Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Legend of Dragoon

 The Legend of Dragoon is the best game ever. If you are one of the people that think this you are a very bad person. Either that or the rose tinted mists of time are clouding your recollection of a game you played when you were young, foolish and knew no better. The Legend of Dragoon (LoD from now on before my fingers melt with hatred from typing it) technically isn’t the worst game of all time. It is however the most hateful.
So why is it the most hateful game ever? It’s a cynical corporate cash-in with no soul. I’ve played many bad games before but mostly their heart is usually in the right place; a lack of development time, money or a developer with high ambitions and without the talent to realise them are the usual reasons for failure. LoD however stinks of a designed by committee mentality. At the time due to the unexpected success of the Final Fantasy series the biggest genre around was the Japanese RPG. Sony decided it wanted a bite out of the pie and set about developing its own RPG franchise. After 3 years of development and satanic rituals LoD was unleashed on the world. 

This game wants so desperately to be Final Fantasy VII. The main protagonist with a stupid name, Dart, with his spiky blond hair, a big sword and a mysterious past that he can’t clearly remember is a blatant Cloud clone. His BFF Shana is the meek girl of the party with healing spells who might just have a mysterious power in case you haven’t already guessed. The rest of the party are utterly forgettable other than Rose who is a bit like a female Squall except with menstruation based attacks (I shit you not: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Wk-qvGucQ ). I actually kind of liked Rose, she acted less like a gormless bellend than the rest of the cast, but it wasn’t enough to save the rest of the game. The bad guy has silver hair and is trying to destroy the world. They couldn’t even change his hair colour to try to disguise the fact that they were trying to emulate Sephiroth. 

Some of the prerendered backgrounds can be pretty if a bit generic
 The storyline is generic textbook JRPG.  A globe-trotting quest to find mystical trinkets that in the wrong hands could destroy the world. An ancient, thought to be extinct civilisation called the Winglies (because they have wings and evidently zero imagination, fuck you localisation team!) is tied into it these events, just like Grandia or Breath of Fire. The whole story reads like the JRPG entry on TV Tropes. It throws around mystical mcguffins as an excuse to keep the plot moving. In an attempt to emulate the emotion of Aeris’s death in FFVII, LoD has its own death scene. Unfortunately this involves an annoyingly goody two shoes character whose death I’d been wishing for long before it was granted. If you did feel any emotional attachment to this character, any sense of loss is quashed when he is quickly replaced by another character with the same abilities. Actually, if you lose any character permanently they’ll be replaced in a similar manner, completely missing the point of why Aeris being missing from the party in FFVII was so successful in eliciting emotion from the player. Destroying what little enjoyment you could have gleamed from the awful plot is one of the worst localisations ever, bereft of any soul or emotion, countless grammatical errors and horrendous voice-acting.

I’ve played and enjoyed a lot of RPGs with hackneyed stories but LoD has worse issues than its story. What makes the game unbearable is the gameplay. The random encounter rate isn’t too high but the battle system is so slow that it kills any pace the game has. The battle system is based on ‘additions’. In a tragic attempt to add some real time involvement to the battle system every time you attack you can extend your attack by timing button presses to an on screen indicator. This might seem like a good idea but as the game progresses, additions get longer and battles drag on even more. As you progress in the game your characters gain the ability to transform into a Dragoon, accompanied by long transformation sequences. You gain an attack bonus but the timing on the additions is so strict you end up doing less damage the majority of the time. Also Dragoon transformations are the only way to cast magic other than using items. All magic spells result in long animations similar to the summons in Final Fantasy prolonging battles further. Another well meaning but ultimately ridiculous addition to the battle system is that healing characters requires you to defend which gives you 10% of your maximum health. During particularly tough battles this defend mechanic can really drag out battles. You can use items to recover health but they are usually in short supply since the amount of items you can carry is extremely limited and mostly taken up by elemental spell items since if you run into a boss and your characters are the wrong element then it can really screw you over. One of the party members has a dragoon spell that can heal but it takes forever to charge up and use her dragoon transformation and she’s fairly useless so you can’t rely on it. Long drawn out battles can really ruin an RPG. There’s nothing worse than getting into a battle in a dungeon that is so long that when it’s over you have forgotten where it was that you were headed to. Due to the length of dragoon transformations and the fact that you basically only have a single attack, the battle system is completely devoid of any sort of strategy and the battle cries like ‘Rod Typhoon!’ will drive you insane.

