Developed by Vanillaware
Published by Atlus
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
Dragon’s Crown is almost a nostalgic name for me. It was a fun, arcade-style beat ‘em up with fantasy elements, an interesting if not short story, and breathtaking art and music. The game has Vanillware’s signature written all over it. After getting Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir on PlayStation 4, I was pumped and ready to slay some beasties. Does the crown still shine or has it lost its luster?
Since it’s a Vanillaware title it’s hard not to gush about the art. Dragon’s Crown Pro continues the tradition of beautiful hand drawn artwork and meshing them with 3D effects. There are times the when the color palette feels a little too “medieval times” dreary. Then there are other moments with color and light that will make you want to fill your hard drive with screen shots. The animation is very smooth and has liveliness to it. The colors pop on a 4k screen and the game animates at a solid 30FPS, remaining a feast for the eyes. The art direction has lead to some controversy particularly regarding the character designs. The emphasis in hyper masculine and hyper feminine designs drew some ire and that remains an unchanged asset. Your mileage will vary there.
Dragon’s Crown Pro’s gameplay remains unchanged, for better or worse. Some of the funky design choices in menus and how to get from point A to B in the hub can be a bit disorienting until you’ve spent some time there. The stage select screen, while it has a great sweeping view of the land early, takes too much time to choose until you fill in locations via stage progression. The end of level loot screen needed a couple of control tweaks. These are minor bumps in the road, however. The real meat is exploring several unique locations with branching story pieces and bosses. The six playable classes all return, each fun to play with fun combos and unique abilities to master. Getting a well balanced team allows you to cover each others weaknesses.
Dragon’s Crown Pro plays like any beat em up: you line up your enemies, attack them, dodge/block, and use each characters skills to claim the advantage. With three melee characters, a speedy archer, and two powerful spell casters to choose from, the tedium of running through the same levels over again becomes an advantage because you only have to focus on learning certain aspects of that particular character. At the end of each quest, you get your aforementioned loot and experience as well as a chance to level up your skills. The loot ranges from a slightly more powerful but mundane version of your weapon type to powerful top tier gear with all kinds of buffs. Deciding between leveling up your class skills and general boosts can be agonizing but ultimately rewarding as you will always feel a sense of progress. There is a very tantalizing loop of hack ’em, slash ’em, loot, and leveling up.
The adventure is at its finest when you challenge enemy hoards with friends. Friends can drop in the hub world or mid level. Dragon’s Crown Pro runs exceptionally well with local, online or mixed co-op. The game can have a lot going on between spells, explosions, and a lot of enemies on screen, so keeping a close eye on your character is critical to success. Chaos finds its ways into long fights and the boss battles are both a spectacle and challenging enough to keep you vigilant. Going through chapters, leveling up and building a team is just as rewarding as it was originally and now you can play across two console generations. Thankfully online play is easy to connect to although you must have to get to a certain point in the story to unlock it, another odd choice. But despite that oddity it runs great.
Of course, everything is wrapped in a strong audio package as well. Pro includes both English and Japanese voice overs, as well as two versions of the score. In the game options you have the ability to choose between the already wonderful score, or a newly orchestrated version. If you have already played Dragon’s Crown, the orchestrated variety will be a bonus treat, but you really can’t go wrong either way. I think it’s also cool that you can have the playable cast narrate the story as well. It’s all very high grade stuff!
All in all, if you missed Dragon’s Crown last time, now’s the time to pick it up. It’s a great game still with a nice visual upgrade that’s great for couch co-op and old school beat em up action!