Side-scrolling fighting games were a dime-a-dozen back in the stand-up arcade era and Dragon's Crown takes queues from the best of them. Beautifully rendered fantasy theme akin to Golden Axe, growth and development through looting and buying of upgrades (River City Ransom), elegant yet simple combat system (Final Fight), and most importantly the use of multiple players on screen (Double Dragon, Captain Commando).
On first glance, the game seems too simple – you beat the crap out of everything foolish enough to cross your path. As you progress you start to appreciate the subtle and varied attacks that each character has, with even further becoming available by using your skills points that you earn. While each character is quite the powerhouse, the number of attacking enemies and the carnage that some of the bosses unleash means that you'll be best off with allies. Even the single-player campaign allows you to have AI-controlled allies (who handle themselves quite well), which can help give you that second to breathe and use that health item when things start to get hairy.
Dragon's Crown is quite beautiful; great care has gone into rendering the characters and the environments. Even switching over the Vita version, there's no loss of fidelity – looks and plays almost identically on both versions.
The only difference between the two is when using the cursor icon to interact with your surroundings – you can reveal hidden items or direct your companion to unlock doors or chests by using the touch screen for the Vita; the PS3 version instead has you using your 2nd control stick to highlight then click on. If you buy both versions, it's possible to upload your game to your profile and continue it on your other system, which is a neat little add-on feature.
The gameplay is solid – the speed of the game is appropriate for the genre, and your ability to interact with the environment gives that extra level of hidden content to help extend your adventures. My only complaint for the game is directed at the length; realistically you can beat the single player campaign in 20 hours and half of that time is spend re-running the same levels twice (or more) to get all of the content and side missions completed. So the gameplay length is artificial, which to me gives the game an advantage on the handheld device rather than the console. Handhelds being the preferable medium for quick bite-sized missions so that you can get your quick fix of action on break rather than a slog session where you play the same damn thing three times in a row.
All in all – Dragon's Crown is a definite buy for beat-'em-up fans or people looking for a strong title for their Playstation 3 and Vita.
- Exceptional side scrolling beat-'em up game
- Beautifully animated game
- Pretty short game; most of the length comes from repetition
Score: 8.0 / 10