The Legend of Dragoon is the best game ever. If you are one of the people that think this you are a very bad person. Either that or the rose tinted mists of time are clouding your recollection of a game you played when you were young, foolish and knew no better. The Legend of Dragoon (LoD from now on before my fingers melt with hatred from typing it) technically isn’t the worst game of all time. It is however the most hateful.
So why is it the most hateful game ever? It’s a cynical corporate cash-in with no soul. I’ve played many bad games before but mostly their heart is usually in the right place; a lack of development time, money or a developer with high ambitions and without the talent to realise them are the usual reasons for failure. LoD however stinks of a designed by committee mentality. At the time due to the unexpected success of the Final Fantasy series the biggest genre around was the Japanese RPG. Sony decided it wanted a bite out of the pie and set about developing its own RPG franchise. After 3 years of development and satanic rituals LoD was unleashed on the world.
This game wants so desperately to be Final Fantasy VII. The main protagonist with a stupid name, Dart, with his spiky blond hair, a big sword and a mysterious past that he can’t clearly remember is a blatant Cloud clone. His BFF Shana is the meek girl of the party with healing spells who might just have a mysterious power in case you haven’t already guessed. The rest of the party are utterly forgettable other than Rose who is a bit like a female Squall except with menstruation based attacks (I shit you not: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Wk-qvGucQ ). I actually kind of liked Rose, she acted less like a gormless bellend than the rest of the cast, but it wasn’t enough to save the rest of the game. The bad guy has silver hair and is trying to destroy the world. They couldn’t even change his hair colour to try to disguise the fact that they were trying to emulate Sephiroth.
|Some of the prerendered backgrounds can be pretty if a bit generic|
The storyline is generic textbook JRPG. A globe-trotting quest to find mystical trinkets that in the wrong hands could destroy the world. An ancient, thought to be extinct civilisation called the Winglies (because they have wings and evidently zero imagination, fuck you localisation team!) is tied into it these events, just like Grandia or Breath of Fire. The whole story reads like the JRPG entry on TV Tropes. It throws around mystical mcguffins as an excuse to keep the plot moving. In an attempt to emulate the emotion of Aeris’s death in FFVII, LoD has its own death scene. Unfortunately this involves an annoyingly goody two shoes character whose death I’d been wishing for long before it was granted. If you did feel any emotional attachment to this character, any sense of loss is quashed when he is quickly replaced by another character with the same abilities. Actually, if you lose any character permanently they’ll be replaced in a similar manner, completely missing the point of why Aeris being missing from the party in FFVII was so successful in eliciting emotion from the player. Destroying what little enjoyment you could have gleamed from the awful plot is one of the worst localisations ever, bereft of any soul or emotion, countless grammatical errors and horrendous voice-acting.
I’ve played and enjoyed a lot of RPGs with hackneyed stories but LoD has worse issues than its story. What makes the game unbearable is the gameplay. The random encounter rate isn’t too high but the battle system is so slow that it kills any pace the game has. The battle system is based on ‘additions’. In a tragic attempt to add some real time involvement to the battle system every time you attack you can extend your attack by timing button presses to an on screen indicator. This might seem like a good idea but as the game progresses, additions get longer and battles drag on even more. As you progress in the game your characters gain the ability to transform into a Dragoon, accompanied by long transformation sequences. You gain an attack bonus but the timing on the additions is so strict you end up doing less damage the majority of the time. Also Dragoon transformations are the only way to cast magic other than using items. All magic spells result in long animations similar to the summons in Final Fantasy prolonging battles further. Another well meaning but ultimately ridiculous addition to the battle system is that healing characters requires you to defend which gives you 10% of your maximum health. During particularly tough battles this defend mechanic can really drag out battles. You can use items to recover health but they are usually in short supply since the amount of items you can carry is extremely limited and mostly taken up by elemental spell items since if you run into a boss and your characters are the wrong element then it can really screw you over. One of the party members has a dragoon spell that can heal but it takes forever to charge up and use her dragoon transformation and she’s fairly useless so you can’t rely on it. Long drawn out battles can really ruin an RPG. There’s nothing worse than getting into a battle in a dungeon that is so long that when it’s over you have forgotten where it was that you were headed to. Due to the length of dragoon transformations and the fact that you basically only have a single attack, the battle system is completely devoid of any sort of strategy and the battle cries like ‘Rod Typhoon!’ will drive you insane.
Technically the game is a mess as well. For a game released at the end of 1999 it only looks slightly better than FFVII. Most of the character models are barely texture mapped and using the same gouraud shaded polygons as seen in FFVII. Compare that to FFVIII released earlier that year or Metal Gear Solid the year before with their detailed and fully textured models and environments and LoD looks very dated. The battle engine also runs at around 10 frames per second. This is a major problem for a game which relies on timing since it introduces lag into the controls and makes the timing of the addition attacks a lot more difficult than they should be. The timing of button presses for additions is before when the game indicates you should press the button. Some of the pre-rendered backgrounds do look nice and whenever water effects are present they look remarkably good. The CGI cutscenes are of a high quality but there’s very few of them. The game comes on 4 CD’s but with the lack of CGI cutscenes I honestly don’t see what was taking up all that memory. The soundtrack has its fans but I’m not one of them. There are a few good tunes but the rest of it ranged from unremarkable to downright awful. The battle theme in particular is obnoxious and it’s the tune you’ll be hearing the most of.
|Meru manages to be the most annoying character in the game, a feat in and of itself|
LoD really isn’t the worst games ever, there’s some really frustrating games or games that are unplayable messes due to bugs and bad programming. However it’s just such a corporate exercise that I can’t help but hate it. There’s not an original idea in the game and it’s all put together with such a corporate mentality, ticking all the right boxes to appeal to the masses. What is hard to understand is the rabid fanbase the game has built up. I’m guessing most of these people played the game when they were much younger, impressionable and didn’t have much experience with JRPGs to compare it to. The attack on the review at the Gaming Intelligence agency, a perfectly fair and reasonable review, really doesn’t paint them in the best light:
I’m sorry if I hurt some feelings with this review but it’s a game that really gets under my skin and makes me hyperbolic. If you do think that the game holds up, try it again with some newfound maturity and experience because it really is a shallow and boring game. Just don’t pay the ridiculous Ebay prices for it. It really isn’t worth it.
Disengaging rant mode!