What is love? Love is subjective, love is an enigma, love is the drug. Some believe love to be an inherently deep, spiritual connection between two soul mates, and some believe it as simply a biological imperative that fuels desire and lust. But what are my beliefs on love? Well, I've never had much luck (nor tolerance) with women, and I've firmly established that I'm not gay. And yet I have experienced love, but not in the way you would expect:
I fell in love with a game. The game in question? Legend of Dragoon.
Now, you may ask, where does this fall into either soul mate-dom or sexual release? To answer the former, I would say that both this game and myself have endured a relationship akin to Jenny and Forrest Gump in the film of the same name; that is, we've been separated so many times and yet our bond finds ourselves again in the strangest of circumstances. As for the latter, well, let's just say that when I rediscovered it a few years ago in a bargain bin in the middle of nowhere, I jizzed in my pants.
But regardless of my nostalgia, this is a great game. But why a 'cult classic'? Well, let's just say that another game came out in the same year, one very similar and overwhelmingly popular, drawing to Legend of Dragoon a lot of hearty criticism and undeserved rejection amongst the gaming community. You may have heard of it.
So without further ado, I present this wholesome
love letter review of a game long forgotten. One that changed my life forever and introduced me to the epic storytelling, lengthy gameplay and sheer fun of the RPG:
Lord Krunk Reviews: Legend of Dragoon
Set a 1100 years after a war between the angelic Winglies and Humans, resulting in the former's near-extinction and the latter's dominance over the land of Endiness, Legend of Dragoon follows the adventures of young soldier Dart and his epic revenge quest against a demon that slew his family and derailed his childhood. Gathering a ragtag team of friends along the way, the gang fight wars, uncover conspiracies and ultimately race against time to prevent the Apocalypse.
One of this game's defining qualities is its deceptive mask. For one, it's a turn-based RPG but applied in a very compelling way. Using a system called Additions, the player has to hit X at the exact time a large retracting box hits a smaller one at the center of the screen in different combinations. The player can switch between these combos with varying power, difficulty and contribution to the player's Spirit Points, which allow characters to harness the awesome power of the Dragoon. The result removes the dominance of invisible statistics and replaces it with that of skill which, contrary to the nature of turn-based RPGs, makes it extremely fun and consistently entertaining.
Another great concept applied in the game is its sheer diversity; you find yourself traveling through deserts, cities, other dimensions and eventually the Moon. The characters as well are also very diverse, together by circumstance and separated by differing motives that intertwine as the story progresses. Unlike most JRPGs and their characters' cringe-inducing wangst, these characters are actually believable, likable and empathetic. And amongst many other things, that's why I love this game so much.
One of the villains is a Ninja Pirate Angel Sorceress. Yes, it makes sense in context. Yes, it's fucking awesome.
The music of this game is also something to be adored, giving some brilliant soundscapes throughout all 4 discs. Although when you're comparing this to the likes of JRPGs like Pokemon and Final Fantasy, you can get quite jaded. I mean, if there's anything we can credit the Japanese for it's definitely their taste in music.
And this is all avoiding the sheer length of the game. The blurb tells me that it contains 80 hours worth of gameplay, but my experience has told me that that's on a speed run. So from that you may deduce just how much content is in this game, and how I feel nowadays when games only last for a few hours.
A characteristic of Love is its unconditional nature, to adore one for their flaws as well as their perks. And trust me when I say that this game has plenty of flaws. For one, the translation in the game is shocking. So shocking, in fact, that Legend of Dragoon breaches the bad and becomes awesome in its own hilarious sort of way. Rose's constant Fetishy spell animations and voice actor are laughable as well.
And now for the award for funniest Engrish in a JRPG... Legend of Dragoon, A Winner Is You!
Another issue is the series' graphical quality, which may have been good back in its day (it certainly looks better than Final Fantasy VIII, anyway) but by today's standards is laughable. You can see the polygons. You can see that geometric hair going through armour during the breathing animations. Some monster designs are just awful as well, and some are just old ones in different colours. Thankfully, this deja vu is avoided until late in the game.
Which leads me to the next problem, where Legend of Dragoon shifts in overall quality, going mostly downhill for various reasons, but to state them are mostly spoilers. Suffice to say that the excellent first and second discs of the game are let down by their subsequent third and fourth discs. They are also a lot shorter than their predecessors, which heightens the disappointment.
Finally, the game's plot is also disappointing. The plot twists are predictable, the villains aren't well rounded as characters (well, most of them anyway) and some important and thoroughly established subplots are either resolved rather poorly or just not resolved at all.
But that's just the thing. Legend of Dragoon, despite its frequent and ostentatious flaws, still remains a great game that I can't help but adore. Maybe it's nostalgia talking, but frequent replays (it's very replayable, by the way, mostly due to its lack of brevity and its creative battle system) over the years have seated this game amongst one of my all-time favourites. I love Legend of Dragoon, and should the day come when we are separated once more, I shall be a very sad man. Although thanks to the internet, maybe we're not as distant as I think.
Bottom Line: An old, forgotten classic that withstands the test of time, Legend of Dragoon stands as one of those games that I will have a hard time forgetting. It's bad, yet it's good. It's flawed but a joy to play.
Recommendation: Keep an eye out. It's worth a look, but you won't find it anywhere. Trust me, I've scoured Australia for a copy and only found one out of extremely good luck. That store that I found it in closed up shop later in the same year I bought it.
Lord Krunk didn't really jizz in his pants at the sight of the game. It was metaphorical. Yeah, metaphorical.