Since the days of the Commodore 64 and the Atari, personal gaming has gone through its share of ups and downs. Certain genres saw their influence expand and wane. Companies we thought would be developing games forever collapsed spectacularly (Sega), while others emerged seemingly from nowhere to stake their claim as a gaming superpower (Microsoft). For me, the most influential period in gaming was the arrival of the original Playstation. Sony was another surprise contender when they announced their entry in the home console market, and when they finally delivered their console, The Playstation, in December of 1995, gaming would never be the same.
During this period, fans of the Role Playing Game (RPG) genre found themselves amidst an embarrassment of riches. Squaresoft lavished gamers with some of the most memorable RPG experiences, including Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy 7. It was during this period that Sony created an RPG of its own: The Legend of Dragoon.
Playstation RPGs of this age largely had certain characteristics: they were often multi-disc adventures, as media storage was far from the blu-ray capacity that we have today. They also featured superb “Full Motion Videos” (FMVs) that taxed the hardware of the Playstation, creating a more cinematic experience during key moments. Finally, the RPGs of the Playstation days largely featured more impressive soundtracks, integrating symphonies, choirs and other elements of classical music to further elevate the experience. The Legend of Dragoon checks all three of these boxes, and then proceeds to take us further.
At the center of our tale is Dart. When he was a child, his hometown of Neet was destroyed, and his parents tragically murdered in front of his eyes by a shadowy winged creature. While on his way back to his hometown of Seles after a 5-year journey to find the “black monster”, he is suddenly attacked by a dragon and rescued by a mysterious woman named Rose. After they part ways he discovers that his hometown has been destroyed, and his childhood friend Shana has been kidnapped. This sets Dart off on an epic adventure as he attempts to rescue his childhood friend and solve the mystery of what happened on that tragic night in Neet.
The story of The Legend of Dragoon is certainly epic in scope, as it spans 4 discs and features an extensive main storyline. While a particularly major spoiler is pretty easy to peg from the first couple of hours into the game, the development of the characters and the world they inhibit draws players into a rich setting that doesn’t let go for 35-45 hours. One major opportunity of The Legend of Dragoon is its replayability. Fans of Final Fantasy games know that the titles on the Playstation featured extensive side quests, secret characters and other elements that could bring players back again and again. The Legend of Dragoon had no such features to speak of. Integrating some of these elements could have helped to elevate this game even further.
Arguably the most notable element of The Legend of Dragoon is its battle system. While traditional RPGs featured turn-based actions and selecting actions accordingly (Attack, Magic, Defend, etc), it expanded on this system by incorporating timed strikes as a feature of the “attack” option, as well as certain “Dragoon” specials that are introduced later in the game. By successfully hitting “X” as the indicator lines up with the center of the screen, you can continue the combo and increase the damage dealt. While the mechanic itself is simple enough, it adds another layer of engagement into the battle system that keeps it from getting stale.
Another standout feature of Legend of Dragoon is its utilization of full motion videos. Some of the sequences, particularly regarding the lore of the Dragoon/Dragon war that is revealed later in the story, is particularly impressive given the hardware and capabilities of the original Playstation.
As I mentioned earlier, the Playstation era of RPGs was a golden age for many gamers. While The Legend of Dragoon might not break into your personal “Top 5”, its unique combat system and immersive storyline has helped it stand tall alongside other memorable titles from this period. If you haven’t had a chance to experience it for yourself, you can purchase it on the Playstation Network.
Do yourself a favor and play through it. You won’t regret it!