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They had dragoons in ancient mythical Japan? Guns, for that matter?

Dragoon Legends is a traditional console style RPG made in Multimedia Fusion 2 by Polish community member Kakuzeri. It features 100% original graphical resources by the author and a sound track by the famous composer Brandon Abley. (Interestingly enough, many of the sound effects it uses, however are taken from the RM2k3 RTP.)

Brandon Abley recently released a translated version of this game to the English-speaking RM community for the first time.

This game has eye candy galore so it is surprising to find it has been overlooked so much in the last couple of months since it was released. Here is what you have all been missing:

The story in Dragoon Legends is nothing special. As a (gay?) couple of bounty hunters with ninja swords, western long swords, guns, magic, and Japanese names, you are sent to investigate the disappearance of some villagers. Unsurprisingly, monsters are involved.

Anyone who plays a lot of RPGs is entitled to groan right now. Monsters and disappearing villagers are maybe the second or third most hackneyed story cliche you can start a game with, right behind waking up, spending a day in your home town, and watching it burn down or learning that a princess has been captured by a dark lord and you need to rescue her.

The execution is better than the plot, anyway, and the characters are better than the story. One of the protagonists is a very typical plucky do-gooder RPG hero and the other one, an assassin, is very much not. This was just capturing my interest when the game hung up on me, and I was unable to proceed.

The writing by Brandon Abley while not excellent is serviceable (it is hard to rewrite other people's dialogue) and I'm sure it's preferable to whatever sorry-shape this game's engrish was in pre-translation.

As a fun side note, I have no idea why this game is called Dragoon Legends, as I have not detected any Dragoons in it thus far!

I presumed the plot was going to thicken at some point, of course, but I never got to that point. The following score is representative of me giving the game's story the benefit of the doubt:

Story Score: 2.5/5

-Gameplay and Systems-
Perhaps because it was made in Multimedia Fusion 2, Dragoon Legends resembles a commercial console jRPG- like Chrono Trigger- far more than it resembles an RPG Maker game. The entire thing feels polished, smooth, and professional.

The battle system is interesting, and obviously chrono-trigger inspired, minus the dual techs. It is a kind of pseudo-TBS because you CAN control your character's movements around the map, but there is never really any need to since you can almost always move to an enemy and attack them in one turn. Likewise, you cannot cleverly position spells to do area effect damage like one can in Final Fantasy tactics, even though I tried. There are exceptions, for instance; I found that one character's button-mashing special attack worked better the further he was away from the target, because it gave me more time to mash 'A' which was interesting.

But ultimately, in terms of functionality, as far as I can tell, the battle system is basically identical to the Final Fantasy/RM2k/RMVX DBS, it just looks different. I was disappointed to see so much aesthetic uniqueness and so little custom functionality.

Battles were well balanced and reasonably fun if not exactly edge-of-your-seat exciting. The seperate pools of SP (which recharges) and MP (which doesn't) based skills required some use of strategy for the harder fights. The Mandragana boss fight was a high point, although bypassed pretty easily by spamming fireball; not that there's anything wrong with that at this point in the game.

The rest of the game is fairly bland and drab in this area, outside of battles. I only fought two different enemies, mostly just the one, which was repeatedly endlessly during an hour or more of playing. The dungeon design seemed dull and uninspired, and contained only one "puzzle", which was really too simple to be called that.

Furthermore, although I am not taking off points for this, this game is hampered by a number of serious bugs. Opening and closing the menu is sluggish and feels bugged; it takes too long to load. After windowing and then re-fullscreening the game, I was confronted by a (non-fatal) error message every time I exited the menu or a battle, telling me that mod.dll (or something like that) couldn't load. This got old fast.

Finally, this game for me hung or froze after returning to the world map after the first boss fight. If there were more save points, this would not have been as much of a deal breaker.

Gameplay Score: 2.5/5

-Visuals And Sounds-
This game features gorgeous 100% custom graphics. We're not talking good use of rips and lighting effects here. The unique tall sprites and lush landscapes all have their own totally original style to them. A lot of time was obviously put into these custom graphics, and it shows. Kakuzeri is a very talented pixel artist and mapper. Considering how much eye candy is on display here, I'm amazed this game hasn't been more talked about.

The sound track is also very pretty, something we've come to expect from the work of Brandon Abley, and also strangely peaceful sounding. It works, because Dragoon Legends is not exactly a dark and edgy game, but the serene map music being played over battles due to the lack of a battle theme seemed strange to me. Also, the music in the cave full of monsters and dying villagers seemed far too peaceful/serene for the situation.

None the less, this game is basically a feast for the senses. Play it for this if nothing else.

Aesthetics Score: 4.5/5

Dragoon Legends is rare and unique in all kinds of ways, and while it's not Game of the Year material since its aesthetic excellence can't make up for its mediocrity of story and gameplay, it is still definitely worth playing.

Final Score: 3.5/5 (Not an average.)