Technically the game is a mess as well. For a game released at the end of 1999 it only looks slightly better than FFVII. Most of the character models are barely texture mapped and using the same gouraud shaded polygons as seen in FFVII. Compare that to FFVIII released earlier that year or Metal Gear Solid the year before with their detailed and fully textured models and environments and LoD looks very dated. The battle engine also runs at around 10 frames per second. This is a major problem for a game which relies on timing since it introduces lag into the controls and makes the timing of the addition attacks a lot more difficult than they should be. The timing of button presses for additions is before when the game indicates you should press the button. Some of the pre-rendered backgrounds do look nice and whenever water effects are present they look remarkably good. The CGI cutscenes are of a high quality but there’s very few of them. The game comes on 4 CD’s but with the lack of CGI cutscenes I honestly don’t see what was taking up all that memory. The soundtrack has its fans but I’m not one of them. There are a few good tunes but the rest of it ranged from unremarkable to downright awful. The battle theme in particular is obnoxious and it’s the tune you’ll be hearing the most of. 

Meru manages to be the most annoying character in the game, a feat in and of itself
LoD really isn’t the worst games ever, there’s some really frustrating games or games that are unplayable messes due to bugs and bad programming. However it’s just such a corporate exercise that I can’t help but hate it. There’s not an original idea in the game and it’s all put together with such a corporate mentality, ticking all the right boxes to appeal to the masses. What is hard to understand is the rabid fanbase the game has built up. I’m guessing most of these people played the game when they were much younger, impressionable and didn’t have much experience with JRPGs to compare it to. The attack on the review at the Gaming Intelligence agency, a perfectly fair and reasonable review, really doesn’t paint them in the best light:
I’m sorry if I hurt some feelings with this review but it’s a game that really gets under my skin and makes me hyperbolic. If you do think that the game holds up, try it again with some newfound maturity and experience because it really is a shallow and boring game. Just don’t pay the ridiculous Ebay prices for it. It really isn’t worth it.

Disengaging rant mode!


  1. You're being deliberately vague aren't you? Come on now, tell us what you really think of the game :)

  2. Well if you want I'll go into more detail.

    Legend of Dragoon is a load of me arse :)

  3. 'Rod Typhoon!' that hilarious! I was working for Babbage's (now GameStop) when this came out. It looked like utter shit then and I'm glad I never touched it.

  4. I think the worst and most nonsensical one is after one of Rose's additions, she keeps saying 'Die, more and more!'. I kind of miss Sonys PS1 localisations sometimes.

  5. fag :) LOD is the best rpg of its time, maybe second to FFVII

  6. I love how you manage to sum up everything wrong with the games fanbase in just one sentence.

  7. There are good movies and bad movies in cinema.
    But there's NO "good games" or "bad games" in gaming.
    There's only "games".
    People just plays what they enjoy the most. People just plays what makes them have fun time. It's simple as that.
    Just because you didn't like this game, you can't tell people "it's bad! don't play it!"... Why? Because this is not cinema! There's no "bad" or "good" in gaming.

    Now excuse me, i'm gonna buy this on eBay for the third time. Oh, I'll also buy some Final Fantasy games. Because I love RPGs. I'm not a picky asshole.

    1. I'm not sure what you are on about because I think you'll find there's no good or bad films either, just films that people enjoy, the same with games. It's absolute nonsense to say otherwise about either, look at rotten tomatoes and you'll see many reviewers disagree about even the most highly regarded films. As they say, 'there's no accounting for taste' and it can be applied to anything.

      All a review is is an expression of someones personal opinion and it's my personal opinion that it's one of the worst JRPGs in the PS1's library and I make points to back this up. This is also a point of view that many of my peers in videogame journalism express as well including all experts in JRPGs. All I did was give my informed opinion about the game that differs from the vocal fanbase this game which seems to be trying ti's hardest to make this game seem like the overlooked classic it really isn't.

      So go ahead and buy the game for the third time on ebay, I'm not really going to care and you're not hurting anyone. I just think you have pretty poor taste in games but sure we all have our guilty pleasures, mine being Castlevania Adventure.

    2. My only guilty pleasure is Batman Forever on Sega Genesis.
      Also, fans really trying to make this game seem like an overlooked classic? Wow...

      So, when you say "it's a bad game", it's an opinion.
      But when people say "it's a good game", it's "trying too hard to make it seem like the overlooked classic."
      I mean, how could they express their opinions like you did?! Burn 'em! Burn 'em all!!

  8. C'mon...Seriously, there's so much fail in this review...
    "The Legend of Dragoon is the best game ever. If you are one of the people that think this you are a very bad person"
    => So you can tell if someone's bad or not based on the fact that they like a game? Well THAT makes you a moron, sir.
    You didn't even tried to be a little objective here, you just summed up the game's weaknesses, that's all.
    Legend of Dragoon is at least a good game and one of the greatest RPGs of the PSOne, there's nothing to add here, you can say that you don't like it/hate it but why trying so hard to prevent people from buying this wonderful game?
    Sorry dude, but if it has a solid fanbase and was praised for its original battle system, awesome story/background and general epicness, it's entirely justified, if anything, YOU have a pretty poor taste in games.
    I don't really care about your answer/lack of answer, I have nothing else to do here, if I wanna see shit like this, I might as well read Twilight.
    Have a nice day.

