This review was certainly put off for quite some time. I should let it be known that I am reviewing this two years after I beat it, but my memory is pretty good in regards to these things. I don’t quite remember why it was that I didn’t write a review at the time but I’m finally going to write it now. The Legend of Dragoon is a fantastic game and quite simply put, it deserves the praise it gets.
The Legend of Dragoon is far from the most original JRPG out there and if you are looking for something unique to the genre then this likely won’t satisfy you. In fact, the game actually had mixed reception at launch. Former IGN reviewer David Smith once said “Games like Legend of Dragoon and Shadow Madness rank among the worst of the previous generation, regardless of genre” only a year after he reviewed it and gave it a 7 out of 10. Yeah, IGN reviewers being incompetent bought out morons is hardly a recent phenomenon.
The truth about The Legend of Dragoon is that it is a game with almost nothing unique about it, and that is perhaps its greatest weakness. On the other hand, it hits the mark in almost every area and has little to no major flaws. The Legend of Dragoon is a phenomenally well made title with high production values for the time period, top notch design, and about 60 hours worth of content. The story is compelling and interesting, the battle mechanics are well balanced and require a decent amount of strategy, the music is well composed and fits the mood of the game well, and the overall package hits all the right notes.
But western critics were always infamously biased against JRPGs that aren’t Final Fantasy or Pokemon, and simply being an excellent game of its type isn’t enough. These people will only be impressed if a game does something entirely unique in an area AND has a high enough marketing budget. I could rant on and on about how much I hate mainstream game reviewers, but that’s not what you are here for. You are instead looking for me to tell you what is so great about this game that the rest of the internet loves, and for once I don’t feel like being contrarian about it.
Story wise, The Legend of Dragoon has all of the major check marks. A plotline based on revenge, a villain with white hair and black clothes, a girl who serves as a literal walking plot device, and major characters turning out to be related to other major characters, and all that shit about Gods and prophecies to destroy the world. Yep, you can probably make a decent drinking game based around taking a shot whenever there’s an overused trope present, but that is only assuming your shot glass is used to serve ants.
But as I’ve already stated, The Legend of Dragoon uses these plot devices in ways that are actually engaging and compelling. The pacing is done well, the characters have interesting motivations, and the setting of the game is engrossing. I would compare the story to that of the original Star Wars trilogy; not exactly high art, but it certainly is entertaining in all the right ways.
Graphics wise the character models were more detailed than that of Final Fantasy VII or VIII and there were a lot of fancy cinematic CG cutscenes that we all loved about PS1 games before we were spoiled by better looking graphics that also allowed a skip function. If there is one thing to complain about it is that some of the attack animations are way too long. This isn’t too much of a problem for player attacks considering that the addition system makes it so that you are doing something during normal attacks and that there is an option to skip Dragoon transformation animations. Unfortunately there are certain bosses about halfway through the game that have minute long unskippable attack animations that they use multiple times.
Sound effects are well implemented and I have been over the music already in the past, but unfortunately the voice acting is shit in the few scenes that feature it. Thankfully there is so little of it that it doesn’t become a serious issue. I have also heard some claim that the translation was low quality but it’s still better than Final Fantasy VII’s.
What really made this game for me was the gameplay. While I did not find the storyline as investing as something like Final Fantasy VII, I found its battle system to be infinitely superior. Some have bashed on the addition system for “not really adding depth to the game,” and “some people” are flat out wrong. The addition system requires you to always be paying attention and even makes the fights against weaker enemies engaging because of how satisfying it is to max out each of your character’s combos (there is a small bit of input lag on the PSN release but it isn’t too difficult to get used to if you have decent hand eye coordination). Granted it can get kind of grindy so it may not appeal much to those who don’t like that shit… those people are called “normies.”
Bosses are easy throughout most of disc one but afterwards the game decides it’s done fucking around and proceeds to completely wreck your shit if you don’t plan accordingly. I do like how well balanced the battles are in that even after I beat the game’s strongest superboss and got the most overpowered armor in the game, I still needed to put in actual effort against the final boss. I didn’t die or anything but I couldn’t just mash buttons while looking away from the screen watching hentai or some shit.
Well I guess that wraps up this review. I likely would have been able to go more in depth if I didn’t end up taking close to two years to get to this review. The short version is that The Legend of Dragoon is fairly vanilla as far as JRPGs go, but it’s high quality vanilla. While I am sure there are other JRPGs on the PS1 that are superior to The Legend of Dragoon (Lunar 2 is definitely one of them), you are certainly going to get enough bang for your buck with this game. The Legend of Dragoon is only $6.00 on PSN and you can probably find a decent used original copy if you look around a bit. Or hell you could even use the big E for all I know or care (I’m not the one that makes money off of sales unless you buy it here).
Well it’s about time I completed this review, now I can finally start with some certain… less standard RPGs… the next one might be a bit… painful though.
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