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Never Gets Old

  • amerk
  • 04/09/2015 02:32 AM
I wasn’t going to do a review on this at first, seeing as there’s been a ton of reviews for this game already (all positive), and what difference will another make? But after leaving a comment in the game topic and seeing that Ephiam would have preferred a review, I felt it was the least I could do. After all, it’s been several years since the last review, and I’ve only played this game all the way through three times already in as many years. And if any amount of encouragement will help Ephiam along with the new Dragon Fantasy remake, I’m all for it.

If you’re not familiar with Dragon Fantasy yet, then most probably you’re either new to RPG Maker or you’ve been living under a rock. Unless of course the style doesn’t suit you, and that’s fine, too. In any case, Dragon Fantasy has the look and feel of a classic NES game, complete with its 8-bit charm and story. It borrows quite heavily from the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest library of resources and themes – as well it should considering the play on the title – and plays homage to some of the great classics many of us grew up with. There’s even a Paradise Blue reference in this game, another fine RM classic to play.

Both Dragon Fantasy and Generica are the games I zeroed in on when I first became aware of RPG Maker and the vast assortment of available titles I could play for free, and both have given me some of the fondest moments I’ve had with RPG Maker. Of course, being developed in RM2K presents its own share of problems, primarily in the game editor’s limitations, and there’s bound to be some flaws; but overall, Dragon Fantasy continues to impress even today.

Being that it caters to an ancient crowd of NES fans, the game play focuses primarily on exploration, dungeon crawling, combat, grinding, and looting. If you’re a fan of oldschool game play, you’re in for a treat. For those who aren’t familiar with the type, expect to spend time standing around in a circle grinding to gain experience and gold in order to level up and purchase the best set of equipment, skills, and items. The grind isn't all that tedious, though, especially considering that much of your experience will come from getting lost while trying to navigate your way through treacherous caverns, castles, and dungeons.

You get to visit towns, talk with NPC’s, and gain useful tidbits about the world you’re in. Midway through the game you’re able to acquire a ship and finally an airship for newer forms of travel. Unlike later rpg’s, this maintains the Final Fantasy approach of purchasing skills, so the player gets to pick and choose which skills are appropriate. You’re also able to decide the gender for your main hero… or heroine… although I have no idea if stats are any way affected by this. Oddly enough, I always make the main character a female.

Combat is a bit stale, compared to later rpg’s, but at least they’re pretty well balanced here. You’ll find yourself hacking and slashing with your tanks, and spamming the best skills for everybody else. Very little strategy is ever used inside of a battle outside of following the golden rule to hit fast and hard, and keep your health up.

The mesh of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest resources work quite well here, although this is the only game in Ephiam's Dragon Fantasy series to rely more on Final Fantasy and less on Dragon Quest.

Unfortunately, there are also some missed opportunities here as well. For starters, the game is quite linear, even compared to the first Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, which actually had a more open-world feel to them. You will never be able to travel through a dungeon you aren’t meant to do, as your way will most assuredly be blocked by an obstacle of sorts (guards blocking your path, the requirement of an orb, a broken bridge, and so forth). Because of this, the game also lacks any meaningful side quests. While I’m not expecting a Final Fantasy mini game involving moving number blocks, having a couple of fetch quests would have been nice, and would have even broken the monotony of the game.

The second thing that I noticed was how very few towns and dungeons there were compared to how vastly large the over world was. Adding an optional cavern or two that had nothing to do with the game other than for a quick loot stop would have been a nice touch.

Finally, while you do acquire a ship and airship in your travels, they really can only be used for two things each. When you first get the ship, you can only travel one half of the world map because you’re blocked by shallow water, and the map doesn’t scroll to the other side. At this point, you only have one place to go with the ship. On the other side, you can use a boatmaster to call your ship to a new port, but once again there’s only one place you can go to with it.

The airship fairs a bit better in that you can move all around the world map without any obstacles, but at this point it can only be used for two places, both of which have to be done in a specific order.

In spite of these flaws, the game is still quite impressive. It may not be the best rendition of a classic NES title, but it’s certainly a well developed one.

My rating for Game Play is 3/5. It’s fun for the style it tries to imitate, although it does fall flat on a few things like combat, optional content, and reasons of travel.

This is the part I’m a bit slumped on. It’s an NES clone of sorts, so naturally the story isn’t going to be the most impressive part of the game. However, compared to other NES titles of that time, it actually does a much better job. We’re given a brief intro that introduces the primary plot of the game as well as our main hero (or heroine), and we learn of the fate of the world and the crystals (another Final Fantasy staple) that help govern the world.

Along the way you’ll gain other characters to join your party as you travel the world, and each hold a significance with the crystals of the world. To some degree, Ephiam pays tribute to both Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy 3 (the NES title), and it shows. There’s very little character development, but it is there to a very small extent. And you’ll also be able to discover the lore of the land, not to mention tidbits of past heroes, if you’re willing to look for this information.

What bit is there is written well enough. It may not win awards, but it does tell a deeper story than even the first Final Fantasy game ever did. But I do have to wonder? Would a well developed character-driven story be too awkward to see in an NES-type game? Must we always refer to the NES style of storytelling when making an NES-styled game?

My rating for Story is 3/5. It’s good, it’s written well for what little there is, and much better than some of the old classics, but it doesn’t strive to be any more ambitious.

It’s ripped resources, so what do you expect? But they are used very well and this is the highlight of the game, not to mention what drew me in from the start. The fact that resources of two different game series (long before anybody ever thought of Square and Enix merging) can be used so well together is another plus.

The dungeons are appropriately long and confusing, without being extremely difficult. There’s also a very nice rhyme and reason to the maps. They are detailed well enough for an NES clone, and from what I can tell a lot of plan and thought went into shaping these maps.

Playing this game takes me back to that special time as a kid, when I first set foot into Coneria and embarked on one of the grandest adventures I’d ever take as a Light Warrior. And in the end, that's where this game shines the most: in its nostalgia.

My rating for Resources & Level Design is 4/5. Mayhap not very original, but it’s nostalgia at its best, and it’s used very well. One can never tire of seeing these resources or hearing these tracks.

Biggest goofs:

If you’re going to pay money to port your ship over to the next boatyard dock, ensure you don’t park it over the boatyard instead of the docks; otherwise you won’t be able to get to it again without first going back into the boatyard and paying the boatmaster another fee just to move it back to the docks.

This game brings back some fond NES memories. But because of the era it is trying to impersonate, it may not be for everybody. If you’re looking for something that will take you back to the great 80’s and the games of yesteryear, even if it’s to relive parts of your youth, then please by all means get this game (if you haven’t yet).

Final verdict is 3.33/5.