At first glance, Dragon’s Crown resembles arcade classics Double Dragon and Final Fight, but in fact it has more in common with Action RPGs than with traditional beat ‘em up titles. After spending 18 hours with the game, Dragon’s Crown is not only a deep and rewarding adventure, but one of the most addicting online cooperative games that have graced both the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 3.
The main town in the beautiful and colorful land of Hydeland gives players access to a tavern, shop, guild, and more, to customize their characters, upgrade equipment, purchase items or recruit allies by resurrecting collected piles of bones. The six distinct classes have different styles when it comes to combat, giving a fresh feeling to the game when played with multiple characters. The Fighter and Amazon for example, slaughter enemies using a hack-and-slash approach, while the Wizard, a class for “expert” players, focuses on powerful offensive spells, requiring you to keep your distance. Characters can be customized from the name, skin, voice (English or Japanese), skills, and even different text messages that will pop up during the game. Dragon’s Crown’s skill system separates all the abilities into two main categories; class-based and common.
Containing only nine different fantasy themed locations, each one features bright rich colors, and small details that bring them to life. The sheer amount of spells and visual effects can clutter the screen, becoming quite easy to temporarily lose sight of your character. With dozens of quests to complete, only a handful can be accepted at any given moment, giving you a reason to continually return to the town in order to accept new quests. The incredible bosses are the highlights of each location, and you’ll catch yourself watching the game for moments at a time instead of focusing on the incoming attacks. It’s hard not to watch the hand-drawn character animations, as you face giant Cyclopes escaping from prison, the Kraken as it tries to wrap its tentacles around your ship, among others.
Using an on-screen cursor, you direct the Thief to open all treasure chests and locked doors that you come across. Rune symbols in the background can be activated using a combination of three different runes, releasing hidden magic with various outcomes.
Unlike the PS3 version of the game, the Vita version features intuitive controls thanks to the touch screen, which replaces the need of the right analog stick (it can be used if you want) to move the cursor. On the downside the PlayStation Vita’s frame rate chugs along when the proverbial shit hits the fan and visual effects from spells engulf the screen. The PS3 version however runs silky smooth, but you don’t have the convenience of touch screen controls. Dragon’s Crown doesn’t support cross-play or cross-buy functionality (a true shame), but if you happen to purchase both versions of the game, you can transfer saves between the two.
Dragon’s Crown can become quite a grind, as you go through the same nine locations repeatedly in order to gain more experience and new equipment. Playing multiplayer – either online or local – helps alleviate the grind, as human players will adapt to the different locations with new strategies. Local multiplayer can be accessed from the start, but story progress is locked to only Player One with the remaining characters only gaining experience. Online multiplayer however is kept behind an in-game “paywall” until reaching a set spot in the narrative.
Dragon’s Crown is the PlayStation Vita hit that gamers have been looking for years. Featuring just about the same experience on both platforms, both versions have their strengths and weaknesses. While its not a traditional New Game +, beating the game will unlock a new Hard Mode that changes various gameplay elements, as well as the difficulty to provide an additional challenge as you go through the same set of locations once again. If you are looking to purchase only one version however, I would go with the PlayStation Vita version of the game due to the intuitive touch screen controls and the ability to play online anywhere with an active internet connection.
Note: The Dragon’s Crown review was written based primarily on the Vita version of the game. The PS3 build was play tested for any noticeable differences. Both versions of the game were provided to use for review.