July 31, 2013

Dragon's Crown Review for PS3 and PS Vita

Read inside to see if Dragon's Crown is all it was hyped up to be be.............

Playstation users rejoice! Vanillaware's action RPG title for both the PS3 and Vita proves to be a crowning success.

From the moment you boot up the game, you are wrapped up in a stunning and beautiful world. The animations are smooth and detailed, the sound is so epic you know you're in for a huge adventure, and the characters are so fun to pick up and play you won't know which one to start with and finish the adventure. 
But which console do you buy this for? The title only supports the cross save feature, not cross buy nor cross play. That means you will have to shell out $90 to get both games in order to use this feature, so most of you will have to decide which system you want to play it on more. ($50 for PS3 and $40 for the Vita). The game will be available at retail stores as well as on the PS Network. 

This review will detail some differences between the two console experiences as well as the game itself. 

The Story: 
A game, just like a book or movie, is only as good as the storytelling and the characters within it. Action will only carry you so far before it gets repetitive. Fortunately, the storytelling in Dragon's Crown is compelling and adventuresome, and the action stays fresh with upgrades and new skills. Sure, the choices you make in some of the segments won't affect the overall scope of the story; this is not an open world adventure. 


You come across several situations where there are some decisions about what you and the party will do in a story encounter, for example do you hand over a scepter to someone, or wait to give it to the rightful owner? No matter how many times you choose the wrong path, you can only proceed by choosing the right path. I tried to choose the wrong path a bunch of times, and the story just says you spend some time in jail and then you have to re-choose and do the "correct" path. 

Choices... but not really
The narration is well done, and his voice makes you feel like you are wrapped up in a grand adventure. The music, backgrounds, animations, and characters all do, however, pull you into the game. 
One thing I felt was missing was the story line/back story for each character. The main story always said "you" and not your specific character. There is a reveal at the end of the game when you clear it for each specific character that tells a little of their back story, but I feel it would've been more engaging to hear more during the adventure. 


The Sounds/Music/Voice acting:
Superb! Sitting on the couch with a great pair of headphones or stereo system on is truly the way to enjoy the immersing atmosphere in this world. The variety in sound effects from attacks, to spells being cast, to the voice acting from the NPCs you encounter...All well done. And the quality of music is your standard adventure fantasy fare, but it is well used to suit the different moods, to heighten danger, and to accompany the conversations you have with characters. 

My dwarf, Ash, finishes off a boss

When you are considering which console to buy this for, this is a big point. When you get your sound system up or your really nice headphones on... you are IN the game. The Vita version has great sounds and I play the majority of my time on it, but the speakers on it can't compare to your home stereo. 

The graphics/animations/art
You will be floored by the beauty that was created for this world. The artwork is phenomenal; it has so many influences that you can't say what exactly it is. There are artbooks that come with pre-orders in some parts that include the artwork about creatures and characters... some people spent a lot of time making this game as beautiful as they could. Everything from the world map spinning around in glorious HD graphics, the art you collect in the game (I made one my Vita wallpaper as soon as I saw it), the character designs and menu screens... You are surrounded by eye candy. 
Someone spent a LOT of time with the artwork

This brings up a question you might all be wondering about: why did the characters have such overdone body parts? The art design in some areas is confusing. I'm not sure if the game is supposed to be sexy, silly, or serious. You get all three quite often and it may make you wonder "why?" 

You walk into the magic shop and BOOM, there is a huge breasted witch selling her wares with her sultry voice. Then you open your wizard's menu screen and you're like, "That is a cool looking dude." Then you run your sorceress across the screen and she's grabbing her hat as her huge, er, tracts of land, are flopping all over the place in a very silly fashion. 


So why mix the oversexed Sorceress and Amazon with a slick Elf and a cool Wizard? I guess to hit all different playing styles and different types of players, but it is confusing. To some it may be a turn-off to using certain characters. 

PS3 vs. the Vita: Depending on your TV, you may get a richer experience with a nice big HDTV, as the game outputs in 1080p. The Vita screen is amazing, though, as well.  

Controls/Gameplay
This is the section where the Vita version really shines. I play the game on my Vita almost 100% of the time. 
Dat axe! 
The character controls are tight and combos, evades, and spells are easy to pull off. Some of the characters have spectacular combo attacks, ranged weapons, throwing explosive attacks, kicks and punches... each of the characters are varied in the way they attack. (The Sorceress and Wizard play similar, but they have different skills and spells). The different play styles adds to replay value as you'll want to play them all. 
If you want to hear more about the characters and how they play, read about them in my preview article.


One problem I have with the controls is trying to use the slotted items. It is a little tricky to remember how to use the healing potion or whatever is in that slot. It is a little clunky to break yourself out of sometimes furious combat to use it. That being said, practice makes it easier to get. 

