Review: Dragon’s Crown Pro (PS4)

Review: Dragon's Crown Pro (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 3 *
  • PlayStation Vita *

* Original game: Dragon’s Crown

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play Yes
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Dragon’s Crown Pro
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (6.18 GB)
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Vanillaware
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), £44.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Dragon’s Crown Pro is a port of the 2013 title Dragon’s Crown, a side scrolling Beat ’em up with a strong arcade sensibility and fantastic art.

You can read Rey’s review of the game on PS3 and Vita here as a second opinion because, well, they didn’t change anything for this new version except the visuals and soundtrack, which while better now, were great on PS3 and Vita too.

I loved the original Dragon’s Crown so I was a little disappointed to hear that this was a straight port of the content.

Since Vanillaware’s last port, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, was such a great effort with enhanced controls and a better layout, I was hoping we’d see some good changes here too. Maybe a new character or a new level at least, since Dragon’s Crown doesn’t really need as many changes as Odin Sphere did.

Misgivings about the port aside, this is a great game. The side scrolling gameplay is fluid and fun, with a lot of combo potential as you zip around the screen knocking enemies into the air, juggling them, then slamming them down.

It’s fun just tossing axes, shooting arrows, casting screen-filling magic attacks, or whatever crazy stuff your character is capable of. And all six playable characters can do some really cool things.

While adventuring, you’ll occasionally come across piles of bones. Picking these up and returning to town will let you resurrect that character, who can then be recruited to join your ranks. Even if you’re playing solo, you can have these characters fill out your party.

Up to four characters, either AI or human-controlled, can be in a party where they’ll all splunk through the levels. Together they’ll take on hordes of undead, fight giant sea monsters, and earn tons of loot to take back to town to enhance their characters and do it all again.

The only downside is that once there are four characters on screen, things can get very hectic. This is especially true if there are multiples of the same character but it’s even an issue with different ones. There’s enough going on that you’ll occasionally lose track of your character. The game offers several options to make it easier to see where you are on screen and I found them necessary.

Enhancing your character comes in a few different ways. Loot is obviously a big part of it, as all the loot you grab becomes available once you’re back in town. Leveling up also unlocks skill points which can be spent on additional abilities. These both feel satisfying as a reward for playing, and encourage continuing play.

It’s good that they do because they become one of the main reasons to continue playing. Like a lot of Vanillaware games, Dragon’s Crown can get a little repetitive. There are only nine levels in the game, though they do each gain an an alternate route (and boss) after a certain point. But once you’ve gone through each boss, there’s not much else.

Beating the game will unlock harder difficulties, but those are again the same sets of levels. Eventually you’ll get access to a labyrinth that strings together some random stages from each of the levels. After a while you’ll learn each area inside and out, including all the hidden areas and whatnot, so gaining loot becomes a main driver in continuing.

The PS4 version does include all of the content added to the game after launch on the other systems. This includes an extra difficulty level and some other post-game goodies to explore. Plus Cross-Play which I’ll talk about later.

The one small change the PS4 version gained over the PS3 is the ability to use the touch pad. Dragon’s Crown felt like it was designed for the Vita, as the touchscreen plays into the looting mechanic (touch chests to open them) and the cooking minigame at the end of levels. On the PS4 you can still use the analog sticks for this mechanic like on the PS3 or you can use the touch pad to touch things, though it’s not as intuitive as on the Vita.

Visuals:
2D graphics aren’t something you tend to see in games these days outside of the indie scene. Vanillaware makes a very strong case for traditional art with their games and Dragon’s Crown Pro is no exception. The game is absolutely beautiful, with a picture book aesthetic that’s dripping with lush detail.

Animations are gorgeous too, looking smooth and emphasising a sense of flow to enhance the game’s combat. Spells and attacks are as satisfying to see as they are to use. As stated above, the only downside is the visuals becoming a little hectic once there are a lot of enemies and allies on the screen at the same time.

Being on the PS4, Dragon’s Crown Pro takes the beautiful graphics from the original game and presents them in even higher detail. The game can also now be played in full 4K.

The game’s style mimics, and in my opinion lampoons, generic fantasy tropes. Characters end up with designs that over emphasize certain traits. I point this out because this famously led to some feuding between the game’s artist and a journalist. The overemphasis means some characters come off as risqué, which may reduce the appeal to some players.

Audio:
I find it amusing that Rey’s original review of the game mentions “orchestrated tunes” in the game’s audio. While it certainly sounds like it was, the game’s audio wasn’t performed by a full orchestra… until now. One of the enhancements in Dragon’s Crown Pro is a fully orchestrated soundtrack.

It sounds fantastic. All of the music was great before but I listened to both back to back, since this version allows you to change back to the original, and it sounds so much fuller and richer now. It’s nice that they have the option to change back, but I seriously don’t know why anyone would.

The voice acting is great too and I love how the game narrates certain parts again like a fantasy picture book. There are options to change the narrator too, so you can have the voice talent of any of the playable characters narrating, either the English or Japanese voices.

Online/Multiplayer:
Dragon’s Crown allows for a party of up to four characters all of which can be human controlled. The players can be local or online – once you’re far enough in the game to unlock online – and they don’t even need to be playing on PS4. That’s right, just as the PS3 and Vita versions were patched for Cross-Play between them a few years ago, they’re also now being patched to allow Cross-Play with PS4.

Even if you don’t have friends, or for whatever reason don’t want to play with actual people, the bones you pick up in-game are generated by other players. So when you revive them and gain an AI-controlled ally, that character is based on a real player’s character. It’s a cool bit of asynchronous gameplay.

The game is fully Cross-Save too, so if you’ve previously played on the PS3 or Vita and uploaded your save to the cloud you can jump right back to where you left off.

Conclusion:
Dragon’s Crown is a great game. It has some minor flaws: it’s a little repetitive, you can sometimes lose yourself in the crowd, the touch-based gameplay doesn’t transfer that well from the Vita. But those flaws are outweighed by the overall strengths of the game: fantastic combat, beautiful art, and the stellar soundtrack.

Dragon’s Crown Pro is still a great game, but without any gameplay additions it’s a harder product to recommend. Sure, you get to transfer your character if you played the original but there’s no new content to conquer. There aren’t even new Trophies, as this game uses the same Trophy set as the previous versions.

So, while I will be scoring this highly based on all of its merits, the score represents my personal feelings on the game as a whole. If you’ve never played Dragon’s Crown, I highly recommend it and Pro is a great version. That’s where the score comes from.

If you have the original versions I honestly find it harder to recommend it, unless you really want the 4K graphics or orchestral soundtrack. In a bit of a twist, the Cross-Play means even if you don’t buy it again, you can still play with your friends who are picking up the game for the first time.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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