Dragon Fantasy: The Chronicles of Westeria Review (3DS)
Recently released as a cross-buy capable game for the 3DS and Wii U, Dragon Fantasy is unique. I found myself enjoying my time with the title, but there are quite a few design choices that frustrated me throughout. WARNING: Many of my issues with the game may be considered spoilers. The game is $9.99 on the Nintndo eShop and provides a nice lighthearted RPG experience. Read no further if you want to fully experience the tale. It may be rocky at parts, but the humor and classic gameplay make it an adventure worth taking.
Dragon Fantasy is broken into three "chapters", with a bonus chapter in the world of Minecraft. Within the game, you'll play as a retired adventurer, a prince learning his place in society, and a thief who ends up as more than he appears. My biggest issue with the game boils down to where all of this heads, though. I intentionally delayed my review of this game in the hopes of seeing it all culminate. Each character's story is told in their own chapter. Where some quality scene transitions may have allowed the story to be told chronologically, this leaves the game feeling disjointed. You don't even keep a single save: each of the three chapters are started via the "new game" menu. Also, several ideas that are core in one chapter are completely ignored in others, while the mechanic is still present but unused in the others.
Chapter 1 sees you as a solo adventurer, taking on one foe at a time, yet you still have to select which party member or enemy to attack. Meanwhile, even though you have the support of many NPC's, there's a "recruitment center" that is conveniently closed. Chapter 2, multiple party members are available via the recruitment station, but your party only ever maxes out at four. Chapter 3 is the only chapter in the main saga that allows multiple enemies to attack you at once, even though every other chapter asks you which enemy you want to attack. Also, Chapter 3 has it's own separate "recruitment center" that never was open or available to me at all.
There are a few brilliant design choices, while others left me baffled. I found the control scheme to be wonderful. The ability to slide your stylus on the bottom screen to move made it able to be held in a more comfortable, bookish way. Also, I was amazed at a purely 2D game even thinking of utilizing the handheld's 3D effect, but you could see the enemies pop forward at you as you battled. Enemies may have only two frames of animation (which themselves were mere mirror images), but even the pallete swapped characters had unique names and their own humorous ways of attacking (even though I really don't understand just how much HP I lost with random enemies merely taunting me or insulting my hairdo). But on the other side of the coin, some notable pieces were left blank. While I liked the idea of the "heal all" button to quickly get back from a difficult fight, and the auto-cursor being able to smartly decide which character needed healing first, that same button went for magic first, never quick-healing with herbs or other items. This became difficult in Chapter 3: nobody starts with any healing, and the one who gains it, grows to be able to maybe use two uses before recharging. Plus, there was no item sort. I used the last herb in my inventory, and the pile I bought afterwards headed to the bottom of the list, forever stuck under items like the "crappy map" and other useless trinkets.
The story pacing, allowing you to see an adventure through a single character's eyes, bothered me. In Chapter 1, there's almost a non-event where you meet Chapter 2's hero, who then spends the rest of the game offering advice from his place at the bar. Chapter 1 gave me ten hours of play. Cue Chapter 2, where you get the recruitment option, making me feel like I'm in for the long haul. Four or five hours in, your hero makes a decision that I as a player never would have, basically going left when I wanted to go right. We land in the town the first hero was in, and my party ditches me. With no more than a "gotta go" storyline, Punchy and Casty (these names are given by the game itself, and the only two individuals ever offered to recruit), I'm left wandering town alone, where I run into Hero 1...roll credits. Chapter 3 may be with new characters in a brand new setting, but our previous two heroes show up at the end of Chapter 3 after a big event that leaves you guessing, only to roll credits again. Even inside the in-game instruction manual, the world of Westeria has two or three more continents that are never accessed. Sounds to me like there'll be more chapters in the future. Although the lighthearted story never gets much past the "there's a bad guy to stop," the couple of linked plot points make me a bit frustrated that we don't get a whole story, and there's not a single dragon to be found in the game titled Dragon Fantasy.
So sure, the last few paragraphs share a tale of a muddled game. But, the game does offer a true RPG-Lite flavor that's nice to have. It may be excellent for introducing your kids to the world of turn-based fantasy RPGs, rather than gob-smacking them with a micromanagement sim like Bravely Default or whatever is thrown into the new Final Fantasy 7 remake. I genuinely laughed at some of the jabs at movies and other video games in the humor, and it's refreshing to see enemies that do more than punch at you. Strategy of random battles does boil down to attack and occasionally heal, and spells and specialty items never seemed to do much more damage or have more effect than a good old sword slash. There is talk of elemental swords in the final chapter, and I bought a few nets that allegedly could capture enemies, but I never saw any of this reach fruition. It may be cross-buy, but I don't see someone sitting down to play this on their HDTV: it fits rather well in on little car rides or bathroom breaks, which leads to the comment that the game is also available on iOS. Nintendo has rarely ever been keen to allow free download/updates that just spit out new content, and some of the things I complain about earlier are the kind of things that eventually get ironed out in updates: more recruits for Chapter 2, reasons for elemental swords in 3....conclusion to the story....these items are often put into an iOS update without a second blink, or even shunned if charged for. As I research, I come across information on Dragon Fantasy: The Black Tome of Ice, which sees the adventurers continue. in a different, looking almost Lunar or Chrono Trigger, gameplay style. This title is still TBA, but on it's way for 3DS. Oh! And there's screenshots with dragons!
If you just want a few laughs and some easygoing RPG-lite, this is the title for you. If you're expecting some sort of AAA polish on this indie game, you'll find yourself disappointed. Dragon Fantasy will offer the $10 admission's worth of entertainment to those who purchase it, but it may be easier to pick up on a phone that offers updates or wait for any sort of "ultimate edition" down the road.
Final Review Score: 2.5/5