    1. Well that comment was hyperbole and not meant to be taken seriously, not sure how that makes me a moron. There's no need to be rude either, it's the lowest form of debate when you attack the person and not the subject.

      Also I did try to be objective but really there's not much good to be said for the game.I certainly isn't one of the greatest RPGS on the playstation, I'd rank it as one of the worst. Also when was Legend of Dragoon praised for any of those things you mention because in all the professional reviews I've read the game is criticised for the poor story and the battle system which is terrible and not original since it just takes ideas from Super Mario RPG and Squalls Gunblade in FFVIII and makes it terrible. As for putting people off buying the game, well I hope it means some people don't waste their money on this poor game and instead buy something much better like Grandia or Panzer Dragoon Saga.

      I've no love for Twilight but I'll tell you one thing that is true about it, it's got better writing than Legend of Dragoon.

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  10. It is my favourite game and I think that it is better than Final Fantasy VII. Why is it better?
    First of all, I don't know another RPG with a wider variety of settings: it has a volcano, deserts, a glacier, forests, castles, caves, a ghost ship, etc. Tell me another RPG with more settings if you know one.
    "The bad guy has silver hair and is trying to destroy the world. They couldn’t even change his hair colour to try to disguise the fact that they were trying to emulate Sephiroth". => And how do you know this? I don't think so. They have very different personalities and characteristics. Sephiroth is the strength, the power. He is the typical bad guy in a game. Lloyd is a different kind of bad guy. He is the speed, the agility. By the way, Lloyd doesn't want to destroy the world.
    "The storyline is generic textbook JRPG". => What are you saying? Isn't it original the truth about the Black Monster? Sephiroth had bad intentions since he destroyed Nibelheim. Can you say the same about the Black Monster? The intentions of Sephiroth are more predictable than the intentions of the Black Monster.
    Legend of Dragoon is also a longer game. The first disc of FFVII is very long, but the other two are short. On the contrary, LoD has four discs and they all have a considerable length.
    In FFVII almost every boss has the same mechanics in disc 2 and 3: use big guard and your best summons and you'll win easily.
    "If you did feel any emotional attachment to this character, any sense of loss is quashed when he is quickly replaced by another character with the same abilities". In Legend of Dragoon each character has his own elemental affinity. This elemental system can be compared with the FF job system. Therefore, you need a character who can cast spells of the same element. It would be unfair not to be able to use spells of this element anymore. Nevertheless, I agree with you that this new character could have used a different weapon.
    Anyway, I think that FFVII is a hyped game. People see Sephiroth walking through fire and they easily get impressed.

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  12. If you don't answer me, I cannot know your opinion. If you think my reply is choking, tell me why. Yes, FFVII is an amazing game and it has a great story. I loved the Midgar part and the Turks. However, there have been RPGs I have more enjoyed: LOD, Baten Kaitos, Final Fantasy X, etc

    1. Well if you want a response ok.

      Firstly I'm not sure why you bring up FFVII so much. I think the game is great but vastly overrated by its fanbase, there's far superior RPGs out there. I just mention it because it's very obvious that LoD was created as a piece of corporate focus testing rather than with any kind of artistic input since it apes FFVII so much, which at the time was the biggest RPG around.

      As for the wide variety of settings, it doesn't matter if the settings aren't interesting. What you just named off sound like the settings for your average 90's platform game. There's no originality there. I'm sorry but I'm not impressed by any game that has a forest world, ice world, fire world and the ghost ship has been done to death in other RPGs.

      Can you honestly say that Lloyd wasn't an attempt by the creators to ape Sephiroth considering how the rest of the game apes FFVII and how similar he looks. The vast majority of the game consists of the party following Lloyd around the world, a carbon copy of FFVII's second act. He might not have wanted to destroy the world but it's pretty much what he was doing unknowingly. His looks, mannerisms, actions (killing a player character) and backstory (a member of a long thought to be extinct race) are obviously ripped out of FFVII. Of course there are minor differences, it can't be exactly the same, but most of the game is a blatant rip off of better works. In terms of bad guys he isn't even as good as Sephiroth, who I think is very poor with some poorly written motivations for what he did but at least he had screen presence. If you put Lloyd up against the true great videogame villians like Suikoden 2's Luca Blight and SHODAN from System Shock he's fairly laughable.

