The Legend of Dragoon

Before there was “Ico” or “Shadow of the Colossus”, SCE Japan Studio had its sight set on making a role-playing game that would become a “Final Fantasy Killer”. In 1999, SCE Japan Studio and Sony Computer Entertainment released “The Legend of Dragoon” for the PlayStation. The fantasy adventure would see some success in Japan, but Americans couldn’t get enough of the game as it was met with commercial success in North America. So what is the Legend of Dragoon and how does the JRPG hold up over twenty years since its release?

Story:
No RPG is can be complete without the critical aspect of the plot. It’s my favorite part of any video game and when perfected can create an entire universe dedicated to the story. The Legend of Dragoon centers around a young man named Dart who has been searching for the “Black Monster” who destroyed his hometown when he was a young child. Dart returns to his home after a five-year journey to find it in ruins, destroyed in a civil war between two kingdoms that are trying to rule the land of Serdian.

One of Dart’s childhood friends named Shana has been kidnapped and taken to the local prison where she will be held until the commander of the army can take her away as he has deemed her very special for unknown reasons. Dart goes on a rescue mission and sneaks into the prison where he meets Lavitz a knight fighting for King Albert who is trying to break out of the prison along with his soldiers. Dart, Lavitz, and Shana escape the prison after defeating the prison warden.

The trio help end the civil war of Serdian by fighting for King Albert and defending against attacks from Emperor Doel’s army. During these attacks, they meet Rose a mysterious woman warrior who has a great deal of knowledge on the history of the land. It is revealed that 11,000 years ago there was a massive war between Winglies who are a race of winged humans and humans. Humans used the power of Dragons captured inside small orbs to win the war and transform into Dragoons. Rose explains this and shows them the power of how to transform with the orbs they find throughout their journey.

One of the Winglys from the past wants to restore the former glory of their race and sets out to destroy the world so Winglies can reign supreme again. In order to do this, they need three special artifacts to complete the ritual where revolve around the moon (not literally) just moon themed. The rest of the game involves Dart recruiting characters to join his cause to save the world as they fight and defeat proponents to end the world. Shana is revealed to be the “moonchild” a child born every 108 years that can bring about the God of Destruction, Rose comes forward as the Black Monster who is 11,000 years old, Dart’s father is behind the plot of the end of the world (well he is possessed) and the biggest shock was when Lavitz died about a third of the way through the game! I couldn’t believe it and was crushed! King Albert joins your party and is almost exactly like Lavitz so in the end it’s not that big of a deal but I was still shocked.

The end of the journey sees Dart and friends defeat the God of Destruction, rescues Shana again, and everyone returning to their lives except Rose who dies in the initial blast at the end but honestly, it sounded like she wanted it and at 11,000 years old who can blame her? There is so much history that the writers put into the game, but I don’t have time to explain it all in this review. Overall, the story was great, a little long and confusing in the end but it’s a unique one.

Just a rad drawing of the Dragoons.

Gameplay:
The cutscenes really haven’t aged well as many of them are grainy with a lack of focus. That being said, I’m glad they are in the game but be prepared for some ugliness. There is voice-acting in the cutscenes which surprised me. The acting isn’t anything special but I appreciate the effort.

You’ll be able to run or walk with Dart throughout his journey and he controls very quickly. It was nice to be able to run through most environments instead of having to wade through them by walking or taking it slow. This sped up the game which was needed as my playthrough was about 75 hours. The game takes four discs to play so you know you are in for a long ride. Each city and environment felt unique and I didn’t feel like I was being cheated or cheaped when I entered a new area. Each one was different and each one had personality. Speaking of personality I loved all the characters. That’s very hard to do but the cast they surrounded Dart with was great. Characters today are so terrible with their personalities or appearances but The Legend of Dragoon had a perfect cast filled with personalities of all kinds and relationships that you watched grow. I thought Meru was very cute in the way she acted but she was probably near 700 years old as a Wingly.

Shana and Dart’s love story was a small part of the game but it was fun to watch them go on a date at the carnival or listen to them discuss their relationship while the others teased them. The relationship didn’t feel forced and they generally cared for each other. The writers didn’t overdo it with super cheesy lines or cringy scenes. They both cared for each other and the game displayed that through them and through other characters that commented on their relationship.

The story can get a little overwhelming and I was a bit annoyed that Zieg was revealed to be the father of Dart because how many times has that happened in movies or games already. The game tested my patience at the end because I just wanted it to be over with as it was a little long for my taste but still an amazing game through its entirety.

When you enter combat you’ll have a few options when defeating your enemy. I stuck with the same three characters throughout the game which was Dart, King Albert, and Haschal. You can attack with your weapon and deal additionally damage by hitting “X” during quick-time events. You can perform more advanced attacks that require more QTE as the game progresses. I’d say I was able to perform the QTE at around 75 percent. It’s not like God of War QTE where it’s very simple. Sometimes you’ll mess up because of the speed or counter-attack by the enemy which requires you to push circle instead of “x”. If you aren’t attacking with your weapon you can throw a magical item at them that attacks with elemental powers. Lastly, you can transform into your Dragoon which is a mech-like armor that gives you wings, powers up your attacks, and allows you to perform huge magical attacks. I saved my Dragoon status for boss fights and usually crushed the boss. I died only a few times throughout my game, once on the Dragon Buster guardian, once on a random battle where my characters were stunned, and the final boss killed me once because I came ill-prepared. Throughout the game, you’ll upgrade your weapons and various equipment through finding treasure chests or buying gear in stores. I had no issue spending money and at almost the entire game I had around 5,000 gold in my bank. Most items cost between 10-250 gold so it was no issue to buy anything.

Memories:
I have two different demo discs from my childhood with The Legend of Dragoon on them. The problem is I totally remembered the game wrong. I remember the QTE buttons during the battles but I believed Final Fantasy VIII was the Legend of Dragoon is an FMV movie so while I was playing the Legend of Dragoon for this review I kept wondering when that FMV clip would play and it never did! I discovered it was an attack in FFVIII after typing in the description. How silly of me!

Anyway, I do remember kids talking about the Legend of Dragoon in fifth and sixth grade. I don’t think anyone had it but we had played demos of it and thought it was awesome. It had been on my list for nearly twenty years to play and I finally got around to it. It was well worth the wait.

Overall:
The Legend of Dragoon didn’t kill Final Fantasy, but it’s well worth a playthrough. It will take you roughly 75 hours to complete but I never felt that I was level grinding and progressed through the story relatively easy. The cast of characters is fantastic and is the strongest point in the game. Each one feels unique and has a personality that separates them from the rest. The cutscenes are ugly but other than that I don’t have a lot of complaints. Someday I hope they remake the game.

The Legend of Dragoon scores a 9.4 out of 10.

Do you remember when The Legend of Dragoon first came out? What did you think of the story and cast of characters? Did you have any issues with the combat? What was the toughest boss? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!

If you’d like to own a copy of The Legend of Dragoon, you can purchase a used copy of it for PS1 from eBay for around $30.

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