Dragonís Crown

Dragon's Crown review

Dragon's Crown review

Kamitani forever?

Dragon's Crown is a brawler as archaic as the fantasies it draws upon. Designer George Kamitani made his name with Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons arcade series of the early 90s - games that took on the lineage of Final Fight and furnished it with deep-pocketed inventories and experience points. That lineage was rudely cut short not long after, but Kamitani's Vanillaware studio has worked in the face of the genre's decline ever since, first with Odin Sphere and later Muramasa. They're games as artfully drawn as they are mechanically banal, though, and Dragon's Crown carries on that limp tradition.

Dragon's Crown is, like its predecessors, exquisitely realised. Whereas Muramasa took inspiration from a little closer to Vanillaware's Osaka home, Dragon's Crown sees Kamitani look westwards, towards the well-trodden worlds of Tolkien-esque fantasy. Kamitani's twist is at least unique, even if it's not particularly endearing. Warriors' muscles bulge impossibly as do, as has been widely noted, the sorceress' breasts. The characterisations, which more readily objectify women than they do men, are all part of a softly grotesque aesthetic - although it's never quite clear if Vanillaware's tongue is in its cheek or waggling rudely in an act of juvenile defiance. Nevertheless, while it's true that the dense colours of a dungeon can make Dragon's Crown feel like a playable painting, it's one any self-respecting adult would be embarrassed to hang on their wall at home.

Much else in Dragon's Crown seems trapped in adolescence. Its combat is an exercise in sweaty-palmed chaos that takes far too long to reveal its depth. Six character classes are presented, falling into two distinct camps: there's the melee of the Fighter, Amazon or Dwarf, or the fiddlier ranged combat of the Elf, Sorceress or Wizard. In coalition, they're a devilish swarm, with recruitable AI partners summoned from remains you find dotted around arenas joining your side, and when played solo they've some style. The Fighter's swinging aerial attack is a cocky treat, his ability to absorb party damage making him an analogue of the MMO tank. Elsewhere, the Amazon can be wound up towards feats of lethal acrobatics, while the Elf is a hybrid who can unleash flurries of kicks before retiring to the other side of the screen to fire off a volley of arrows.

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