Review: Dragon Fantasy Book I
In playing Dragon Fantasy Book I you can tell that the developers of Muteki Corporation are big fans of classic JRPG’s, before gorgeous cutscenes, confusing battle systems, and bloated conversations were the norm. These games were something special, and while my fascination with RPGs came at the beginning of the SNES-era I have spent plenty of time going back and playing those 8-bit gems. Because of that I got pretty excited when I heard that Dragon Fantasy was making its way to PSN, and I am glad to say that my excitement was justified.
You could easily be fooled into believing that Dragon Fantasy was released back in the late 80’s. The tile and sprite based graphics are well done and the music sounds like it was pulled straight from the NES, which brought a pretty big smile to my face. For the PSN release of Dragon Fantasy the creators also included an enhanced mode, which ups the graphics and sounds to the 16-bit era. Switching between modes just takes a trip to the options menu and while both stylings are different, they are both excellent and I had a hard time choosing one that I liked best and spent most of the game switching between the two every 20 minutes or so.
Besides the graphics and sounds, the gameplay also has that classic feel to it. The game brings back random battles in full force as you walk around the world map and dungeons with battles happening frequently. The turn based battles happen in a windowed first person view with battle animations simply being the enemies’ picture flipping back and forth when they attack you, with your only options being to fight, use magic, use an item, or run away. Old RPG traditions are also used like NPC’s breaking the 4th wall by telling you about a game mechanic but not really knowing what it means, facing stronger palette swapped versions of monsters found early in the game, and being sent back to the last save point when you die but loosing half your gold (a mechanic which I really wish was still present in RPGs these days, nothings worse than dying in battle and losing hours of progress).
The game also offers a decent challenge, you won’t be able to just breeze on through. This means that at times you will have to do some grinding. But I found that you are in and out of battles quickly so it doesn’t take long to hit that next level or get the gold to get something a little better than a stick to hit enemies. Overall as long as I kept my equipment up to date and I was pretty liberal with my healing I got through the game without too much trouble, while still feeling that the enemies and bosses were challenging.
While I enjoyed the mechanics of Dragon Fantasy I did run into a few problems. In battles I found that the hit rate for both me and the enemies seemed a little low. While my stats stated my hit rate was in in the 90’s I frequently had fights were I would miss multiple times in a row (once up to eight) which I found very frustrating. Thankfully though Muteki seems to be diligent at listening to fan feedback and the hit rate has already been modified on the PS3 which seems to alleviate the issue and a patch is in the works for Vita which will do the same. I also experienced some other issues, such as items disappearing from a store until I exited and talked to the store keep again or the cursor blending into the menu text (since they both turn slightly different shades of red when low on health), but these problems were minor overall.
Warning: Playthrough Preview may contain spoilers.
Dragon Fantasy is split up into three different chapters plus a bonus intermission and while you can start with either one I would suggest tackling them in order. Each chapter has you taking control of a new character: Ogden, an old and bald semi-retired knight, Anders, brother of the captured prince of Wester, and Jerald, a thief of the desert city Sandheim. Ogden’s chapter is the longest and is considered to be the main story of the game, while Anders and Jerald’s chapters flesh it out a bit and set up the story for Book II. What’s also interesting is that Anders and Jerald’s chapters introduce some new mechanics which keeps things interesting. Anders has the ability gain party members, which adds a bit more strategy to Ogden’s solo battles, and Jerald uses skills in battle instead of spells and is the only chapter where you face multiple monsters in a fight. New mechanics can also be seen in the intermission which takes place on an island that just so happens to be a Minecraft sever and adds in crafting and monster gathering to the mix, which while short and lacking depth I found to be quite amusing.
Just like the classics the story in Dragon Fantasy is pretty straightforward but quite enjoyable and refreshing compared to the convoluted stories you usually experience these days. Muteki has infused a lot of humor throughout too, including throwbacks to other RPGs/games and references to pop-culture which got a few chuckles and grins from me. This is also present during battles with each monster having flavor text to go along with its entrance/death and attack. If you don’t mind spoilers you can see some of the humor in the Playthrough Preview above.
With Dragon Fantasy, Muteki has created a classic feeling RPG with visible influences from some of the greats. The gameplay has been brought back to the basics that fans of the genre know and love while still taking advantage of the technology with such things as offering a quick save option, the ability to use the Vita’s touch screen in menus and battles, and being able to cross save between the PS3 and Vita. While the frequent random battles, difficulty, and grinding might turn some players off I dived into it with open arms and very much enjoyed my time with the game. Now all I want to know is: when can I get my hands on Book II?
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- Wonderful soundtrack and graphics
- Two visual/sound modes
- Classic RPG gameplay
- Humor and pop culture/game references
What I Dislike:
- The short length of the intermission
- Frequently missing enemies time after time in battle
- Some small glitches