The Legend of Dragoon was Sony’s big Playstation One RPG. It was their answer to the likes of Final Fantasy 7 and Vagrant Story, yet it never garnered anywhere near the appreciation or respect as those other games. It was released as a last bastion of role-playing for the first PS, a last RPG in the closing years before the PS2, and a final stab of the knife before the oncoming next generation. The game's reception had it seen as highly generic, and one that did not have the required experimentation to hook players in, yet that is not where my love/hate for this game lies. My love lies in all that it accomplished as an underrated game, combined with the fact it's story showed some generic, yet intriquing potential. My hate? Its failure in such key areas of importance that it lost it’s capacity to be a reasonably revolutionary RPG.
One of the Legend of Dragoon’s greatest triumphs lay in its creative battle system. There is an accepted complaint about generic stories, generic gameplay, and generic ideas being re-used and recycled in the RPG genre, yet everyone seems to miss the steps this game took to move away from that. Don’t be mistaken, it kept the format of battle that was traditional then and still is today in numerous games, yet it added flair to it in such a way that it was fresh and constantly exciting. Battles moved away from being one-click exploits, and instead, required some accuracy and practised precision from the player. Every battle demanded attention and effort in applying and completing the actions of the precisely timed movements you had to perform, while also needing you to be prepared for the inevitable changes to that system that the enemy provided in their simple, but effective counterattacks. It was an innovative, yet simple system, in a game that was released nearly a decade ago, yet it received no praise, instead being called out as too difficult to master and frustrating. There is some merit, and some truth to that idea, as it was most definitely difficult to grasp some of the games manoeuvres, but for me that simply added to what made it great, the fact that you needed to work at developing some of the operations if you wanted to improve your effectiveness in battle.
The game was, however, held back by a number of its failings. It was, without a doubt, pretty badly translated, but regardless, I personally didn’t care much about the ins and out’s of the transcription, perhaps something that allowed me to enjoy it better. The clichéd story contained some moments of genuine interest, but the points supposed to make you feel emotionally pained by the story events were turned into laughable mistranslations.
"You’d make good wife"...
...I mean, really?
The game’s plot was also rather weak and it proved to be a pretty prominent aspect in restraining it's potential, yet the moments of inspiration, those sparks of light amidst an otherwise bleak setting, are what drove me to keep playing. The characters were colour-coded, pretty bluntly colour-coded, but it was still enjoyable to experience their stories, as they did differ slightly from the general character sterotypes, and had some points of captivating personality trait. Some characters showed promise in their back stories, and that, along with some relevant points that were left to the imagination in place of being outright explained, is part of what kept me interested in some of the story’s twists and turns.
I enjoyed the Legend of Dragoon, not because of its sometimes comical failings and quirks, but because it genuinely showed some fresh innovation that was sadly never fully developed. It was brave enough to go against the tide, testing new ideas and gameplay systems in a sea of dreary repetition, but that system was not enough to rescue it from the pit of petulant peeves that it had spawned around its stereotypical story, characters, and horrible translation, at points when it needed the player to be experiencing emotional turmoil the most.
The Legend of Dragoon is more of a guilty pleasure than a love/hate game. Perhaps it was the simple, yet enjoyable characters that made me appreciate it. Maybe it was the facile, yet intriguing story that made me invest over 80 hours of my time. It may have just been the big, shiny things (I was pretty young back then). Whatever it was, it definitely left an impression, and a good one at that, despite all its quirks and kinks.