Beat ‘em Up Royalty: Dragon’s Crown Review
Ahh, Dragon’s Crown why are you nearly perfect? Why did you have to lean so hard into a controversial art style and that the dialogue around the game focused on breast size rather than the fact that you are a strong gale in the otherwise stagnant waters of the beat ‘em up genre? In other words Dragon’s Crown, should I spend the next decade wondering if you will spawn a sequel, spiritual or direct, in the hopes that the problems will be fixed the next time?
Dragon’s Crown surprised me. The enormous sprites, the gorgeous hand painted backgrounds, the way each character plays and the ways you can customize them to suit your style. There are hours of fun to be had, and I plan on squeezing out as many of these hours as I can before I get tired of the nearly endless grind. There are a few things I would improve, but overall if you long for an evolution of the arcade beat ‘em up, look no further than Dragon’s Crown.
You begin by selecting your character, either The Knight, The Sorceress, The Wizard, The Dwarf, The Elf, and The Amazon. Each has their own purpose in a fight: knights, amazons and dwarves are there to mix it up close quarters whilst the witch and wizard provide long range support with the elf being a steady blend between the two. I played through most of this game with my wife using the hit and run tactics of the elf, while she leaned towards the sorceress’ firepower and support. Together we took on small jobs as adventurers, killed orcs, collected loot, and did it all over and over again.
Dragon’s Crown spins its story of adventurers in a troubled kingdom across 9 main locations. These 9 locations eventually have branching paths leading to more difficult enemies and boss encounters. The early bosses will be a breeze compared to the later bosses that have time limits or requiring tactics such as the boss that can only be hit after a player lights a lantern. Quests provided by the adventurer’s guild (was there ever such a thing at any point in history as an adventurer’s guild?) give you reason enough to go through the levels again in order to solve puzzles or collect a specific item.
The visuals in Dragon’s Crown are some of the greatest I’ve seen in this generation. The large, detailed 2-d sprites of both players look at home with the painted backgrounds. The only problem I had is between 4 adventurers, 4 skeleton or golem familiars, and numerous enemies it is very easy to lose track of your character. This leads to embarrassing times where you are just attacking only to find yourself attacking the edge of the screen.
The controls are tight and require more than just hammering on the attack button. A direction plus the attack button will yield different types of attacks, allowing you to pull off combos like punching the enemy, then kicking them into the air, perform a rising attack, and then finish off with a diving kick, all with different variations of what direction you happen to be pushing at the time. It has depth if you want it, while still being accessible to new players who just want to hit things.
Dragon’s Crown is not without its problems: the limit on optional quests you can take on is frustrating in the late game when you have the option to visit random dungeons meaning you could visit locations you have quests for but cannot complete them because they are not active. There is also a mouse-like cursor on the screen that helps you find small pieces of loot or activate runes, so you will spend a lot of time after fighting enemies trying to either click on every sparkling thing or activate a rune that will ultimately do nothing. These features would work better with the Vita’s touch screen than having to worry about navigating a cursor around. The final, and probably most frustrating out of all of the problems I had playing co-op is the fact that the menus are not designed for co-op: if you wanted to turn in quests, repair your equipment or go shopping, each player has to wait their turn to go into the shop. It slows down a co-op session to have to do this after every quest.
Dragon’s Crown is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had this year. It took me back to the days to the Saturn, where their beat ‘em ups focused on large and detailed sprites. With this nostalgia in mind, it did not surprise me to read in the accompanying artbook that Dragon’s Crown was intended for the Dreamcast over 10 years ago. Personally, I think it was worth the wait.
Dragon’s Crown scores an 8 out of 10.