The Good: Excellent multiplayer experience, revives the brawler in a big way, great balance, consistently fun, great system, great level design, great soundtrack, beautiful artwork
The Bad: Little to no story, online duels are rough, long tutorial section, some characters can be tough to play solo
Played on: Playstation 3
Release Date: Aug. 6, 2013
Genre: Sidescrolling Beat ‘em Up
MSRB Rating: Teen
Multiplayer: 1-4 Players Online or Offline
What we played: Almost everything. Single player up to level 99 with multiple characters, local multiplayer up to level 99 with multiple characters, online multiplayer, online duels
I know this review is late, but if truth be told, I was having too much fun playing Dragon’s Crown to take the time to review it. Vanillaware has crafted an exquisite multiplayer experience that’s easy to pour immense amounts of time into. For the first time since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game way back on NES, I found myself excited every day to sit down on the couch with a friend and pummel enemies endlessly for hours. Dragon’s Crown is deceptively simple, hiding great depth and planning behind its easy-to-pick-up façade. It’s fun, addictive, and a game no self-respecting gamer should pass up, especially if you have friends willing to join in the excitement.
At its start, Dragon’s Crown asks players to choose one of six characters. Each of these has its own set of abilities, and I found each character to play surprisingly differently from the others. Impressively, each of the characters seems well-balanced and fits in nicely with online (and offline) groups no matter which character has been selected. They are all fun to play, and they each bring different strategies to fights. The controls throughout the game are spot-on, and all of the action feels fluid. Never once did I not enjoy playing as one of these characters once I had put in the necessary time to develop some of their skills. The only thing that felt off at all is that some of the characters can be very difficult to play solo, while others are easy to move through the game with. As the game is clearly set up for multiplayer and allows for 4 players either on or offline, this never truly got in the way of my enjoyment of the game.
The system behind Dragon’s Crown is pleasantly innovative. Once players get past the lengthy into section (almost five hours if you’re thorough), it opens up in creative ways that allow players to focus on the action and teamwork aspects of the game rather than getting bogged down in menus or equipment. While there is plenty of depth, tons of equippable items that make a difference, great level variety, and lots of player choice in how to develop their characters, it is all integrated so seamlessly that there is never a large gap before getting back to the action. Its brilliantly done, and many games would do well to learn the lesson. On top of this, the enemy designs are smart and there is huge variety in the fights throughout the game. The boss fights are all unique and engaging, and I had no problem playing through all of this game’s levels dozens of times each thanks to the great fights, escalating difficulty, and great rewards system.
Before we move on to the game’s faults, I have to mention the artwork. The game may be 2D, but the art is gorgeous. Dragon’s Crown has visual style to spare, and other than some art that may be considered slightly degrading to women, it’s all a pleasure to behold. The music also compliments the game well, and in combination with everything else, the entire presentation is seamless.
For all of its excellent qualities, Dragon’s Crown does have a few minor flaws. First of all, if you’re in it for the story alone, this isn’t the game for you. While every quest has a “story” and there’s a sort of overarching plot, this game is really about the fighting and getting together with friends to pummel enemies into the dirt. Secondly, as I mentioned before, this game has a long intro/tutorial section. When rushing, it can be completed in a little over an hour, but the game really doesn’t open up (or even allow you online) until it’s done, and by the time you’re playing your second character, this is a bit of a hassle. Finally, the duels you can have between characters in an arena feel unbalanced. These characters were built to work great together, not against each other, and it shows.
None of these, however, truly take anything away from the glory that is Dragon’s Crown. The arena is really just extra fun on top of an already lengthy game, and this isn’t a game about story. And to make up for its faults, this game just keeps on giving. There are quests and things to do long after you first beat the game, and Dragon’s Crown gives you ample reason to continue. This is the only game I’ve ever beaten on Normal, Hard, and Nightmare difficulties and felt like it was a continuing and progressive experience the whole time. If this is your type of thing, you can easily sink over 100 hours into Dragon’s Crown.
Long story short, if you haven’t played this game yet, you need to go buy it. It’s a gaming experience no one should miss, and if we’re lucky it will revive the beat ’em up genre and there will be many more games like this in the future.