“3 years in the making with a development team of over 100 members,” it says on the back of the four disc The Legend of Dragoon PlayStation 1 jewel case. I don’t know if it took 3 years, but it sure as hell took a long time to make four discs worth of content. After playing this game for just under 40 hours I decided to take a look at what is good and bad about the presentation as well as how it has been received since.
There are a total of seven main characters that you can fight with in the game, each with their own reasons of fighting against the destruction of the world and motivations for doing so. Each of these characters correspond to an element, something that I love in RPGs, and have their own set of additions or combos that they perform in battle.
There is Dart, the main hero who’s town was destroyed by the ‘Black Monster’, Shana the main love interest and damsel-in-distress of the game. Albert, the king of one of the nations. Rose, a mysterious traveler who saves Dart’s life. Haschel, an old friend of Dart’s and a martial artist. Meru, a dancer. Lastly, Kongol, a Gigantos who after many events, joins the group. This band of heroes have many stories, all of which connect and are explored throughout the main narrative in a way that doesn’t take many detours.
Like many JRPGs out there, the characters go trough a notable change throughout the course of the game and by the end, their views on life and what they are fighting for is changed drastically. While this trope is nothing new in the genre, the many twists and turns along the way, and the developing romantic relationship between Dart and Shana, will keep you interested if nothing else.
I absolutely love the fighting aesthetic in this game. Unlike many JRPGs that came before it which only required you to press ‘X’ or ‘A’ to initiate fighting, The Legend of Dragoon requires the player to be more active in the role of hitting the enemy. When prepare to attack an enemy, a box appears in the center of the screen. Another box then appears. In an attempt to align the two, pressing ‘X’ when the two intersect initiates your Additions. You gain more of these as your characters level up, getting increasingly harder to execute.
Each Addition can be leveled up to 5 and requires the player to execute it flawlessly in order to level it up, making it stronger with each level. Once all current Additions are maxed in level, an extra Ultimate Addition is gained. This applies to each of the characters (with the exception of the bow user) and can significantly add to the overall completion of the game if you wish to do so. These Additions also are the key to getting points into using your Dragoon powers which transforms your characters into powerful fighters with awesome wings and magic.
The aspect of Additions in The Legend of Dragoon is a point of dislike for the game for many people I’ve talked to, but I really feel that this adds a level of immersion and participation in the narrative of the game that other games of that time didn’t have. The criticism about this system comes from its difficulty when the more advanced Additions are unlocked as well as the repetitive nature of battles.
The fighting style is still turn-based, but without the added element of knowing when your characters will attack like Final Fantasy X. The best you can do against fast enemies is to use a ‘Speed Down’ item or stunning them. Despite this turn-based aspect, the addition of Additions (see what I did there?) give it a bit of an action-like feel without doing away with a classic JRPG element.
Monsters and Bosses
The best part about this game is the fact that you can transform into dragoons with awesome armour and wings as well as special powers and magic. The ultimate magic, when your dragoon level reaches level 5, and kept separately from your character level, is summoning the dragon of your specific element. I was disappointed that this magic often doesn’t do too much to bosses. Many bosses are actually dangerous if you turn into dragoon form, not to mention that the original game would freeze up if you use dragoon forms in certain battles.
There is fair variety in enemies and bosses so you’ll rarely fight the same thing twice. Also, as with many other games, there are special target areas to hit and sometimes special conditions that have to occur in order to beat a boss. Lastly, the final boss rush is a long one so if you plan on beating the game, be sure to gove yourself about an hour after you reach the final area. There are many cut scenes and bosses that you have to endure to beat the game.
Many people that I’ve talked to about this game says that it sucks. This then leads me to ask about why they dislike the game so much. Most of the responses that I get out of them have to do with the combat system and the translations. I will admit, the translations are laughable at times. There is no way someone would actually say some of the things they say in certain situations. Other times, the dialogue doesn’t flow with the previous statements being made at all.
The other reason why this game got a lot of flack from Square fans is because of the Addition system. Many people I’ve talked to say that this is the one drawback to the game where they felt it wasn’t needed and unnecessarily hard at times. It also makes coming back to the game difficult if you’ve been away for a month or so. Those who don’t have much patience would probably hate this game since battles can become significantly longer if you aren’t the greatest at performing Additions.
The Legend of Dragoon is still worth the play if you are even remotely interested. This is one game that I feel strongly needs a remake or sequel, but unfortunately won’t as it’s more of a cult classic. The story suffers from a bad translation, but this shouldn’t stop you. The story can be confusing at times, but it comes together in an ending that feels satisfying and not wanting for more. The Legend of Dragoon is quite long, keeping me hooked for about 40 hours. If you plan on playing it, do it over a couple of weekends or a break as your Additions are likely to suffer from long absences of playtime. Personally, I enjoyed this game and it felt so satisfying to get through it after all of these years.