: Yet after all this, Rose is easily forgiven by Dart, as they try to stop his father from doing the last few things to world destruction, involving some signet spheres. Of course, like any plot device, the villain gets there first. This causes the moon, known as the Moon That Never Sets, to crash into earth (oh but of course this game has the apocalypse). Dart and co. say screw this destiny and journey to stop it. Turns out that Zieg, Dart's father and former holder of the Red Dragoon Spirit, had been possessed by the Wingly who wanted to be a god, none other than Melbu Frahma. Dart is unexpectedly aided by Lloyd again, but this time, Lloyd really does die, and gives Dart the Divine Dragoon Spirit, which is exceptionally powerful when battling Melbu Frahma. He is the final boss, after all, and with his defeat is the end of the game. Both Zieg and Rose end up staying behind once things go haywire, while everyone else, including Shana, escapes. Overall, I gotta say aside from the boring legends and everything, the game's major scenes, especially the deaths of certain characters, make this a good plot overall. Grade: A-

Music: And I didn't pay too much attention to music. It's mostly generic, in fact the menu theme gets really lame after awhile. Several different battle themes are nice though, and the ambient tunes usually fit the setting they're in. Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

An adventure for sure. Good plot, everything else is rather okay. Sony's cash-in attempt wasn't entirely bad, but the main gameplay aspects may not be of appeal to those who can't get action commands down. Character development is alright for the most part, as the game is long enough to accommodate most everyone. It's just another RPG when you think about it.