Dragon’s Crown Review
If you want to see gaming in its purest form, look no further than the mighty beat-em-up. Beating up everything in sight with a friend in tow is something anybody can enjoy. The genre has all but died out, but Vanillaware has made it rise from its grave with Dragon’s Crown. Does this brawler channel the best of beat-em-ups, or should the dead stay buried?
Dragon’s Crown’s world of Hydeland is your typical fantasy world, one familiar to anybody who has enjoyed a fantasy-themed book or movie in the past 100 years. Filled with magic, mystery, and monsters, its got all the fantasy staples that would-be adventurers have come to know and love. It’s even got a weathered narrator! Despite offering a lengthy tale filled with royal drama and the ultimate object of power, the plot merely serves as window dressing for the meaty combat.
But what window dressing it is! Dragon’s Crown presentation is downright beautiful, complete with detailed sprites and not a single bit of slowdown whatsoever. Even little details are captured, right down to the specific weapon your Sorceress/Fighter/Dwarf/Elf/Amazon/Wizard has equipped. If anything, this level of detail can sometimes work against the game — with so much to take in, it can hard to find your hero when things get heated.
This detail is even more impressive when one considers the amount of content the game offers. Beat-em-ups are not usually known for their length, but Dragon’s Crown offers more than 20 hours of playtime for each of its six main characters. There are a set amount of levels that play like a traditional beat-em-up, but the foundation has been overhauled with action-RPG underpinnings that extend the core game a considerable amount. Sidequests, treasure hunts, alternate routes, and teammate recruitment are all neatly tied into a hub town that allow for easy travel. Grinding is a must for those who crave the best gear (much less the true ending), but boredom rarely rears its ugly head.
To help you on your quest to become the best, Dragon’s Crown offers a control scheme that will make brawlers right at home. Jump attacks, charges, grabs, spells, and special moves all carry a considerable amount of weight to them, making each attack sound (and feel) painful. A combo system makes it easy to jump into the fray, one that encourages newcomers and discourages button mashers. Scoping out treasure in the background with the right analog stick encourages discovery, but one has to practically stand still to take advantage of this feature. It is somewhat disappointing to see some of the more advanced moves locked up for those at a higher level, but Dragon’s Crown doles them out at a frequent enough interval to make leveling easy.
Dragon’s Crown is a reminder as to what made the beat-em-up genre so popular in the first place. Not only does it have that pick-up-and-play quality that made the arcades hopping in the 90s, it also adds its own modern-day touch that tailors the experience for console play. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old-school gamer or new — Dragon’s Crown has got that universal appeal.
Dragon’s Crown captures the beat-em-up spirit of old while still bringing something new to the table