Dragon Fantasy Book II Review
Nostalgia-inducing, mindlessly enjoyable, classic RPG style
Pointlessly bad graphics, dull story, uninteresting characters, glitchy
An RPG Just Like Any Other
It is nostalgic from the beginning. Dragon Fantasy Book II opens with a scene familiar to gamers old enough to remember the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Picture it: a hero lying asleep in a bed, a grizzled man brooding at a table, a psychic message from a princess about a terrible foe stealing maidens left and right, pots (presumably breakable) everywhere. Yes, this is straight from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It lets you know that this game means to be a homage. Whether it succeeds in that endeavor is up to interpretation.
The story of Dragon Fantasy Book II starts in the middle of some overarching story, I imagine. Supposedly it is a stand-alone on its own. If it was intended to be, it utterly fails. Maybe as a sequel it succeeds a little more.
The story begins in mens rea, following a bald, middle-aged, retired hero named Ogden. The game tells us heâ€™s on a quest for some necklace or something and I never really found out why. Thatâ€™s the problem. If a story starts out in the middle, it needs to fill the player in on what happened before, at least enough to be invested in the story.
Not only did Dragon Fantasy Book II fail to make me care about any of the characters (a great sin in an RPG), it didnâ€™t make me care about the story either, mostly because I had only the faintest clue as to what was going on. If any back-story was given, it was dumped on the player all at once and so quickly you would have to be taking notes to digest any of it.
The story, full of heroes, reformed assassins, secret princesses, time travel, and copious RPG and general nerd references, didnâ€™t seem to know if it was a parody or a homage. It was stuck in some sort of middle gear that spluttered along and only stopped for the occasional joke. The jokes would have been a welcome reprieve except they werenâ€™t funny. They werenâ€™t exactly jokes â€“ more like half-jokes, joke-husks that clearly intended to be funny but missed something crucial in the construction. Oh, and they were almost exclusively about Ogdenâ€™s baldness, leading the player to assume the head writer was having some personal image issues.
This isnâ€™t to say that, on the whole, itâ€™s a boring story. It seems like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign turned video game, but itâ€™s not bad. At times, itâ€™s a fun trip through nostalgia-ville. It just doesnâ€™t ever rise above that and often falls below.
The gameplay is typical turn-based four team member RPG. An interesting twist ripped straight from Chrono Trigger (along with some sprite animations) is that you can see the enemies and potentially avoid them. No game should be compared to Chrono Trigger â€“ it makes an impossible standard to meet. Dragon Fantasy Book II just begs to be compared to it, so suffice to say it lacks both the aesthetic charm and exciting gameplay that its distant predecessor possessed.
Combat is either overly easy or overly difficult, requiring zero strategy and only equipment and some quick grinding to overcome. The only thing that makes gameplay challenging at times is an inability to see which enemy you are selecting and the seemingly random situations that dictate whether or not you can see enemy health.
The only interesting twist is that you can catch monsters and add them to your team, which does help in some of the more difficult areas, but the mechanics of this are not teased out in any significant way, so the moment you get actual character allies in your party, you ditch the monsters in a weird bar that was in every town where all the townspeople seem to be okay with horrible creatures roaming about and drinking all their beer.
To be brief, the gameplay is a generic placeholder for story, as RPG gameplay can often be. Unfortunately, it sacrificed itself for an unworthy cause.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
I do not understand the graphics in this game. The sprites are reminiscent of Final Fantasy V but without the occasional lush background. A PS3/Vita game has no right looking this bad. To top it off, it actually has to pause to load the environment. I cannot imagine what humongous screw up could cause a game this simple to run slowly on a console this powerful. Sometimes it seems like the PS3 canâ€™t keep up with the 8-bit inspired Dragon Fantasy Book II and sends the characters stutter-stepping across the field.
The music is absolutely acceptable. It can be a little repetitive, but in an RPG where you can run around the same area for hours leveling, that is par for the course. In fact, one or two of the scores are interesting and unique. I actually stood in a tavern of no consequence to the story so I could hear the bar tune.
It was glitchy from the beginning, I shouldnâ€™t have been surprised. I froze in the air once doing a leaping attack. Another time, an NPC following me turned into a Dalek-inspired robot for no reason and then disappeared. It froze once when I was backtracking, but I figured the game hadnâ€™t expected me to go there. I shouldnâ€™t have been surprised when, following the only path to advance the story, the game froze. And it never unfroze. And every time I reset the game and came back, it froze again. Maybe it was just my copy, but the game, easy as it was, was actually unbeatable.
There are bounty side quests but the rewards are worthless and the quests are boring and repetitive.
SPAWN FIRST RECOMMENDSâ€¦
Dragon Fantasy Book II is a flawed attempt at a nostalgic RPG and nerd-culture homage. Still, presuming that not every game freezes half-way through, it is not an unenjoyable experience. While trudging through gitches and uninspired gameplay, I still found myself enjoying the mindless fantasy and classic RPG style. Do not expect anything original or inspired from Dragon Fantasy Book II, but if you are an old-school RPG fan, you will have a good time going through this sometimes reverential, sometimes tongue-in-cheek farcical fantasy.