Today’s topic : Drag-On Dragoon or as it’s know in the western regions, Drakengard.
The Drakengard series was developed by Cavia, produced and published by Square Enix and Ubisoft in the west for the second game. The games came out in 2003 and 2005 for the Playstation 2 and got ported to the west in 2004 and 2006 respectively. They are games of a mixed genre, combining the hack’n’slash gameplay of the Musou / Warriors series and the rail shooter gameplay from the Panzer Dragoon series in a unique way.
The games had an interesting mythology that combined classic dragons and medieval lore, along with a Lovecraftian approach for the Gods of the game, being evil beings that can drive anyone crazy just by being near them and enjoy chaos, fighting with, usually stronger beings for supremacy, in the games case, Holy Dragons. Which is like saying that that one prefers impallement as a death sentence instead of being drilled with a thousand spikes. In this case the gods winning would be impallment and the Holy Dragons controlling the world is the spikes. All in all, it was a crapsack world where things could only go from worse to worse…er…worse-er. Yeah, that word needed to be invented to describe the situation.
The heroes…the main characters don’t fare much better than the world they are living in. They are basically sick yet realistic deconstrunctions of the typical RPG and J-RPG characters we have in games, usually the ones that are out for revenge or simply to save the kingdom from a horde of monsters they will soon kill. And boy, things get sick, appaulling and even soul crushing many times during the course of a single stage of a chapter. Yet the hard adult themes presented didn’t feel so out of place in this medieval world and with some of them one has to wonder how come such things exists even now and kind of makes one think about it, but not as much as, say, a typical good J-RPG or a Metal Gear Solid game.
The gameplay is like a limited version of the Musou / Warriors series with a decent array of weapons showcasing diffrent magic abilities each, 5 different types of them and four levels of growth that also change the appearance of the weapons apart from their stats and while some feature clone movements the sheer number of weapons the player wields with with one character is still pretty impressive. However, combat seems like a bit of a downgrade compared to these series and each weapon only has one combo string and usually the one or two branching attacks the combo string has are either a shockwave or casting another spell. The AI isn’t excactly that offensive nor hard to counter, but the bosses are crazy and fun as well.
The dragon parts on the other hand are done very well, by calling the dragon to the battlefield so that the duo can rain fire on the opponents and decimate armadas and incinerate armies in the most epic of dragon breathing fashions. Also the game has some dragon-only segment to break away from the hack’n’slash action with rail shooter dragon segments which rail shooter fans will enjoy them very much, as well as people who haven’t played such games due to them being simply just this much fun…dragon-riding is indeed fun in this game.
Gameplay from the first Drakengard title…still a lot to improve upon.
Despite the flaws of the first game though, a decent base was laid and the sequel improved on almost everything that went wrong with the first, providing a very unique and solid action game with real potential for this new dragon-riding mixed genre gameplay.
The visuals set the tone heavily for the two games and while it isn’t aparrent at first, the second has brighter colour,due to it being much, much lighter than the first and not as disturbingly depressing. Still the stories were told in a great way and even if the characters weren’t exactly the paragons of justice and most of you would hate them from the first minute, the dragon and the main character have an affinity to them that’s similar to Berserk’s Guts. In the end,the player will be emotionally invested and will trully feel moved by their touching moments, despite them being by a vengefull, ax-crazy, murderous sociopath with a bloodlust that rivals that of the vikings in popular culture and cranks it up to eleven and a dragon that practically views humans as less than ants and is easilly each and every ugly thing a human can be : a racist, hatefull, misogynistcic[despite being a woman…dragon society is different after all] and so on.
The second game just left fans hungry for more.
The music also helps a lot on that aspect, being extremely atmospheric, missing only the genius of Susumu Hirasawa, the man behind Berserk’s legendary soundtrack, which would tie in greatly with this game. Even if it has an epic feeling to it and has a grand sound, it knows when to slip to the background and give center stage to the characters when needed,something that is trully remarkable. The voice acting is top notch,but the first game’s imported dud, the english dub isn’t that good since it’s by Square-Enix, who also removed a lot of the themes present, due to them being downright disturbing and not for the older teenage market they wanted to market this game.
All in all, the series showed and still shows great promise and if the spiritual sequel based on one of the bad endings, NieR, showed such promise, the rest of the Drakengard mythos shows that much more. Square-Enix has recently renewed the license of the series and released an iOS spiritual sequel to the series, called WyrmRider, so hope still exists for this series. Even though Cavia is no more, Square-Enix is more than capable of making a sequel or even fully reviving the series into something unique and finally enter the hack’n’slash genre market, if only at least for the japanese fans. Final Fantasy Type-0 showed an excellent dark setting for a fantasy game with disturbing themes presented and shoed a lot of promise, I hope they understand that and start utillising this series properly. I really hope this series is revived, the sooner the better for both us fans and Square-Enix.