Dragon Fantasy has taken a very long time to come to the EU Playstation store. Launching on iOS in 2011 and in the US around a year or so ago, we’d pretty much given up on it ever seeing the light of day over here until it suddenly appeared without warning. It’s a game based heavily in the 8-bit RPG genre and takes us back to the days of a more simple adventure.
The game it split into three chapters, each of which follows the story of a different person. There’s Ogden, an aging knight looking to prove his worth and protect the kingdom, Prince Anders and the thieving pair of Jerald and Ramona. Any chapter can be played from the off but starting with Ogden is the best idea as they more or less run in chronological order.
The biggest influence on the game is very clearly the Dragon’s Quest series and this could easily be mistaken for one of the early games. The churches where you save are pretty much the same and some of the same mechanics are also in place. The general graphical style is also much closer to Dragon’s quest than other RPG’s.
The combat and systems are very basic compared to what we have come to expect. Combat is turn based and you can attack and cast spells but that is about it. You can change weapons and armour and explore a world map but there is nothing particularly fresh or innovative going on. That isn’t of course a bad thing as such as it allows for a stripped down game which is easily accessible and certainly fits mobile gaming fairly well.
The writing and story are also pretty decent. The characters are likable and there are some nice touches of humour going on. The problem comes when you hit a grinding wall. The system follows Dragon’s Quest in that when you die you are returned to the last church you saved at (losing half your gold). However, unlike most of Dragon’s Quest games we found ourselves getting bored very quickly when we couldn’t progress.
The main reason for this is that you seem to move forward at a snail’s pace sometimes. It can take a while to level up and if you are saving up for armour or weapons and get beaten you have to start over again. Combat also takes a bit too long with far too many button presses required to move text forward. It all ends up becoming a bit tired and the urge to progress soon begins to disappear.
The other major problem the game has is that for the same price you can pick up a host of PS1 and PSP RPG’s which are deeper and generally a bit more spectacular to play. That isn’t to take away from the development team here- it’s not realistic to expect a small studio to be developing titles to rival Final Fantasy VII. But the fact remains you could be playing that for around the same price.
We did start out having fun with the game but sadly it didn’t really hold our attention for more than a few hours. It’s too samey and the design of dungeons and enemies just doesn’t quite cut it on the PS3 and Vita. On iOS we can certainly see why it’s had success but it’s going to take a lot more than this to draw gamers away from the likes of Persona 4 or one of the many PS1 games on offer.
Overall, Dragon Fantasy tries to recreate a nostalgic buzz around early RPG’s, the problem is can you think of any truly iconic ones in terms of how they played? The great games tended to come in the sixteen bit era when the likes of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire really found their feet. What that means is that Dragon Fantasy is an interesting look back at the history of the genre but not one you want to spend any great amount of time with.