Title: Dragon’s Crown Pro
Platform: PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Vanillaware
Publisher: Atlus (North America/Japan) and NIS America (Australia/UK)
Release date: May 15, 2018
tl;dr: If Golden Axe was made in 2018.
Price: £40/$50
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Dragon’s Crown Pro is 2D action RPG which reminds me of the classic Genesis/Megadrive title Golden Axe series. Set primarily in the Kingdom of Hydeland, and playing as one of the six character classes, you’re tasked in retrieving a legendary relic called the Dragon’s Crown. This task will not be an easy one, as players will have to explore various areas such as labyrinths, catacombs, and forests, while taking on a variety of monsters. As players wander through the dangerous areas, they’ll be able to recruit additional warriors in order to survive the arduous battles that lay ahead.

When you first boot up the game, you’re tasked to choose a character which boasts a different class. Each of the six characters have their strengths and weaknesses:

  • Fighter: Outfitted with full plate armor and a sturdy shield, they can protect all allies in the nearby area. Their one-handed weapons have short reach, but they can swing them quickly, allowing them to make short work of nearby foes.
  • Amazon: Agile warriors who are able to wield two-handed weapons. Their equipment delivers vicious blows that deal lethal damage to multiple foes at once. If they lose their weapons, they’ll need to rely on their kicks for offense.
  • Wizard: Male magicians who rely on their spells and are vital assets for any adventure.
  • Elf: They are deadly masters of the bow and arrow, using their superior athleticism to fight nimbly and fearlessly from a distance.
  • Dwarf: Muscular fighters who can wield a weapon in each hand. Their strength lets them pick up and throw anything in sight, even heavy foes. Throwing enemies lets them damage multiple foes with one fling while laying waste to an entire horde of adversaries.
  • Sorceress: Bewitching women with knowledge of dark magic. Through arcane arts, sorceresses can create delicious food, control skeletons, and turn foes into harmless frogs.

The game begins with players in the local tavern where they first select their class. Afterwards, the game will have players running through a hoops in order to get a hang of the mechanics such as the combat, and also meet with NPCs that will be very helpful during your quest. There’s the tavern, where players can recruit party members, a shop where equipment can be repaired and purchased, a temple where you can pray for helpful buffs in combat or revive piles of bones found throughout your adventure, a tower where Lucain awaits your presence and can sell you useful items on your quest, a castle where you are given missions from a would-be king, and finally, the Adventurer’s Guild, where Samuel will offers new story based and optional quests. He’ll also allow you to learn and upgrade new skills.

New skills are either class based or common. Class based skills are unique to each character. while common skills are general skills which can be used (and upgraded by) every character. Upgrading common skills over class based one can be more beneficial, considering it increases health or gives add-on bonuses such as coins that regenerate  health. Additionally, while you start your mission solo, throughout the dungeons, players will come across fallen soldiers in the shape of pile of bones. Picking them up is crucial as they can be revived at the Temple, for a small fee, and then hired, giving you up to three A.I. controlled party members.

As you successfully complete quests, you’ll be brought to a results screen where you can have your findings appraised or sold. Appraising new items will cost a bit of money, but sometimes it can be worth the investment, as it’ll result in a better performing gear. If you appraise it before selling it, its value will drop or increase a bit depending on the item. Thankfully on the right hand side of the screen, players can catch an overview of the item. If it’s lower than your current level, it can be sold without a need for appraisal. As with any good RPGs, your equipment takes damage and can get wrecked in battles. Thankfully, you can have it repaired in between dungeons.

Combat is fun and feels varied from one class to another. There’s a standard attack button and there’s a stronger attack button; while it’s not made to pull off crazy long combos like other games of the same genre, it can provide some variety in combat. More melee based characters will pull off stronger, more damaging attacks, while magicians will have a different spell attached to the second attack button.

For those who already picked up the PS3 or PS Vita version of Dragon’s Crown, a new update was recently released which allows cross-platform multiplayer and save data. The game also features a use for the Dualshock 4’s touchpad; unfortunately it’s quite cumbersome and useless. All it can be used for is to ask Rannie, your right hand man, to unlock chests and doors. Thanks to the touchpad, players have to hover over the door or chest until a key appears and pressing L1 will have your buddy open the door or chest. Additionally, the touchpad is used to revive fallen A.I. teammates, but again it’s cumbersome to use in combat. On a more positive note, the game features a ton of replay value; while each character plays differently, all of them have a different ending, giving a backstory of the character classes or how their lives changed after completing the arduous quest.

Dragon’s Crown Pro features beautifully hand-drawn visuals which shows detailed characters, in-game and during the comic-like cutscenes which help progress the story. It is also very easy to get lost in the jaw-dropping visuals – literally. A full party against a normal amount of enemies is fine, but the problem is when the screen is filled with enemies; often against bosses, it’s easy to lose track of your character amidst the carnage. Audio-wise, the game is very interesting. The game’s story is told through an enjoyable, somewhat soothing narrator as he dictates where you need to go and also reads the subtitles which progresses the story. It also features a beautiful majestic, yet most of the time forgettable, score which is often buried under the sound of combat.

Considering this port of a last-gen title that pretty much came out of nowhere, Dragon’s Crown Pro is an interesting 2D action RPG for newcomers and old school players alike, where your common refrain will be “Just one more dungeon”; which can take about 10-15 minutes to complete. Not everything is perfect, however, as it can become quite messy with a full party and enemies all across the screen, and considering that the combat is overly simple, it doesn’t deter the fact that it’s a fun 2D dungeon crawler that can be enjoyed solo or in co-op with friends.

The Good

  • A.I. buddies are quite efficient
  • Simple yet addictive combat
  • Deep and interesting skill development

The Bad

  • Can get repetitive
  • Too many characters on screen is cause for confusion
  • Piss-poor use of the touchpad

Family Focus

Dragon’s Crown Pro is rated T for Teen and PEGI 12 due to the presence of blood, gore, partial nudity, suggestive themes, use of alcohol & tobacco and violence.

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.