      I'm sorry but the story is generic JRPG. There's not an original bone in the games plot. You mention the black monster. So one of the player characters has been one of the bad guys all along, I saw it coming because it's been done to death in other RPGs. To name one, FFVII with Cait Sith. The world is boring and uninteresting, I already went through the uninteresting locations and the ancient race thing is so cliche. They even end up in the Moon at the end, which I remember happening in FFIV and Grandia 2.

      Yes Legend of Dragoon is a long game but as Shakespeare said 'brevity is the soul of wit'. I don't mind RPGs that are long as long as they don't outstay their welcome and keep you engaged with great content. Persona 3 and 4 and Fallout 3 are much longer games than LoD but are much better. LoD really gets dull very quickly and its length is padded out with boring fetch quests that add nothing to the game. FFVII on the other hand is shorter but is far better paced, never losing the players interest and always having something around the corner to reward the player. LoD drags really badly in comparison. A lot of the game could have been cut and it would have been a better game for it. Some of my favourite RPGs are very short by RPG standards, Mother 3 and Panzer Dragoon Saga to name two, it's not a bad thing to have a short game time as long as it's fun and interesting, two areas LoD fails miserably in.

    2. Have to split this in two:

      I have to agree that FFVII doesn't have a great battle system. It's very simplistic and the materia system is very basic. However battles are snappy, quick affairs and despite the games lack of challenge and depth the battle system never proves annoying. I can't say that about LoD. It quite honestly has the worst battle system of any RPG. The addition system drags out battles to ridiculous lengths and since your only offensive option is to attack it makes battles really boring. It's not even an original system either since it is basically FFVIII's gunblade system and Super Mario RPGs systems done very badly. Shadow Hearts came along later and showed how a similar system could actually work well. As it stands it's an even more basic system than FFVII with battles that last longer than they should and kill the pace of the game. The dragoon transformations don't add much to the game either with spells best kept for bosses and attacks that do so little extra damage it's not worth sitting through the transformation animation. Another annoyance is how if you take the wrong characters into a boss battle it can lead to a very prolonged fight due to bad mismatching of elemental affinities through no fault of your own, a serious flaw in the battle design.

      So there's a few more reasons why I consider LoD to be up there with Beyond the Beyond as one of the worst RPGs of the PS1 era. I'm not a big fan of FFVII but it's far better than LoD and at least it's a great, fun romp. I can't really say the same for LoD. It's just so creatively bankrupt and seems to have been designed by business men trying to cash in on FFVII's success. It's got no heart. It's not a broken game or one so buggy that it's beyond being playable. It's solidly made. It's just that it's just so uninteresting and bland and looking back at it now with more maturity it makes sense why I never liked the game. I'm a huge RPG fan and should have loved it but playing it was like being patronised by the people that made it. It has no heart, no passion.

  13. IMO the worst aspect of LoD is that its battle system tends to depend so much on physical attacks. Maybe it is the main reason why you find it dull. This said, I am sure it isn't the worst battle system and is, for example, better than the FFVIII one. Have you ever played Shadow Madness? It really has a bad battle system.

    Seriously, are you comparing a mere spy with the Black Monster? This game may be full of clichés, but they fit well and the story has memorable elements. I can feel passion here: the epic track of Indels Castle, the crazy boss battles...

    1. It's not just that it relies on physical attacks, it's that physical attacks are pretty much the only thing you can use in battle. Even the spells which are very limited since you can only use them in dragoon form only serve the same function as physical attacks by doing more damage, the only real exception being Meru and Roses attacks and even they aren't exactly interesting mechanically. There's really no depth to it.

      You compare it to FFVIII which had a horribly broken battle system but I would say gloriously broken. There's two ways to play that game. You can ignore or not understand the junction system and only use GF summons which leads to a very boring game with long winded battles. However the real fun of FFVIII comes from using the junction system and finding ways to break the game wide open which loads of fun. If you understand how the junction system works, summons become obsolete. There's a lot more depth there than Dragoon ever had.

      Eh, Shadow Madness. Well yeah that game was a complete disaster :)

      Yeah I am comparing a spy to the Black Monster. It's not original. To take another example there was Kain in FFIV. Rose is however the most interesting character in the game despite having a Squall complex. However that isn't saying much when everyone else in the party has no personality.

  14. Well I said that about FFVIII because I played the game that way you say and I remember defeating Fujin with two physical attacks although I didn't extract spells from enemies (I only had to transform items into magic). Yes, it's a deeper system, but if you're an experienced RPG gamer, the game becomes easy. However the monster design is really good.

    In LoD physical attacks are not the only thing. You can also use spell items. I beat the game without using restorative items, so you can carry up to 32 offensive spells.