Anticipation has been high for the release of Dragon’s Crown in European territories and for good reason. The game combines side-scrolling beat ‘em up mechanics with co-op action RPG gameplay to great effect, and Vanillaware’s distinctive hard-drawn artwork and animation make for a very visually appealing game whether you’re playing it on PS3 or PS Vita.
Dragon’s Crown’s plot takes place in a medieval fantasy setting filled with knights, sorceresses and supernatural beings. At the beginning of the game you choose one of six characters hailing from different classes and embark on a journey to ultimately recover the Dragon’s Crown which is said to grant the wearer control over dragons. The first half of the game is fairly narrative-heavy as you meet key figures and come to grips with its gameplay systems. After this point a second path opens up in each dungeon leading to a new boss battle which grants you an important item. It’s also around this stage of the game that you can join other players’ parties or have them join you for online co-op dungeon crawls.
Each character in Dragon’s Crown has distinctive abilities and weapons. For example, the elf can fire arrows and create whirlwinds while the sorceress can shoot bolts of lightning, fire balls or ice from her staff. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is equipping more powerful weapons and unlocking new skills as you level up. Levelling up earns you skill points which you can sink into a wide variety of character-specific or general abilities, and you can only equip weapons or armour which correspond to your character level. For example, you may find a super powerful level 26 staff in one of the game’s dungeons but since you’re only level 24 you now have a great incentive to do some more dungeon crawling so that you can equip this weapon.
If you don’t have any friends to join you via local or online multiplayer then you can always call on the services of resurrected warriors – the bones of whom you find during dungeon crawls. Putting three powerful AI characters in your party can make the game a bit too easy on its normal difficulty setting so you’ll need to experiment with how many and which players to bring with in order to make for fairer fights.
Gamers wishing to purchase Dragon’s Crown on PS3 or PS Vita have a somewhat difficult task ahead of them if they own both consoles. Despite supporting Cross-Save, the game isn’t a Cross-Buy title so you’ll need to pick one or the other if you don’t have the cash for both. The PS Vita version of Dragon’s Crown is around $10 cheaper than it is on PS3 so this is definitely a factor worth considering. While both versions are identical from a content perspective, there are other differences worth noting which will be the focus of the next section of this review.
Dragon’s Crown is a beautiful game packed with visual detail and nuanced environmental, character and enemy animations. While the game’s colour palette may appear more vibrant on the PS Vita’s OLED screen, you’ll appreciate Dragon’s Crown sumptuous visuals a lot more on PS3 thanks to the game’s 1080p resolution which allows you to see even the smallest detail such as your character blinking in impressive clarity. There are many more nuanced environmental animations to appreciate in the game’s town area than in its dungeons, but in the latter zones there are lots of character and enemy animations to absorb which you won’t necessarily pick up in the PS Vita version due to its reduced screen size.
In Dragon’s Crown up to three characters can join your chosen character as your wander through town or do some dungeon crawling. Having that extra screen space in the PS3 version helps you to keep tabs on your character when all-out battle breaks loose, and prevent the screen from looking too cluttered. Conversely, in the PS Vita version I would sometimes lose sight of my character during chaotic battles since all that action is being condensed into a 5-inch screen space. The PS Vita version also suffers from minor slowdown during particularly intense battles while the PS3 version retains a silky smooth frame rate at all times.
A clear advantage that the game’s PS Vita version has over the PS3 build is when it comes to interacting with objects in dungeons such as locked doors and treasure chests, or sparkling loot hidden in the environment. On PS Vita you merely have to touch these areas of the screen to interact with them whereas on PS3 you need to guide a cursor to that point on the screen using the right analog stick. It’s therefore a lot quicker to perform actions such as opening treasure chests and doors, or unearthing hidden loot on the PS Vita version of Dragon’s Crown.
Another factor to consider is the game’s all-important multiplayer component. At the moment you can only play online with other players who own the same version as you. However, Atlus will soon release a patch which adds Cross-Play support thereby circumventing this limitation. The next issue to consider is the logistics and cost of playing both versions in local multiplayer mode. On PS3 you just need a few controllers to be able to dive right into the multiplayer experience, whereas on PS Vita you’ll require multiple consoles and copies of the game to play local multiplayer via an ad hoc channel.
Irrespective of the platform you play Dragon’s Crown on, the game is a highly enjoyable co-op beat ‘em up with gorgeous visuals and plenty of replay value. If you’re looking for a unique RPG to play with friends then the side-scrolling multiplayer action of Dragon’s Crown should fit the bill perfectly.
Dragon’s Crown was reviewed on the PS Vita