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Title: Dragon Force
Platform: Sega Saturn (or if you’re able to read Japanese, the original game has also been ported to PS2 and PS3. No word if it’ll ever get ported over to the USA; chances are slim now that Working Designs, the original publisher in the USA, is defunct.)
Release Date: November 1996
Publisher: Working Designs
Where to Buy: This game goes for $100-$200 on sites like Amazon. (and yes, it’s worth it; it’s an amazing game) You can find it on this page here: http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Force-Sega-Saturn/dp/B00004SW0Z
Overall: 76/90 84% B “Very Good Game For Girls”
Concept: 10/10 Dragon Force is a Real-Time Strategy RPG with large-scale warfare (hundreds of units in combat) which allows you to play as one of 6 different kingdoms initially, with 2 more to unlock through multiple gameplays. Each kingdom has it’s own unique story within the game, making for excellent replay value. There are a ton of hidden characters to recruit too, which also may add to replay value if you fail to recruit them on your first attempt.
Gameplay: 10/10 There are a few different elements to the gameplay. The primary focus is on managing your kingdom by hiring new generals (you can spend a turn searching for generals as well), you have to keep your generals happy or risk losing them also. To do this, you can award merits obtained in battle to certain generals that you want to boost. You can also raid castles to find treasure.
As the game progresses, you capture more castles (the goal is to control all the castles on the map); but you can also lose castles too if you do not assign enough generals and soldiers to defend the area. Hence why recruiting generals becomes one of the primary focuses of gameplay.
Dragon Force has incredibly unique combat in that each of your generals can lead hundreds of soldiers into battle and there are many different types of soldiers for you to add to your party which fill different class roles such as knights, archers, mages, vampires, beastmen, etc. Having the right balance of soldiers and generals is very important to the gameplay, some fights will become very difficult if you don’t put time and thought into your army.
Story: 7/10 Since the game has several different stories woven into one game, and forces you to play as all of the characters to unlock additional story-driven characters, it can take a lot of effort to see the whole story. There are some elements within each playthrough that will follow the same lore/backstory that ties all of the stories together. The lore goes like this…
The world of Legendra was a peaceful world, governed by the Godess Astea, until the arrival of an evil force known as Madruk. A warrior known as Harsgalt sealed away Madruk’s evil powers but was unable to defeat him completely. Madruk remained sealed away for 300 years, however, now his Minions seek to revive their dark lord. Madruk’s minions have tricked the 8 nations into warring with one another so that they’d be too busy to stop them from their plans. The rulers of each nation must be convinced to set aside their differences and join forces to stop this greater evil.
Although there is a story here and there are anime cutscenes and voice acting, it feels like the story still takes a backseat to the action/combat and kingdom management features of the game. Also, as with any game with branching plots, some characters’ routes feel more fleshed out than others.
Characters: 8/10 I don’t want to get into spoiling all of the different story lines as the fun in the game comes from experiencing each monarch’s perspective for yourself. I will just give a brief overview of the characters here, but there is much more to learn by playing the game for yourself.
Junon: Cold Hearted, brutal knight, known as the “Masked Death”, rules the cold icy kingdoms of the north.
Mikhail: A samurai seeking to avenge his father’s death. He has most of the qualities we imagine a samurai to have, a calm, honorable disposition and air of mystique.
Leon: Large muscle-bound “hulk” like character, with a hot temper and stubborn streak.
Gongos: Leader of the beastmen. He is a kind and courageous king who is well loved by his people, because he lives in the forest however, he is not always the brightest when it comes to wits or common sense when dealing with humans
Teiris: Typical “female protagonist” here. The game makes up for this overused stereotype elsewhere though as you will see for yourself if you play the game. She is depicted as the good-natured, “friend to the world”, kind-hearted, soft spoken, and physically weak, but makes up for it with her excellent magic skills and abilities.
Wein: Wein is kinda the default “hero” or knight type of character, he is strong, noble, and proud. He accepts his duty gladly, and does everything in his power to serve the orders of the Goddess Astea.
Voice Acting: 8/10 Like many of Working Design’s RPGs, the voice actor talent is top notch. There are not as many voiced scenes and anime cutscenes as say, Lunar or Vay (two other Working Designs anime RPGs) but there’s still a decent amount. And like all Working Design games if you sit at the credits screen after completing the game, you get to hear the gag reel and outtakes. The voice actors clearly had fun in their roles, and it shows through in their performances as well.
Music: 5/10 Music is just kinda “there”; not particularly bad, nor good.
Graphics: 8/10 It is exciting to see all of your units in combat. They did an amazing job designing the combat system which is very unique to this game. There are also ample anime cutscenes, and while the anime scenes have that “90s retro vibe” they’re still nice and colorful. The overworld map and other elements are rather basic in design, and the kingdom management screen while easy to use, is also not the most elegant of systems.
Replay Value: 10/10 – to see the whole story, and to unlock other playable nations you must play the game multiple times. This encourages the user to explore the game as other kingdoms and experience new stories and different play styles.
Overall: 76/90 84% B “Very Good Game For Girls”