Dragon’s Crown, from Vanillaware, was such an amazing game with beautiful, yet oddly proportioned, artwork and an epic adventure which felt like you were playing a dark, seedy anime at times. Originally released on PS3 and PS Vita back in 2013, the game offered cross-play and cross-save features where you could boot up your game on the PS3, play with your friends on either their PS3 or PS Vita and then transfer the save to your PS Vita and carry on playing on the go. Dragon’s Crown Pro has followed this tradition and also allows owners of the PS3 or Ps Vita version to jump in and play co-op with the PS4 version – which is pretty awesome. But other than the presentation and the native 4k, are there any other changes?
One other thing to be aware of, as with the majority of cross-play games, all version of the game (PS3, PS Vita, and PS4) share the same trophy list – so there is no new list to work though. This could be a big deal for some people, especially those who have already platinumed the game.
As previously mentioned, Dragon’s Crown Pro is identical in story and content to the previous iterations (it has to be to support cross-play) so you may already know about the game, for those who don’t I’ll briefly explain the story. The game is set in the fictional Kingdom of Hydeland, our protagonist (which you can select from a range of six classes) has come to this Kingdom in order to begin their life as an adventurer and challenge all of the dangerous labyrinths nearby. Labyrinths which were infamous for their danger and difficulty – you were lucky to even get your rotten remains out of there, nevermind exit alive!
Your first point of call within this new realm was to join the guild and accustom yourself to the local merchants and wares. As such, you eventually gain access to various new locations within the walls of the Kingdom and even get the chance to introduce yourself to the current royalty which is in place. But alas, things don’t forever stay in your favour. Once you have settled in and you are finding it a breeze moving from labyrinth to labyrinth, you are tasked with the quest to seek out and return the Dragon’s Crown. This involves taking on much stronger enemies and going down alternative perilous paths as you enter the familiar dungeons.
Don’t worry, you won’t be going on this adventure on your own. You have your trusty scout with you who will help you open locked doors and chests, as well as up to three companions who will stand aside you in the heat of battle. The question is, will you be able to recover all of the gems and the Dragon’s Crown before death comes knocking on your door?
The gameplay of Dragon’s Crown Pro reminds me a lot of early 90’s action-arcade games such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. You must walk from left to right, defeat all of the enemies within a set location and then proceed to walk further to the right in order to encounter the next batch of enemies. However, Dragon’s Crown Pro feels so fresh and new, even though it’s a five-year-old game. You can pick up weapons such as torches and crossbows as you explore the labyrinths as well as pick up random food off the floor in order to eat them (why do video game characters do this?) The cool thing about the food is that you can boost your health up to 150% by eating it – so that’s good, even though it’s a little disgusting.
In terms of the combat itself, you have a solid side-scrolling beat-em-up with magical elements thrown in. The Warrior/Knight has a sword and shield and can easily block the enemy whilst delivering a decent amount of damage, whereas the Sorceress isn’t very strong yet has deadly spells and some support ones too. Other types you could opt for are the Wizard, the Amazon, an Elf or the Dwarf (which is my favourite) – pretty much your standard class types in an old D&D style game! When choosing your character there are a few which the game labels as being best for beginners and experts but it never stops you picking who you want to play as.
The other main gameplay mechanic is the team. Sure, it’s possible to complete the game solo or with your friends in co-op, but what do you do if you have no friends with the game or the levels are getting a little hard? Simple, you hire a bunch of adventurers to come with you! At any point whilst you are in the town, you can head to the Inn and hire up to three adventurers to come with you on your next outing. At first, you will only have low-level characters but you ‘acquire’ higher level ones later on. You ‘acquire’ these new adventures by bringing their rotten corpses back from the dead.
