Monday, March 8, 2010

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes

Falcom / Hudson Soft
Super CD-ROM

Falcom is famous among Turbo fans for their classic action-RPGs (Ys, Xanadu, Brandish, Popful Mail, et al.), but with Legend of Heroes, they displayed a willingness to deviate from bump-and-run quests and dabble instead in turn-based battles and lengthy spell lists. Dragon Slayer is a traditional-style RPG, but veterans of the aforementioned titles will feel right at home upon seeing its neat little character sprites and windowed-in playfield--signature elements of Falcom fantasy.

Falcom is also known for keeping things simple, and they didn't allow a greater reliance on menus here to dictate that the gameplay would be slow or cumbersome. In fact, Dragon Slayer's combat is incredibly fast paced; these are the quickest-to-end scrums to be found in a 16-bit adventure. The awesome swiftness with which your company annihilates its opposition helps make up for the mediocre enemy art, drawings that disappoint doubly when stacked up against the cool monster designs found in fellow US RPG release Cosmic Fantasy 2.

The bosses are a little more impressive than their minions design-wise, but the best thing about them is that they actually demand a little thinking, a bit of strategizing, on the player's part. Merely trading shots won't do the trick unless you've spent a lot of time leveling up.

While the field graphics are endearingly simplistic and the battle graphics are, well, disappointingly simplistic, there's nothing simplistic at all about DS's soundtrack. The compositions can't compare with the best of Ys, but Ryo Yonemitsu's arrangements definitely call to mind the brilliance of Book I & II's music.

Nothing about the cinemas is very Ys-like, unfortunately. Opening and closing sequences are all you get, and the artwork is mostly ho-hum, with just a few cool images...

...along with gratuitous doses of goofiness.

There aren't all that many stirring in-game moments, either. Some scenes make quite an impact; when Prince Logan and company discover that the townsfolk surrounding them are actually shape-changing rock beasts, for instance, an intense chase ensues. But for the most part, this is typical town-to-field-to-cave progression, with a focus on grinding rather than drama. You spend two-thirds of the adventure chasing after a runaway bad guy who can hardly measure up to Sephiroth, and there's little joy to be felt during his anticlimactic slaying.

But while Dragon Slayer doesn't deliver much in the way of suspense, it does have a good sense of humor. I can't help but be amused by Ethan rambling on long-windedly about justice, gangster-type Giles telling off his Brando-of-a-grandpa, and tough-guy Captain Morgan wincing as his dear old mum administers a stern disciplinary lecture. And then there are the many instances when characters suddenly overflow with rage and mouth off at (or outright attack) one another.

The laughably hammy voicework adds to the fun. Logan's VA in particular was so poorly suited for his role that one can't help but chuckle whenever the lad speaks, especially during the pretentious exchange that takes place after the final battle. The kid looks like he's twelve (if that) yet speaks with the voice of an uptight thirty-year-old.

Obviously, the cheesiness here won't appeal to everyone. If you want a serious adventure, well, this isn't the ideal game for you. You've gotta be willing to laugh when something's silly--even if the silliness isn't actually intentional. And if you are, you'll discover that DS is not only mechanically sound and super-swift in action but highly entertaining as well.


whiteasianrose said...

i agree with was a pretty good well 'okay' game with fine music and horribly cheesy voice acting

Anonymous said...

I love this game to death. It is my second favorite game for the system with Ys Book I & II being numba one! It is so endearing and charming. I even love the horrible English voice acting, but that may be the nostalgia kicking in. It's one of the best RPG's I have ever played.

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