As this is an action RPG, you can imagine there is a lot of upgrading your character. The skill trees are varied and fun for each character. Once you level up, you can see the skill ring when you get to the Guild and again the art style is different yet amazing for each skill. More skills unlock as you level up, and then you can upgrade each skill again a number of times, usually getting stronger or adding subtle effects each time. Some skills have a number of uses per dungeon. I can see why this happens, but it doesn't make me want to upgrade that skill, even though you get more uses as you progress that skill. As a person who saves every last health pack until I absolutely need it, I found myself hoarding the special limited skills. 

The Dwarf has a lot of throwing and explosive upgrades
Finishing a level is very rewarding. You see all your loot, you can appraise it and keep or sell it, and then you rush to the Guild to use your skill points to increase your skills. It is a very exciting process, and you can tell your characters will get pretty strong in the future. 

The level cap for normal mode is 35, so you probably won't get to fully upgrade your character until you continue on in harder difficulties, like Inferno mode (these modes open up after you complete a game with a character). 

There is local and online multiplayer on the PS3, and Vita has ad hoc and online multiplayer, too. The online portion isn't accessible until you finish the game for each character, which is unfortunate. Some people are going to want to play online sooner, I believe. 

Get your party on!

But, if you have some friends over with your PS3, you can all join in using any characters you have created. They can't log in to get their own character with local play. A nice perk with local co-op, is all the characters you use in it receive experience points for leveling up. For Vita people, everybody needs to have a copy of the game to play, obviously, yet each person can use their own character. 

The action gets frantic onscreen, with spells, enemies, attacks, beautiful backgrounds... sometimes you lose yourself in that action and continue to button mash until the frenzy ends. 

The Vita has some touchscreen controls that make it the must have version of this game for me. They are not gimmicky, as some were worried about. But you can use it to access menus, maps, and to uncover a hidden treasure. As you walk along dungeons and such, you see a little sparkle, which you can tap on the Vita screen and the treasure is revealed. When you switch over to the PS3 version, the right stick doesn't feel quite right. Almost like the game was made for the Vita. Which is a great thing for Vita owners.


Those of you worried about a challenge, or how long you will be playing: fear not! There is plenty to do once you finish a game with a character. There are different challenge modes, something called a B Path (almost like a time limit version), hard mode, and Inferno mode... where you can go for the level 99 cap. 

If a level is too hard for you, you can use resurrected allies you come across in some levels. The higher your level, the better allies you dig up. Of course, if you like a challenge, you can limit the number of allies you choose, or even choose lower level allies who don't do as much damage. 

Level bosses are fun and challenging, levels have secret doors and puzzles to uncover, gameplay is varied by adding creatures you can ride and command... The game is a lot of smashing at your enemies, but there is variety to it, and it is all very fun, especially with a group of friends working together. 


Flame on with the Wizard
Graphical Performance
I said before that the screens do get a little busy, which on your TV is easier to deal with than on the Vita. The performance is 60 fps for the PS3, but when I asked my contact at ATLUS games, he "wasn't sure" of the Vita. That seemed a little worrisome, but I haven't run into any problems on my Vita or PS3 with all that action. I thought I did once, but I am pretty sure the game has power moves that pause your character slightly before engaging. I think it was for dramatic effect. 

PS3 vs. Vita
So which console should you be buying for? Let me break it down: 
If you like gaming in front of a big beautiful screen tv with a superior sound system and you like to have friends over for local co-op, then go with the PS3. It is $50. 
Which version will you get?
If you like to be able to pick up a game anywhere and continue playing where you left off with a push of a button, you like the ease of a perfected touchscreen interface with a game that seems it was made for your handheld, then go with the Vita version. It is $40. 

Both versions are excellent, and have no performance differences between them. 

The Verdict: 
I am happy to say that for both versions I give this a 

9/10

Plus: 
  • Amazing art, graphics, sounds, characters
  • Engaging story
  • Varied game play and side quests with tricky puzzles
  • Fulfilling leveling and skills system 
  • Enormous replay value
Minus: 
  • No initial back story for each character, decisions you make don't really affect the world story
  • Character designs are confusing... serious style and over-caricatured at the same time
  • Limited use skills aren't as exciting to use as the combo skills at first
  • You have to play awhile to get online Multiplayer

Final words: 
Playstation users, especially those with a Vita, have an instant classic in Dragon's Crown. Engaging action, beautiful art design, and great presentation make this a must-have for either console. 
This title is rated T and is available on August 6th in North America. 

Are you going to pick this game up? Which version? What character do you want to use? Comment below!


 
                     
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