Let’s take a trip, to a time long since past, the year 2000. Yes, I know it’s too far back to remember, but please stick with me. We are going to talk about an underrated gem of the PS1 library.
“The Legend of Dragoon.”
Many of you out there might not have even given this game a chance back in the day or even TODAY for that matter. I want to change that, expand your minds, showing you that not every awesome RPG on the PS1 has to be Final Fantasy or Chrono Cross.
Even on its release, Legend of Dragoon received a lot of mixed reviews. Several said it left bad tastes in their mouths. And even today people are claiming it to be stale, but this can’t be further from the truth. This game has a loyal fan base after all these years, this includes myself, if you haven’t already noticed.
Racing out of the gates, the story is immediately compelling. We follow our champion, Dart Feld (I was never really impressed with the character’s names, but I guess if we can have “Cloud, Snow and Lighting, I can forgive ‘Dart’) and the plight of a destructive Empire which turns his village into ashes. This event pulls your character into a mess of political issues. The empire abducts his childhood sweetheart, locking her away into a dark castle, with only you to save her.
Yes, it does sound like most other stories, but it isn’t that simple. As you peel back this 70 to 80 hour long story, you come to find three separate events combined into one fantastic adventure.
Over the course of the game, the story is given to you in small pieces through in-depth telling of the fight against the “God of Destruction”. This lore keeps the player wanting more and more and allowed for you to drink up a memorable store and characters.
Upon freeing your beloved Shana, you will start to be introduced to other playable characters in the game. One by one the cast will grow to seven, and each will have their own piece of rope to tie the whole story together. At times the story can drag a bit, like I said, it can go to around 70 hours of game play.
With the story out of the way, let’s talk Dragoon Spirits, which give all 7 party members amazing powers. But before we talk about the Dragoon Spirits, there are basic combat skills we need to discuss.
Legend of Dragoon does combat in a very old school way. Characters have the usual range of choices in combat:
3. Use Item
Yet there is a bit of spice to this mediocrity. A character’s attack is called Addition, a set of QTE that require some thought to pull off.
Some attacks require one button while some have up to 6 buttons to pull off. But don’t just think that if you hit these buttons in the right order you are safe, there are countermeasures. An enemy can counter, but if you stay sharp you can hit the right QTE buttons and continue your original attack. This is something that you usually don’t see in games of this time period. Nowadays we are just swarmed with QTE, but back then it was fresh, so I don’t hold it against the game. Now moving on to defending, it not only allows you to only take half of the damage dealt, but it also enables you to heal yourself.
Eventually the characters will be able to unlock their Dragoon Spirits and this gives a fifth choice. There will be an SP bar that will fill when you do Additions correctly. So not only is it good do the QTE correctly to deal the most damage, but it fills the bar. Now that the SP bar is filled to the max, you are able to unleash your Dragoons!
While in “Dragoon mode” the character goes through a complete transformation, now with colored wings, floating inches above the ground. This is one of the most memorable parts of the game. There will be two options available to the player, attack or magic. Attack is as it sounds, but that’s not the best part of the transformation, it’s the magic! Your character can learn four different spells in all. In order to get all for everyone, we have a bit of the status quo for an RPG, grinding. But honestly, I didn’t need to do it too much because I had my favorite characters and utilized them mostly. I’m not one to usually be a completionist, so if you are, then I would say, Happy Grinding!
While you’re grinding or just playing normally, one thing that will keep catching your eye are the visuals. At moments you will just have to admire all the details that have been programmed into the game, although others can look washed and muddy. FMVs during this time typically don’t hold up. However, in the case of Legend of Dragoon, even after 16 years, I’m still in awe at how beautiful they look. PS1 Tekken on the other hand…I still have nightmares.
For me, this game still holds up as a whole. Yes, the story can be long winded and graphics are a little dated, but there is such a charm when you play. I hope if nothing else, this review has peeked your interest into a game that helped shape my own love for RPGS. Playstation Network has it on sale right now for just 5.99! What have you got to lose?