I’ve just come back from three retails stores trying to buy the above title. I am a little surprised that no one carried it. If you head on over to Amazon.com you will see that the game currently occupies the top spot in their Playstation game rankings. No small feat for a somewhat obscure Japanese game title that is dripping with nostalgia. EDIT: I ended up ordering it on Amazon and it arrived the next day.
Let me get something out of the way first. Dragon’s Crown has been the centerpiece in a controversy that is finally getting its due. I’ve spent the last few years writing and defending video games because they were often the center of undeserved criticism. How female characters are overly sexualized in games is not one of those unfair accusations. In some ways this is a valid criticism of all geek related media. These art forms are consumed by a diverse and complex group but we are being presented with characters that look like they are created for and by twelve year old boys. Several depictions of female characters in this game are flat out terrible, and while I will probably will enjoy many of the aspects of this game I will always cringe at some of the design decisions. Janine Hawkins covers this better than I ever could in her blog post here which I encourage you to read and discuss.
If you grew up in and around arcades you will immediately recognize the format of Dragon’s Crown as being similar to Golden Axe or in the beat ’em up genre if you want to get technical. The format is simple, you select a character each of which has different attributes and you fight increasingly difficult waves of enemies until you get to a boss. If you have played Golden Axe recently it is still fun, but with all the advancements in games it plays a little flat.
Dragon’s Crown evolves the genre by adding role playing elements of levels and attribute improvement and Diablo style looting. (Loot is random with a chance of encountering a rare and valuable item). These well thought out improvements plus the painterly art style that Vanillaware is famous for make this a rewarding experience.
I am highly recommending this for people who have warm feelings about arcade games like Golden Axe with all the caveats above. It is also one of those rare games that has local co-op multiplayer, so perfect for having some friends over. Nothing says friendship like sharing in the loot from a defeated harpy.