I just finished playing dragon’s crown for eleven hours, and, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a beautiful four player side scrolling beat ’em up featuring six classes, and, so far, nine dungeons. There’ll probably be ten, but I have no idea. Despite playing for eleven hours, I’m only about halfway through the game, I think.

I say just nine dungeons, and I wanted to say only six classes, because a lot of the game is repetition. The game owes its length to its side quests, and its side quests are: defeat a dungeon, that is only unlocked because you defeated that dungeon earlier, when the game’s story made you go to that dungeon, and defeat it. Fighting in only nine dungeons again and again is not a great thing, but the dungeons are not so much dungeons as much as they are wonderful looking backgrounds. And I guess they also dictate what flavour of cannon fodder you’ll be fighting, but that’s not really important.

And speaking of fighting: the game controls really well, and is animated really well, and thanks to all that the combat itself is great, and even fun. I started as an archer, which turned out to be a mistake. I should say again that the combat is good, because, man, I picked a character that was defined in game as requiring an expert level of skill, and I admitted to my playing it as being a mistake, and here we are now discussing the game eleven hours later.

At level twenty, hours and hours into the game, the archer was only able to physically hit for about twenty damage. A knight of the same level cut enemies in twain. Obviously the archer, being an archer, wasn’t supposed to be punching the enemy, but I only had 10 arrows, 14 after several upgrades. And the advantage of attacking my enemies from the other side of the screen was somewhat negated due to my always having to fight in mostly close quarters, or having to fight a boss with more health than what a hundred arrows hit for. But, in time, I figured out I was supposed to be firing up, and after leveling a few abilities, I got my arrows to hit for about a thousand. Not bad.

After solving the Archer, I switched to the Amazon. My mistake was in not recognizing that I’d rather look for pyric victories than play skillfully. To each their bloody own.

And speaking of each getting their bloody own: Looting treasure / collecting items is done well enough that cracking a treasure chest was actually exciting. And this is in spite of encountering four or five of them in any given dungeon run. This is due in large part to a ranking system that seems to favour the lowest classes, as it should. Most of the time adulation could be felt upon finding a B class chest of all things — S being the best, A being the second best, and B being bronze, basically. I can’t imagine myself being in the majority here, but I much prefer having only one S class item, or no S class items, and only one A class item than I do having an S class item in every slot.

And another positive feature comes in the form of the game having nothing to do with greed. The points acquired from small found treasures are added to a shared score and what you find in a chest is open to everyone come the end of the level. And better still, most of the items don’t really overlap with all the other classes. The Amazon despite being a melee axe swinger shares most of her gear with the sorceress. It shouldn’t be too difficult for two or four people to figure something out that doesn’t have everyone fighting over the same bits of loot.

The last thing to touch on is leveling. Stats go up, and you’re then able to equip a piece of gear that isn’t as good as something new that’s only now a few more levels away, but each new weapon actually changes on screen, so equipping that new weapon is always cool, even if it’s not the best — I may never switch out my Amazon’s scythe. Each class has a set of playing cards that they can purchase, which work about the same as talent points. Some of the Amazon’s are
“go berserk for health” and “less health more damage.” Nothing there is really boring, and someone is always thumbing through their cards whenever they level to see if they can get another level of something, or a new something.

Well, actually, the last thing to touch on is how incredible the game looks. How incredible the game always looks. Be it in combat, in a dungeon, or even in a conversation. You should have some idea of what this looks like if you’ve ever played a Vanillaware game before, Odin’s Sphere, or Muramasa, but, man, this is something else entirely.