Dragon Fantasy: Book One (PSN) Review
Posted by Stephen Randle on 04.26.2013
A loving tribute to RPGs of old hits Playstation Network, but is the nostalgia trip worth your money? Stephen Randle has his review inside!
Title: Dragon Fantasy: Book One
Publisher: The Muteki Corporation
Developer: The Muteki Corporation
Available for PS3 and Vita via PSN (Cross-Play Title)
As you might have gathered from the title, Dragon Fantasy is a tribute, of sorts, to the old-school 8-bit JRPGs, specifically ground-breaking franchises Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Originally beginning life as an iOS game, the developers have cleaned Dragon Fantasy up and released it on PSN in preparation for the upcoming launch of the sequel, Dragon Fantasy: Book Two.
Book One is, in fact, three separate stories that occur nearly concurrently in the same world. In the first, you play as Ogden, a retired hero forced back into the game when one of the realms’ princes is captured by the Dark One. In the second, you play the kidnapped prince’s sibling, who is seeking a different way to rescue his brother. And in the third, you play as a thief and his niece, in a story basically un-connected to the other plots. In addition, Dragon Fantasy includes a fourth side story featuring all the characters that was created to promote its first appearance at MineCon, a convention based around popular time-waster MineCraft. The three stories are light and fun, if mostly standard fantasy boilerplate. My only issue is that, since this is an old-school game, most of the story information is imparted through dialogue, some of which is not repeatable. Thus, if you speed through some text or forget some details between play sessions, you might just end up a little lost.
It’s like it’s a fantasy game about dragons or something! Wait a second…
The combat is completely turn-based, from a first-person perspective. It’s all very simple and easy to understand, as befits the genre it’s paying tribute to, but there’s a decided lack of strategy beyond hammering the “Attack” button, with occasional pauses to heal. A minor gripe I had with the combat itself is that your weapons have a fairly low hit percentage (as low as 80%, depending on your weapon), especially in the first story where you only have one playable character. Thus, some combat, even against enemies far below your level, can get a little frustrating. On many occasions, I found myself repeatedly missing, as many as three or four turns in a row. It isn’t a game-breaking issue, but it does make what should be fairly simple fights into drawn-out affairs, which can snowball when combined with another feature that pays respects to RPGs of the past: massive grinding! Yes, grinding for levels and money as you enter new areas is a requirement of Dragon Fantasy, as both XP and gold rewards from fighting are fairly low, so you will be spending quite a lot of time on the world map, searching for random battles. And yes, of course it’s a random battle encounter system, which I actually prefer for my RPGs, but other people would possibly count as a strike against the game. The encounter rate is actually a little high for my taste, but given how much grinding is required, that’s probably a good thing.
This is far from the most unique attack you’ll face in this game.
Graphically, well, it’s an 8-bit game, so pixels abound. However, one needs only to look back at the history of the genre to see that pixel-based sprites and backgrounds can still be incredibly detailed and diverse, and Dragon Fantasy holds true to that standard. The character sprites, world map, and locations are all lovingly rendered, with an attention to detail that shows real care for aesthetics and level design. In addition, the in-combat sprites are more detailed and presented in a more high-quality cartoonish style, complete with limited combat animation. Meanwhile, the soundtrack provides some appropriate RPG-quality tunes as you traverse the world, with a surprisingly variety of tracks for different locations. Of course, obviously, if you’re looking for voice acting, you’re in the wrong game, as everything is presented through text. If I had one complaint about the dialogue, it would be that occasionally it slips into far too anachronistic a tone, inserting modern slang in an effort at humour that sometimes feels out of place.
It’s like he painted a picture with his words
- A love letter to old school RPGs
- Solid music and graphic design
- A decent “starter” RPG
- Four good stories for one low price!
- Massive grinding required
- Easy to get lost
- Bare-bones presentation
Overall, Dragon Fantasy: Book One is a good starting point from Muteki, and hopefully they’ll improve on this good base with their upcoming sequel. It pays excellent tribute to the past of JRPG’s, and provides a fun and whimsical series of tales that, while not as deep as bigger budget games, still hits the appropriate story points and keeps you interested. The grinding required may turn off some fans, but if you’re nostalgic for the ways RPGs used to be, this is a decent homage to days gone by. If you’ve got some time to kill and are a fan of a genre, the price is definitely right.
A loving tribute to 8-bit, showing that the old style can still provide some pretty good graphics
The game is easy to play, but it definitely doesn’t hold your hand, so pay attention to dialogue if you want to know where to go next. Combat is easy, with some frustrating quirks.
An upbeat and varied faux-midi soundtrack reminiscent of the genre
All three main stories are a decent length, padded by grinding. Replayability, as with most standard RPGs, is not really a factor
Old school fans will find a lot of nostalgia to like in Dragon Fantasy, and it’s so simple to play that it would be great for introducing new players