Dragon’s Crown, aside from Pikmin 3, is probably the most talked-about gaming title this week. And with reason. While the controversy surrounding, well, boobs has been the focus of attention, the game itself is actually worth a look.
Let’s start with the art style, since it’s the most controversial. Yes, these characters are… exaggerated, and it’s not just the Sorceress:
As you can see, the game’s art is a bit… over the top. Honestly, seeing it in action, it becomes so ridiculous you find yourself wondering if this is satire; the exaggerations are so absurd as to make you wonder. Take the Amazon, with her gigantic booty and a thong wedged so far up there she’s probably got a lovingly painted rash if you look close enough:
It’s even worse with the NPCs, which, while lushly depicted, also seem like they belong on the side of a van. It’s aggravating because the game is lovingly animated and often a joy to look at, but a bit insultingly puerile at the same time.
Dragon’s Crown is, plot-wise, a fairly straightforward game; you’re an adventurer, you’re with a bunch of other adventurers, the asses to kick are over there. It’s basically 2D Diablo in that respect.
What makes it work is, first of all, Vanillaware knows their way around digital crack. The nice thing is that all the character-building and level design is completely optional. If you want to just be a Fighter, which is a simple class to play, you can and play the game as a rowdy arcade style brawler. But, if you want to develop techniques and spells, you also have the option to do that, and the game rewards screwing around and spending experience points with new, fun ways to trash your foes.
On the ground, though, it’s button-mashing, albeit button-mashing with some entertainingly weird side-quests; Vanillaware throws a lot at the wall with those. Not that mindless button-mashing isn’t fun, but it’s the kind of game where you can put it down just as easy as you pick it up. There are plenty of enemy types, however, and again, if you want to block and parry you can, it’s just equally as easy to jam the “avoid” button and keep hitting attack. The enemies require different strategies. Where the game really shines, though are…
These actually deserve their own page not least because this is where a lot of the love came into play. While the game is never less than smooth, the boss encounters are really where it goes into overdrive, with the most animation, the most combat, and the most fun. They often require a lot more strategy and throw some needed variety into playing the game.
A lot of bosses in video games feel stale, repetitive, or annoying. Here, you’ll actually enjoy fighting a ridiculously overpowered beast, although you might do a little controller chucking. Which is why, in the end, you need to drag some friends along.
The game fairly smartly makes you go through the whole single-player campaign before unlocking multiplayer. This is really where the game shines; once you’ve got four humans on the stick the game starts to come into focus.
It’s the rare game where I’d actually recommend multiplayer over the single player. Local multiplayer is a hoot but even with no headsets, the extra players add something. The game flows smoothly enough and makes enough sense that you feel like part of a well-oiled machine.
All that said, it’s a tough call. This game is $50 on the PS3 and $40 on the Vita, and if you’re not into multiplayer, you’re going to burn through the single-player campaign in less than ten hours. Even then there are only nine stages, that you will visit over and over and over again. Combined with the repetitive core gameplay, that really makes it a judgment call. But if nothing else, it’s fun to watch. Here are a few more GIFs, to help you make up your mind.