Okay, so they aren’t exactly rotten corpses, they are piles of bones, but it’s the same thing! When you’re in the labyrinths you will find bones on the floor. You can either pick them up or, if you have a companion who has a certain ability, you can have them rise from the dead and fight aside you as a skeleton until the end of the level (or they die again). If you opt to pick up the bones then the next time you’re in town you can head to the church and either bury the bones or bring them back to life. If you bury them then you have a chance of receiving an item as a reward, but if you bring them back then they will be loyal to you and offer to join you on your journey.
As you venture through the nine labyrinths, each with their two routes, you will not only be trying to get to the end and move on but you will also be given side quests from the local adventurers guild. Completing these will offer you rewards and they go towards obtaining the PSN Platinum trophy. Not to mention that each of the 18 pathways all has their own rather amazing boss battle with stunning artwork and eye-melting lighting effects!
The game also keeps itself fresh with randomised loot in the dungeons, enemies who scale up with your level, a load of secret areas and items to find as well as hidden treasure. The hidden treasure is a strange one as on the vita you would literally tap the screen when you see a sparkle and some treasure would appear. On the PS4 you simply move the right stick and a little wand will fly around the screen, if it goes over a hidden treasure then it will appear. You can opt to use the touchpad instead, but I found using the Right Stick to be easier.
Yet another feature which was just a tap on the Vita and is the Right Stick on the PS4 is the ability to cast spells. After you reach a certain point in the game, you learn that all the random letters you see on the walls aren’t just random letters. You can hover over them and hit the R1 button to select them. If you pick three runestones then it ‘may’ cast a spell. You can also buy a few of these stones to be permanently in your inventory to aid you as you find the stones in the labyrinths. The spells you can cast vary from healing your characters to summoning a meteor strike to reign down upon your foes. They are quite awesome!
As I mentioned previously, the game is the same but all of the visuals are now presented in a clear, crisp 4k resolution on the Pro and at a higher texture quality on the base PS4 (at 1080p) – which is awesome. You can really see the difference when you put the two side-by-side and when you’re playing the game it looks stunning. The lighting effects also look superb in this version with every light source casting a beautiful glow and dynamic shadows.
However, an issue I did have was in regards to the visuals. When you have all four team member slots filled and there are a few enemies on screen, due to the size of your characters (which I imagine was so that it was easier to play on the Vita back in the day), the screen gets full pretty quick. Don’t get me wrong, there are no slowdowns or performance issues, but it does get a little hard to see what’s actually going on at times. This issue also plagued the original though so I didn’t expect it to be any different with this remaster, but it is an issue I had a few times.
The music is equally as splendid! They have re-recorded the entire soundtrack with a full orchestra which gives the game a new polished feel about it and everything sounds absolutely perfect. However, if for any strange reason you don’t like the new music or have nostalgia for the original then you can easily swap back via the options menu. The sound effects in the game are also as good as I remembered and the voice acting of the narrator is perfect with sincerity and emotion weaved into his voice.
Dragon’s Crown Pro is a visual and audio masterpiece. The combat is both solid and fun whilst the overall concept of the game is enjoyable and addictive. This is the same game a lot of us played back on the PS3 and PS Vita but if you are new to this title then I would strongly advise to pick it up on the PS4 for the best version possible and the PS4 pro for the definitive version. If you have already platinumed the game on any of the previous platforms then there is little reason to return to the game other than the enjoyment out of replaying it (due to the shared trophy list). However, if you’ve never played the game before then this game is just waiting for you to purchase it – if you like old-school beat-em-ups with a hint of RPG elements then you will love this title!
**A code for the game was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes**
Dragon's Crown Pro£44.99
- Beautiful Graphics (especially in 4k on the Pro)
- Magnificent re-recorded soundtrack
- Fully cross-play and save with PS3 and PS Vita versions
- Hours of enjoyment with not one ounce of boredom or felling like a drag
- The new textures and enhanced lighting effects are stunning
- Shared trophy list - so no new trophies if you achieved the platinum before
- Gameplay gets a bit messy when the screen is full of action