Dragon’s Crown is a modernisation of the old side-scrolling beat ’em ups like Final Fight and, more specifically, the D&D side-scrolling beat ’em ups like Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. These were arcade games, back in the day, where you’d control a 2D character moving constantly (usually) to the right, beating up a succession of enemies and bosses to get to the end.
Dragon’s Crown is a bit more developed than that, in that it has a fully featured equipment system (and your appearance changes appropriately!). You can enhance and advance your character, undertake quests, play together, work alongside NPCs and so it has a lot more depth and length to it as a game.
Gameplay is, mostly, simple (more complex if you play a mage) but there are little touches that add to it – searching the screen for treasure, assessing equipment, revisiting old places as you uncover new secrets, levelling up.
What really sells the game is its art which, considering this was the target of the most criticism in the lead up to release (and the reason I bought it because I’m a contrarian) and the most controversy. On the one hand many people considered the art to be horribly sexist – largely based on the Sorceress’ boobs and the Amazon’s arse – and horribly distorted, based on the exaggerated style.
Here’s the thing though. It works. It really, really works.
The game plays like you’ve stepped into a painting. Every character animation is full of character and fun. The exaggerations help that a great deal if anything as well as making it easier to spot your character on the screen when things get busy. Every background is gorgeous, every piece of still art adds to the whole. It’s a glorious experience to play and breathtakingly smooth, playing a comic, playing a cartoon film – one of the better ones.
I don’t think it’s for everyone, but for those who remember the old side scrollers and have a love of anime and fantasy it’s an essential buy. Just make sure you have a bit of a sense of humour, especially when it comes to boobs.
Style: 5 – Perfect.
Substance: 4 – There’s nothing ‘new’ here, but the ways in which depth and play time has been added to the genre is clever and effective.