Legend of Dragoon on PS Plus
Why You Should Give Legend of Dragoon a Chance, Even After All These Years
By: Yannis Vatis
Ever since Sony announced the overhaul of PS Plus, gamers have been clamoring for more and more PS1 classics to be added. One game from that catalog that might not be as well-known, but definitely deserves some love, is Legend of Dragoon. And after a long wait, it’s finally coming to the service.
This SCE Japan Studio-developed gem of a game is the brainchild of the talented Hiroshi Tamawari and for many is considered his answer to the JRPG juggernaut of its time, Final Fantasy VII.
Now, if you're a fan of Square-Enix’s runaway hit, you might be wondering how Legend of Dragoon stacks up against it. In many ways, they’re quite similar. Both titles have epic storylines, memorable characters, and turn-based combat. But where Legend of Dragoon shines is in its unique combat system and its distinctive art style. It also has a nice dose of late 90s jank for that nostalgia kick.
What I’m trying to say is that Legend of Dragoon isn’t even close to rivaling the FF masterpiece. But, it’s got all of the makings of a cult classic and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
Here are all the reasons why.
Buckle Up, You're in for an Epic Storyline
When it comes to epic storylines, Legend of Dragoon delivers. It's a game that takes you on a journey through a fully-realized world that's rich with history, mythology, and magic. The story begins with the hero, Dart, returning to his hometown to find that it has been destroyed by an ancient creature known as the Black Monster. This event sets him on a path of revenge that takes him on a journey that spans continents and involves a cast of colorful characters - more on those later.
As you progress through the game, you'll encounter various factions, each with its motivations and goals. There's the Kingdom of Basil, trying to stave off the threat of war from the neighboring country of Sandora. Then there's the Divine Dragon Campaign, a group of warriors who are trying to prevent the resurrection of an ancient god of destruction. This factional diversity is what makes the game’s worldbuilding phenomenal, an area, I’d argue, in which it outshines FFVII.
One of the things that make the story of Legend of Dragoon so engaging is the way it weaves together different mythologies and legends. There are references to Norse and Celtic mythology, as well as various other legends and folklore from around the world. This gives the game a sense of depth and richness that you don’t see often in JRPGs.
When you factor in the twists and turns of Legend of Dragoon’s overarching narrative, you’ve got a real page-turner in video game form.
Mastering the Art of Button Presses
Legend of Dragoon dared to boldly go where most JRPGs wouldn’t; it attempted to improve turn-based combat and largely succeeded. This is thanks to its unique Additions system. If you're used to traditional turn-based RPG combat, the Additions system might take some getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, it's incredibly satisfying.
During each character's turn, you'll have the opportunity to perform an Addition, essentially a series of button presses that, if timed correctly, will unleash powerful attacks. The key is timing. You need to press the right button at the right time, resulting in devastating moves that deal tons of damage and have various effects. However, there’s a heavy element of risk at play. If you mistime your button press, it results in you missing the attack altogether.
When you’re first introduced to the system, things start off quite simply. They might only require two or three button presses. But as you progress through the game, they become more complex, requiring more and more button presses. Some of the later Additions can be incredibly challenging to execute, but the payoff is huge. Successfully executing a difficult Addition feels incredibly rewarding, and can often turn the tide of a challenging boss battle.
I can gush about the Additions system for days as I’ve yet to encounter a game with something that even comes close to it. The truth is that even if you don’t enjoy the story, characters, and setting of Legend of Dragoon, you’ll still find the combat to be more than enough to keep you hooked until the credits roll.
Characters You'll Want to Be Friends with IRL
Beyond its epic story and addictive combat, Legend of Dragoon has great characters. The cast is an incredibly memorable bunch with some of the set pieces being even more intriguing than their FFVII counterparts.
First up is Dart, the brooding hero who sets out on a journey of revenge after his hometown is destroyed. He's the classic strong, silent type, but he's also a loyal friend and a fierce fighter. Plus, he's got a pretty sweet red Dragoon armor that lets him transform into a dragon - a good enough reason if you only needed one.
Then there's Shana, the spunky heroine who's also Dart's childhood friend and love interest. She's got a heart of gold, and she's always ready to lend a hand to those in need. Though she sounds like a trope at first blush, the game’s story does a good job of placing her in the spotlight in meaningful ways.
The supporting cast is just as memorable, too. There's Lavitz, the honorable knight who becomes Dart's friend and mentor. Then there’s Albert, the prince who's trying to do right by his kingdom. And, finally, Rose, the mysterious woman with a dark past. Each of these characters is given their own story to tell and has key roles to play in the overarching narrative. Of course, there are also the game’s antagonists who are multidimensional and go well beyond the “buahaha, I’m evil” tropes.
Again, I can wax lyrical about the game’s characters for ages as I had a real blast following them around in their adventures. There’s no doubt that you’ll find at least one of them to be relatable and call your new favorite gaming character.
90s Aesthetics Meet Epic Storytelling
By today's standards, the visuals of Legend of Dragoon might look a little dated. But for the time, they were pretty impressive. The pre-rendered backgrounds are lush and detailed, with a ton of variety across the different regions of the game. Whether you're wandering through a dense forest or exploring a creepy dungeon, the backgrounds are impressive.
And then there are the character models. Again, by today's standards, they might look a little blocky and simplistic. But for a PlayStation 1 game, they're actually pretty well-designed. Each character has their own unique look and style, and their movements are fluid and natural-feeling.
But what makes the graphics in Legend of Dragoon stand out is the art direction. The game has a unique, almost painterly style that's unlike anything else we've seen in a JRPG. The colors are bright and vibrant, and the designs are intricate and detailed. It's a feast for the eyes, and even after all these years, it holds up well.
Plus, the game's use of FMV (full motion video) sequences helps to bring the story to life. These sequences are used sparingly throughout the game, but when they do pop up, they're a treat for the eyes. They're well-produced and well-acted, and they help to drive home the game's epic storyline.
Your Next Soundtrack Obsession
Now we come to my favorite bit: the soundtrack. If you're a fan of epic, sweeping scores that perfectly complement the game's story, you're in for a treat.
Composed by Dennis Martin and Takeo Miratsu, the music in Legend of Dragoon is a mix of orchestral and electronic sounds. From the opening theme to the final boss battle, the music does a phenomenal job of setting the tone and creating a sense of epicness. It's the kind of music that gives you goosebumps and makes you feel like you're part of something big.
One of the standout tracks is the main theme, which is a hauntingly beautiful piece that's sure to get stuck in your head. It's the kind of track that you find yourself humming for days after you've turned off the game. But there are plenty of other great tracks, too. From the heroic "Dart's Theme" to the melancholic "Rose's Theme," the music brings the characters and their stories to life.
But it's not just the big, bombastic tracks that are pure ear candy. The game's use of ambient music is also really effective. Whether you're wandering through a quiet forest or exploring a creepy dungeon, the sense of atmosphere the music creates is top-notch.