Review: Dragon Fantasy Book I

With very few fantastical dragons.

Dragon Fantasy

Anybody who grew up in the era when Nintendo dominated the console market will have at least seen a few of the classic RPGs. Dragon Fantasy looks like a game from yesteryear, but adds modern functionality and a good helping of humor. Scattered throughout the game are many references to pop culture and downright awful (but funny) puns. Muteki Corporation know their target audience and have done everything in their power to make this game appeal to them.

The game is divided up into four chapters. Although the first is the main quest, a player has the option of starting on any chapter they choose. The third chapter leads into the next game, while the other two are fun side quests that add to the overall story of the game. The fourth chapter is inspired by Minecraft and has unique features not found in the other three chapters. As the name implies, this is the first game in a series and the sequel is already in the works.

The story begins with a mag named Ogden. Thirty years ago he rescued Princess Becca from a dragon, and in doing so lost all his hair. Today he is her personal bodyguard, but does little more than rescue cats from trees. On the day that Becca, now a Queen, prepares to crown her son on his twenty-fifth birthday, a group of monsters show up to halt proceedings. Prince Marlon is abducted by a Dark Knight who flees through a portal, closely followed by Ogden. Appearing in the middle of nowhere with no trace of the Prince or the Dark Knight to be found, Ogden begins his quest to rescue the Prince.

Why can't I steal this guys gear when I beat him?

Battles can be quite close matched without a little grinding.

The gameplay is what could be expected of an old-school RPG. Towns, dungeons and the overworld are all viewed from a top down perspective. Exploration outside of town leads to random encounters with enemies. The encounter rate is quite high, and healing is required after each fight but the game feels challenging rather than frustrating. Thankfully Ogden comes with plenty of healing magic to cure his wounds. There are no maps to guide players through dungeons, though each is short enough that this does not cause problems. The only real downside is a lack of a dash button to move quicker. Equipping new items is quite simple, with each piece showing the difference in attack and defense. When purchasing new items, the option is given to automatically equip the item. This is refreshing for an old-school game.

The enemy design in the game really shines through. While there are the usual palette swaps found later on, each enemy has unique combat text that will set the aside from similar sprites. This is a game that features an Obligatory Ork who is obliged to attack Ogden. Only by defeating the enemy can his compulsion be ended. Commands in battle are what would be expected of any RPG and little strategy is involved. The games does require some grinding at points which can get a little repetitive at times. Thankfully the game was patched not long after launch to increase the hit rate of attacks, as before a few rounds could go by without a player or an enemy being able to land a blow.

16-bit is the way to go.

The PlayStation 3 version of Dragon Fantasy allows the player to switch between 8 and 16-bit styles.

As Dragon Fantasy is an enhanced version of an iOS title, it also comes with enhanced graphics and sound. The iOS version was limited to 8-bit only, whereas the PlayStation 3/Vita copy also has a 16-bit mode. While both the 8-bit and 16-bit tunes fit the title well, the bleeps and bloops that accompany them can get irritating after a while. The graphical style can be switched any time the game menu can be accessed, though unless a player has greater connection with the NES era, it would be better just to leave the 16-bit mode on.

Dragon Fantasy is a game that will appeal to old-school gamers, though it may have some trouble capturing the imagination of a younger generation who might not get the majority of the references found throughout the game. The game has a cross save option, so Vita owners will be pleased that they can play the game on the go without buying it a second time. The game takes roughly twenty hours to complete, but anybody used to playing classic RPGs will be able complete it sooner.

10 comments on “Review: Dragon Fantasy Book I”

  1. Tempted to pick this up now; I’m glad to hear it is not *too* grindy.

  2. I must disagree about your implication that this game tries to exist outside of the graphics obsessed world. Technologically speaking, yes, but this game (and many similar games) are just as obsessed (if even more so) about perfecting the retro 8/16-bit graphics style and as a result, they are just as much a slave to their graphics as any other games released today. And frankly I find this obsession with retro graphics frustrating. Objectively speaking, there is no reason why this style should be considered superior, all it comes down to is today’s game developers feeling the need to try and recreate the style of their own childhoods.

  3. Certainly there’s nostalgia behind some of these retro games but I think there’s more to it than that alone. No graphical style is really superior to another, but the progression of graphical capabilities gives the illusion that what comes later is necessarily better. And I think that the retro games are showing us that this conclusion isn’t true (because there are people who believe this). There are things you can do with a 2D sprite game that can’t be done as well with a polygonal 3D game, and vice versa. It also helps that developing a 2D sprite game is cheaper to make…

  4. Holy shit, Mel is right *again*. That’s twice in two days! WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY WORLD!?

  5. I don’t find the Dragon Fantasy visuals overly enticing [though the sequel is looking to be quite pretty] – but I cannot for the life of me figure out why more RPGs aren’t trying to match the graphical quality of ‘To the Moon’, which clearly looks better than the tile-based games of the 8 and 16-bit eras, and yet is capable of producing the same nostalgia by matching a visual style reminiscent of older games to the increased capabilities inherent in today’s computing hardware*.

    In short – I would prefer to see RPGs which attempt to further the artistic medium of tile-based graphics, rather than RPGs which attempt to ape 8 and 16-bit tile-based graphics [and often come off looking worse]. Nostalgic graphical mediums should not equate to deliberately hobbling your graphical style. [then again, perhaps these people aren’t capable of anything more ambitious]

    * I use this term very loosely since ‘To the Moon’ will easily run on most any hardware.

  6. Can’t imagine this won’t be an impulse buy for me sometime in the future.

  7. There are few fantastical dragons in Dragon Fantasy?! I’m reporting them to the BBB.

  8. 16-bit is the lowest number of bits I can handle. I cannot be impressed by any regular Nintendo game’s graphics after playing a game like Chrono Trigger. However, no game that’s come out since then has made me feel that way about Super Nintendo’s graphics. Some people say that there are no inferior graphical styles and that they are all just different. I say that not all graphics are born equal and that there is nothing 8-bit can do that hasn’t already been done better with 16 bits.

  9. For what it’s worth, the original version of Dragon Fantasy *was* a slave to strict 8-bit realism — ie, a 16 colour or less palette. However, nostalgia is a funny thing — people don’t REALLY remember what 8-bit looked like. When all of the art was redone for the PSN launch, the colour palette was essentially tripled. In the case of DF, it’s a throwback game — but if you feel the style is /too/ dated, wait for Book II.

  10. To me [and keeping in mind that I’ve only seen screenshots of the game] the 16-bit mode looks like 16-bit tiles overlaying an unmistakably 8-bit visual design.

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