A few months back, I started playing Legend of Dragoon for the PS1 for the first time. I had the first three of four disks sitting on my game shelf for years and just needed an excuse to start playing. Had I actually played that, I would have been able to borrow disk four from my brother. However, I was planning on buying that disk somewhere at sometime. That didn’t work out. Instead, I bought the game through the PSN store as a PS1 classic game.
It sat for a few months in my PSN library waiting for me to play it, but I never got around to it. Playing it on my PS3 was kind of a pain because my kids used the PS3 for TV and movies as well as Minecraft. The couple of hours I had after they went to bed were often spent spending time with my wife or working on my side projects. That all changed when I got my PSP. I picked it up at a thrift store for $8 and had to replace the battery for another $9. It was probably the best gaming hardware investment I ever made. I now had the freedom to play all those PS1 classics at will and I decided to start with Legend of Dragoon.
This game has not graphically aged well at all, much like most PS1 games. The characters are blocky and the textures have extremely low detail. The cutscenes are decent but very much a product of their time. There is very little about the game graphically that will knock your socks off. But the gameplay is top notch. I really enjoyed playing every minute of this game. Well, except the grinding part but we’ll get to that later.
Legend of Dragoon is about a spiky-haired kid named Dart who is on a mission to save his childhood sweetheart who loves him even though he treats her like his little sister, as well as to get revenge on the Black Monster that killed his parents. Along the way he meets a plucky band of adventurers who team up with him in a newfound mission to save the world from an evil, world destroying god. So, your basic JRPG storyline.
Even though the general story is pretty generic, the details of the story and the characters make it fun to play through. Each character has their own arc and personality and you will eventually find a party that you really like to play.
The game’s gimmick is the Dragoon system. And these are nothing like Final Fantasy’s leaping Dragoons. These guys use the power of their dragon spirits to increase their attack and defense and gain access to powerful attack and support magic. They can even summon their respective dragons once they level up sufficiently. You will spend much of the boss fights as Dragoons and the majority of normal fights using your normal attacks.
The normal forms of each player are not left wanting though. They have powerful attacks called Additions that function as simple quick time attacks. If you successfully hit the X and Circle buttons during these attacks, the player will deal more damage and gain more spirit power for their Dragoon forms. If you aren’t too good at quicktime events, you probably won’t do well with the Additions though. Unfortunately, I suck at them. All together, the game uses both Additions and Dragoon forms in complementary fashions to great success.
I have two gameplay related complaints in the game. The first is the limit of 32 items. This includes all items that you can use in battle and in the dungeons. You really have to micromanage what items you bring to each dungeon if you want to come out alive. The other complaint is the limit of only one accessory slot. There are a wide variety of accessories that when equipped boost your stats or provide protection from status changes. The most useful accessories are probably the ones that automate your additions, but doing so means you lose access to the other accessories.
Both of those item restrictions result a little more strategic thinking regarding how you deal with combat, but I still would have loved two accessory slots and even more items.
The biggest complaint I have is one that nearly all JRPGs suffer from, that of grinding. The two areas where you will find yourself grinding in this game are to level up your Dragoon and to master your Additions. The Dragoon leveling is complemented by mastering the Additions. Every time you get Spirit Points for using an Addition, it goes toward the secret leveling of the Dragoon. You never know how much SP you need to level, but you see it when you do. Additions are mastered by successfully completing them 80 times per level. Both of these take forever though. I spent about 20 hours of the 65 hours I played just grinding to master all these additions and leveling up my Dragoons. I had to get the items that auto-complete the additions as there was no way I was going to be able to do that myself. I probably could have avoided a lot of that grinding but it really helps to have fully leveled Dragoons as you miss out on magic points and spells if you don’t. But really, what is the deal with grinding in JRPGs? It seems to be a staple of the genre but is also one of the worst aspects of it. I really wish JRPGs would simply adjust the difficulty for gamers who don’t want to grind, whether that is items that reduce the time spent grinding or auto adjusting the difficulty of later bosses.
Aside from those pretty minor complaints, this game really is an excellent JRPG and if those are your type of games, and you really don’t mind the PS1 graphics, this is definitely a great game to play. For $6 on the PSN store, it is an excellent deal.