by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Legend of Dragoon was an early Playstation RPG, and as such, it has a very special place in many hearts. Legend of Dragoon, Breath of Fire 3, Final Fantasy VII, Legend of Mana, Legend of Legaia. These were the hallmarks of the early Sony/Playstation Era. Some of these have aged much better than others. Legend of Legaia’s Combo System (Tactical Arts System) was engaging and clever, where players had to figure out the best combos to use for a variety of situations. Breath of Fire 3 had the Master system, where characters could adjust their stats and abilities by mentoring under more powerful Masters in the world. Final Fantasy VII’s Materia System was a first of its kind, though inspired surely from Final Fantasy VI’s Esper System. Everything about Legend of Mana was clever, cute, and it was another Mana game! Though the World system was kind of vexing. What did Legend of Dragoon bring to the table?
It brought a sixty dollar Super Sentai game to us, that’s what it did. I love Sentai, I do! I love my wacky costumed heroes doing ridiculous things, posing and transforming. But that’s what Legend of Dragoon essentially was. Instead of five members of the team, you had seven. The main character even wears red like your standard Sentai leader! The hometown is even named “Neet”. A “Neet” is a reference to a person, “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”, first used in the UK, but it spread to places like Japan. He’s disgustingly brave, inherits his father’s “Dragoon Form”, and is a standard anime hero, for all intents and purposes. And he’s boring. Everything about him and the plot is formulaic and substandard. His home village is destroyed by “The Black Monster”, that only appears every 108 years. And as it turns out, that “Black Monster” isn’t even the main villain! They’re supposed to help him! They are in the damn party. Yes, Rose was one of the original Dragoons in the Dragoon Campaign and destroyed his home. That’s so trite.
Legend of Dragoon (or Legend of the Dragoon) is a four-disc game, which sounds really impressive. But is only four discs because of the size of the FMVs that are included in the gameplay. This is the same reason Final Fantasy VII is Three Discs, and VIII being Four Discs. I mean, you could do Disc 3 of FFVII in one sitting if you really wanted. So it’s less that it’s a sprawling, long, epic journey and more that it simply has very pretty (and they were, I won’t lie) cutscenes. It’s a fairly pretty game, better than Final Fantasy VII, but not as good as VIII or IX. This is not a bad game though. But this was Sony’s first serious attempt at an epic JRPG, in my opinion. It wasn’t as powerful as Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy and Enix’s Dragon Quest (or even 7th Saga, if I’m being 100% honest).
However, Legend of Dragoon did have a terrific combat system! I feel like it’s the precursor to several “Ring Systems” used in later games like Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360. Though it was turn-based, which wasn’t new or revolutionary, the “Additions” system was. You had two buttons on the screen when you pressed Attack. You have to time the press of the button with the shrinking circle just right, and doing so will give you more damage. As the game goes on, you’ll gain more of these Additions, creating long chains of incredible damage. However, the longer the chain, the greater the chance of an enemy working a counter in (but you can do another timed button press to evade their counter and continue dealing damage). Then there are the Dragoon Forms, where you transform to do new attacks and better damage. It felt like a combo between Super Mario RPG’s timed attack system and the Breath of Fire “Dragon Form” system, where Ryu/Hero turns into awesome dragons to deal more damage.
A Fine Start:
Legend of (the) Dragoon is not a bad game by any means. But many people romanticize its existence, fondly remembering it as a wonderful, sprawling, epic RPG worthy or note and narration. Unfortunately, it does not quite hold up to those memories. It was a great start for Sony, but their strength was not in RPGs. They were much better at doing action/platformer titles, but they tried. And to their credit, it was certainly not a terrible game. The combat system was delightful and engaging, but the story, the characters were bland, uninteresting, and honestly a little disappointing. It’s formulaic and not hard to guess what’s going to happen next if you have even a little familiarity with anime/rpgs of the era. It managed to be the top-selling PSOne classic on PSN for three months which frankly, shocks me. That is the power of nostalgia though, friends. Not all of these games we played way back when were quite as wonderful as we remember.