Legend of Dragoon Review

For PlayStation

By Contributing Writer Rob Pecknold

Rating: Awesome
   Sony might not be known for the quality of their internally-developed 
games (or the quality of their batteries... damn three-hour pieces of 
crap!), but Legend of Dragoon is one shining exception.  I have played a 
lot of RPGs over the years, and it takes a lot to grab my attention and 
convince me to devote over 50 hours to one game.  Vagrant Story did it, 
Final Fantasy 8 did it, and now Legend of Dragoon has done it.      
   The first thing you will notice about Legend of Dragoon is how appealing 
the packaging is.  The front cover is lush and inviting, the discs (all 
four of 'em) have perfectly-rendered characters on them, and the cover of 
the instruction manual is downright gorgeous.  Just seeing the packaging
made me want to play this game.  Upon starting the game, you are treated to 
an absolutely stunning cut scene with fluid animation, a flawless graphical 
style, and impressive effects.  It's something that meets and possibly even 
exceeds Square-quality, which is something I didn't expect from any company 
other than Square itself.
   The developers of this game used a graphics technique similar to that 
found in Fear Effect, with lots of CG scenes looping in the backgrounds.  
Smoke billows out of chimneys, water glistens in the sun, light filters 
through windows and glows realistically, and so on.  All of the 
environments are beautifully and intelligently rendered, especially the 
dungeons.  This game's dungeons are great examples of well-designed areas 
that are easy to navigate while still being a challenge.   
   Overall, the graphics are on par with anything Square has produced, but 
the character graphics fall a bit short.  These character designs were 
cutting-edge three years ago when Legend of Dragoon's development got 
underway, but they're not cutting-edge now.  The characters look very 
similar to those in Final Fantasy 7, but with quite a few more textures and 
without toothpicks for arms.  They don't begin to approach the 
realistically-proportioned and textured beauties found in Final Fantasy 8, 
but they're still impressive in their own right.
   The textures and proportion of the characters is improved in the battles, 
and the battle environments are also very impressive.  One problem I found 
with the battle graphics is the enemies.  Other than some of the bosses, 
the enemy designs are rather lackluster, and it's hard to be afraid of 
enemies with names like "Lizard Man" and "Assassin Cock."
   The battles themselves are typical RPG fare except for a few key 
innovations.  Remember Squall's Renzokuken limit break in Final Fantasy 8?  
Well, imagine doing that much more often but with considerably less damage, 
and you've got a pretty good idea of what Legend of Dragoon's Additions 
system is like.  You gain more additions over time, and they can gain 
levels as well, resulting in stronger attacks from the same button 
   The battle system changes considerably with the arrival of Dragoons 
after important events in the story.  You are able to transform into a 
Dragoon in order to use Dragoon Attacks or Dragoon Magic.  Dragoon Attacks 
aren't much stronger than normal Additions and are basically a waste of 
time, but Dragoon Magic is devastating.  The majority of the Dragoon Magic 
spells are on par with Final Fantasy 8's most powerful attacks in terms of 
visual splendor, and many even exceed those high standards.  How anyone can 
continue to break new ground on the six-year-old PlayStation hardware is 
beyond me.
   Legend of Dragoon's main characters fill out the traditional RPG roles 
quite nicely.  There's the spikey-haired punk with a chip on his shoulder 
(Dart), the magic-using love interest (Shana), the powerful ally with a 
mysterious past (Rose), the martial arts expert with good speed and power 
(Haschel), the slow but powerful giant (Kongol)... the list goes on and on.  
I don't have a problem with these age-old RPGs clichés because most of them 
are pretty cool to begin with.  Legend of Dragoon's characters won't win 
any awards for originality, but who says they need to?  All of the 
characters are interesting and sufficiently deep, and they get 
progressively deeper as the game goes on.
   Legend of Dragoon's biggest asset is definitely its story.  The pacing 
of the game is handled skillfully, with things speeding along at a steady 
pace for the most part while also slowing down here and there for in-depth 
character development.  Many RPGs (including some great ones like Grandia) 
fall into this rut: Find town, find problem, go through dungeon, beat boss, 
repeat until bored.  There never seems to be a boring scenario or task to 
be completed in Legend of Dragoon, and I never felt like I was doing the 
same thing over and over again.
   If there's a sore spot on the proverbial Legend of Dragoon apple, it 
would be the dialogue.  Sony has never been known for its quality 
translations (see Final Fantasy 7 for a good example of Sony-style 
translation mediocrity).  While the dialogue gets much better as the game 
goes on, it's jarring near the beginning of the game because no one speaks 
like a real person would.  Like I said, though, this does get better as the 
game goes on, and it never hampers the progression of the story.
   I was very surprised to discover just how good Legend of Dragoon really 
is.  Sony has proven that if they put a lot of time and energy into it, 
they are fully capable of making a damn good game.  While a single game 
can't put Sony in the same league as Square, Working Designs, or GameArts, 
Legend of Dragoon is a great first step.

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