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Dragon's Crown

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A.
Developer: Vanillaware
Release Date: May 15, 2018

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Dragon's Crown Pro'

by Joseph Doyle on March 21, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Dragon's Crown Pro is a 2D hack and slash, beat 'em up action game where players will be bludgeoning, cleaving, shooting and looting their way through intricate side-scrolling dungeons.

Buy Dragon's Crown Pro

Side-scrolling beat-'em-ups are largely a genre of the past: Golden Axe, River City Rampage, The Simpsons, Streets of Rage, etc. Indie developers in the years since have used side-scrolling gameplay extensively, but the pairing with the beat-'em-up game type has fallen largely by the wayside, revived through a few games here and there, such as Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, but little else. Vanillaware decided to take on the challenge of modernizing and expanding on the genre, adding more in-depth RPG and gameplay elements, and taking a dramatic turn with the art style. Dragon's Crown Pro offers a lot in terms of gameplay but ends up lacking in the graphical and narrative departments.

While I only had a limited amount of time with Dragon's Crown Pro, the story presented to me in that period was both simplistic and underdeveloped. The game begins with your character sitting across from Rannie the Rogue in a high fantasy bar, and he ushers you through the tutorial dungeon and eventually to the tavern menu, where you can level up, save, etc. Before all of this, you're told that you were a young adventurer with little action under your belt, met Rannie, and because he can pick locks, you roll together now. The story is literally conveyed in four sentences, and then the game starts up. The beginning of the plot could not be less impressive if it tried.

The game stumbles on like this, with you leaving the tavern and being able to access new parts of the city quickly and rather unceremoniously. With this relatively limp narrative comes a faux choice system; if you make the wrong choice in the narrative, the game says that you're wrong and makes the correct choice for you. This begs the question, "Why bother to include this at all"? Any way you slice it, Dragon's Crown Pro's story is incredibly lackluster and unimaginative.

The star player of the game is the sheer fun of beating the absolute snot out of peons. Dragon's Crown Pro offers a solid traditional side-scrolling beat-'em-up experience while adding RPG elements in a fun and effective fashion. As you begin the game, you're given a choice of characters — amazon (barbarian woman), dwarf, wizard, and a few more. There D&D parallels in the classes and the setting, with all of them huddled around a tavern table, drinking and having lively conversation. After this and the narrator's curt introduction to both you and the story, the game introduces you to the core mechanics: mashing the attack button while adding a jumping attack or a power move every once in a while. This gets you through the dungeon so you can solve a trivial task. Rannie grants you access to locked doors and chests, where you find weapons and accessories and begin our foray into the RPG mechanics.

I digress for now — you exit the tutorial as a smarter player, and you progress to the guild, where you're given your first quest to set up the rhythm of quest, return, repeat that you'll encounter for the duration of the game. This isn't to knock it; the simplicity of the system is a strength, since it allows the player to focus on the game mechanics rather than searching endlessly for the next task or objective. Dragon's Crown Pro almost leans into its own genre through this straightforward process, which is much appreciated.

Once you take on a quest, you exit the city, and after a short cut scene setting up the quest narrative for the dungeon, you begin to hack and slash (or hack and cast, if you chose a magic wielder) through the location's 7-10 rooms. You reach the end, beat the boss, and review your score. When you return, you get to look over all of the cool goodies you found in the dungeon, and you decide whether to pay to uncover what they are and keep them, or to sell your loot without knowing what it was. It's an interesting system that preys on one's sense of fiscal responsibly or need to satiate curiosity, and I ended up being a little torn at these points.

You also collect experience from the dungeon crawls, which level you up and give you points to distribute in different skills, like powering up your special move or enhancing your character's class ability. This is all well and good, and it adds some much-needed variety to the generic beat-'em-up, but one of the most intriguing parts of this game is your party. As introduced at the Guild, you can collect bones that you find in the dungeons and resurrect them to create extra party members. While this may seem a little banal at first, it really expands on how hard you can bash the enemy, and it makes the bosses much easier. These additions to the relatively formulaic style of the side-scrolling beat-'em-up are not only appreciated but also breathe new life into the genre.

The art and sound in Dragon's Crown Pro are daring and middling, respectively. I have never felt more interested or confused during the title sequence of a game until I watched this. It begins by showing us the first character, the amazon woman, clad only in a metal bikini, heaving as the camera zooms in. The sexualization of the female characters is offensive. In this intro, each character is static but made to look like he/she is moving by some animation of their different parts being pushed and pulled around. This is strange in its own right but is compounded by the colored pencil art style. It comes off as somewhat grotesque and uninspired. While the backgrounds are perfectly fine, the character design is inappropriate. There's significantly less to say about the music, which is best described as adequate. There's a nice folksy flute that plays in the town area, driving beats in dungeon, etc. The music fits with the game's aesthetic.

Dragon's Crown Pro makes strides in updating the side-scrolling beat-'em-up genre by incorporating light RPG mechanics well. The overall setting and simplicity of getting into the game are intriguing, but the art style is jarring, and the story paper-thin. While I understand the latter is not the reason to play this type of game, it's frustrating to see and feel how flimsy it comes off. The gameplay is solid, and the innovations are intriguing, but the rest of Dragon's Crown Pro is rather shallow.

Score: 6.5/10

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