By Eric Chetkauskas / September 14th, 2015
|Title||Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria|
|Release Date||July 23, 2015|
|Platform||Wii U, 3DS, PC|
|Age Rating||ESRB – E10+|
When people talk about Japanese RPGs today, they usually mean one of those games that closely resembles anime and has a narrative style like a visual novel. However, for us older folks, a Japanese RPG is a sprite-based tale with turn-based battles. Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria takes what we loved from these classic games and brings you an adventure reminiscent of an age gone by.
As you can probably figure out by the title, Dragon Fantasy‘s main inspirations are from two of the oldest series out there: Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy — and the similarities are quite noticeable. The game is broken up into three chapters and includes a bonus Interlude chapter, as well. The first follows the hero Ogden as he goes after the Dark Knight wreaking havoc on the land of Westeria. The second follows the journey of Westeria’s Prince Anders along the same set of events. The third chapter is set after the first two and tells the tale of the thief Jerald and his niece, Ramona. Each of the chapters is relatively short, but the game is fairly grind-heavy, padding the length a bit. Overall, it took between three to eight hours per chapter.
When you make a modern game that is an homage to older games, you can’t have the game take itself too seriously. Fortunately, Dragon Fantasy is very tongue-in-cheek. The game is rife with puns, references to pop culture, and even some fourth wall breaking, which splits up the monotony of the “go kill the big evil bad guy” plot. Plus, considering you need to grind a lot toward the beginning, random encounters are a bit more interesting when the monster names and attacks are humorous in nature.
The developers did a pretty good job of modernizing the old-school game design. While Dragon Fantasy plays like an 8-bit RPG, they added a Quest Log — specific for this version of the game, which is an enhanced port of Dragon Fantasy Book I on PSN — so you can keep track of your current objective — and a Quick Save feature so you don’t need to go find a save point when you want to stop. Equipping gear and using the item menu isn’t as cumbersome as it was in the past either.
Of course, some of the flaws of the older games were still present. For one, the incredibly linear plot left a lot of confusion when faced with a choice of direction. Heading the wrong way would lead to an area with monsters too strong for your current levels. Speaking of levels, another example is the grinding. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like grinding in RPGs, but you not only need to be grinding for experience — you need money. And enemies don’t drop much, so that can take a while to accumulate. Upgrading your equipment is the best way to ensure you don’t get annihilated on the next leg of your journey. However, even then, it didn’t help much. There are some enemies that just seem to hit really hard and deplete your HP, and, in turn, your MP from all the healing you’re doing. Unless you bring an insane number of healing items (which, again, cost money), you will have some problems in battles. You do lose half your gold if you get wiped out in battle, but if you’re below 1000GP, your wallet will be unscathed, so that’s a plus.
It’s not just the occasional strong monster that will set you back. During fights, the miss rate is incredibly high, and that goes for both you and the monsters. In almost every single battle, at least one attack missed. Not only does this add to the precarious nature of certain fights, but it needlessly extends the length of the fights, and, in turn, the entire playthrough. Battles that should end in a one-hit kill end up going two rounds or more. One good thing is that, in the dungeons, you can see the enemies on screen–another new feature for this version of the game–so they won’t take you by surprise, and fights can be avoided altogether if need be.
The music and graphics are reminiscent of the old chiptunes and sprites you remember from back in the day. You can toggle between the 8-bit and 16-bit audio and visuals from the menu if you prefer one style over the other. Neither the music nor the graphics were overly remarkable, but they were certainly pleasant during your nostalgia trip.
Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with the game. As someone who was raised on the NES Dragon Warrior games, I expected to love this, but I found it to be lacking. The world seemed rather bland, the characters were one-dimensional, the quest was a bit too matter-of-fact, and the battles were little more than button-mash fests which bordered on annoying. And, while there was humor throughout the game, very little of it earned more than an amused smirk. The Wii U version that I played is $9.99 on the eShop. If you think that’s a little high, remember the game is cross-buy with the 3DS, so you get the game on two systems for the price of one. Despite everything I said about Dragon Fantasy: The Books of Westeria, it wasn’t terrible, and I am looking forward to the sequel, though perhaps with my hopes not set so high.
Review copy provided by Publisher
Choice ProvisionsDragon FantasyDragon Fantasy: The Volumesof WesteriaeShopMutekiMuteki CorporationReview