Dragon’s Crown by developer Vanillaware is a fun little game that gets many things right, but occasionally stumbles. Blending early 90’s-style beat-‘em-up gameplay with RPG elements, and the trademark visual style of Vanillaware, Dragon’s Crown delivers a fun experience for adventure hungry gamers.
The story of the game revolves around the titular Dragon’s Crown. The King of the land has gone missing in his search for the crown, which legend has it holds great power. The plot unfolds in about as typical a manner as possible; your character is simply some joe adventurer that gets caught up in an overly convoluted conspiracy by evil-doers to usurp the throne. Basic.
The plot itself is incredibly forgettable and will often leave you not really giving a damn about the reasons for your adventures. Dragon’s Crown somehow manages to get away with it though by being so ridiculously over-the-top that it almost borders on full-blown parody. The narrator, who narrates every scene and reads all the characters’ lines, delivers such a mediocre performance that it is actually good. The game had me in stitches a lot of the time.
It’s not only the story that is over-the-top, but most of the game as a whole. The playable classes all have an exaggerated look that caricatures typical RPG characters. The whole thing just oozes ott awesome while you’re doing crazy stuff like mounting fireball-spitting velociraptors, hacking down hordes of orcs, or bringing down a burly Minotaur.
The gameplay will feel familiar to anyone that has ever played a sidescrolling bet-‘em-up and a basic RPG. Each level has you trudging from left to right, battling various enemies and looting barrels and treasure chests. When you reach the final screen of the level you take on one of the game’s bosses. Once a level is beaten you are rewarded XP, skill points that you can spend on learning new abilities, and sort through your loot. There is really nothing new here, but the game handles it in a fun way so that it feels balanced and never becomes an endless grind-fest.
The combat is a lot of fun and is really Dragon’s Crown’s biggest draw. All of the classes are fun to use, especially as you level them up and spend some skill points on learning new moves. Whether you’re playing as one of the close range melee classes, the long range more nimble ones, or as one of the spell-casters, the learning curve is not too steep so you’ll be able to start kicking butt almost right off the bat. Each class of course has their strengths and weaknesses, but what they all have in common is that they’re all a lot of fun to use. The arcady nature and feel of the game also encourages players to try out all the different classes without becoming overly invested in one of them, as one might with a lengthier and heavier RPG.
The presentation of Dragon’s Crown is also one if the game’s greatest strengths. The hand-drawn 2D sprites look absolutely amazing, and smooth animations make it all look like a fairytale storybook come to life. Environments also look incredible. The town, which acts as the hub of your adventures, is warm and welcoming. Each of the stages excel at sucking you into its setting with their own unique atmosphere. The soundtrack is fairly standard “epic adventure” fare, and isn’t very memorable, but it gets the job done. Dragon’s Crown is probably one of the best looking 2D games in recent years.
To get the most out of Dragon’s Crown it is highly recommended that you play with friends. Up to 4 players can brawl and loot their way through the adventure either on-line or via local multiplayer. If you want to play solo you can still bring NPC allies along by collecting the bones of fallen adventurers scattered throughout the dungeons. Bring these bones to the local temple to revive them and then you can pick your party over at the tavern. Whether you’re playing with friends or with NPC’s, you are likely to need some back up for some of the later stages.
Dragon’s Crown is a game that we recommend for fans of retro style beat-‘em-up’s and RPG enthusiasts. Sure, some of the quests can get repetitive at times, and the RPG elements aren’t too deep, but not to the point of any real frustration. Bringing friends along is a blast, but it can also be enjoyed playing by your self. Dragon’s Crown is arcady enough that it’s easy to pick up and play in short bursts, but also works well for longer XP gathering hauls. What you’ll get is a gorgeous looking homage to various early 90’s games, with plenty of frantic action and looting, a strong multiplayer component, and a healthy dose of humour. Now venture forth and fulfil your destiny on your quest for the Dragon’s Crown!
|What's Good? Frantic and satisfying action, gorgeous visual style, fun multiplayer|
|What's Bad? A few repetitive quests, somewhat shallow RPG elements|