Dragon’s Crown Review

Dragon’s Crown is what some might call a lover letter: a throwback to retro, side-scrolling brawlers in the same vein as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. With its rich art style and multitude of playable classes, it seemed like a perfect modernisation of the aged genre, sculpted specifically for PlayStation 3 and Vita.

Sadly, that isn’t the case however. Though it may succeed in satiating your nostalgic needs, Dragon’s Crown soon loses its initial appeal, mainly due to basic gameplay and a sluggish pace, neither of which complement the depth of content on offer.

As one of six robust (and often ill-proportioned) characters, you take up arms and scour the realm of Hydeland for riches and glory. Each of the six classes are fundamentally different and determine which abilities, equipment, and powers you’ll have on-hand. The Dwarf, for example, excels in close combat and swallowing a lot of damage where the Sorceress (no doubt a favourite for some) opts for elemental, long-ranged attacks.

No matter which character you play, the controls and mechanics are largely the same. Aside from unique attacks and powers, you’ll have to jump, dodge, and navigate your way through the many labyrinths in Dragon’s Crown. It’s simple, and for the first hour or so, rather enjoyable. Even those who missed out on Golden Axe can appreciate the fast-paced 2D combat, especially during boss battles.

The game’s main flaw, however, is that its combat and gameplay systems fail to develop over the course of your adventure. Straight off the bat you have access to the majority of a character’s attacks and combos with little room for experimentation after beating the first few dungeons.


Luckily there are a few nuances that keep the game fresh. Unlike Golden Axe, Dragon’s Crown has a number of RPG elements in tow such as experience points, dialogue options, and a particular focus on loot. The game also lets players move an on-screen cursor with the right stick, allowing them to highlight interactive objects and uncover hidden items.

It’s these items (usually coins and other treasures) that help to drive the game’s arcade appeal. The higher score you get, the more experience points you acquire, although loot is often more deserving of attention. Found in chests scattered through Hydeland’s dungeons, each bit of gear is graded and needs to be approved (at a cost) before you can make use of it. Though it’s pretty easy to tell if an item you have is junk, it adds another layer of intrigue and mystery, fuelling the game’s fantasy setting.

A number of other systems are also present, separating Dragon’s Crown from its predecessors. You’ll be able to take on side-quests, for instance, and can even resurrect the bones of fallen NPC heroes found while on your travels. It definitely adds substance, providing players with a hub which they can explore when out of battle.

There’s multiplayer too, though only through local play – until you beat the campaign, that is. It’s certainly more fun than milling around with NPCs though things can get chaotic. The 2D art allows players to eclipse each-other in the heat of battle, creating a continual problem, especially if you are all whaling on the same target.


Vanillaware has never been afraid to indulge its artistic side and it really shows in their latest game. All environments and character models are completely hand drawn and coloured. It’s great stuff and though there are odd moments of inconsistency, its charm is undeniable. Sure, some models are slightly over-sexualised and exaggerated but it doesn’t really detract from the overall experience.

What’s Good:

  • Easy to pick up and play.
  • RPG elements such as loot and XP.
  • Looks gorgeous.

What’s Bad:

  • Basic mechanics never expand.
  • Multiplayer isn’t quite so pronounced.
  • Repetitive combat and dungeon layouts.
  • Story never stands out.
  • Had potential to do a lot better.

Dragon’s Crown delivers in a number of areas, though not in the ones that matter most. Stunning visuals and nods to the roleplaying genre simply aren’t enough to outweigh the repetitive combat and a so-so narrative.

Score: 5/10


  1. I’m a bit surprised at the review myself, but well written. I have a different opinion of the game though (at least on Vita anyway).

    I’m not finished it yet, but I picked it up at the weekend on Vita and quite like it (although I’m not so sure if I like the very over the top character models).

    It’s fun, easy enough to get a grasp of, although I agree it does seem a bit easy so far.

    I can say that it’s probably not a game I’d play much on PS3 though- it feels much more suited to a pick up and play style associated with portable consoles.

    The art style is stunning and the sound is great. I’ve also found a decent amount of replay ability by going back to earlier dungeons with new abilities such as the runestones.

    • I pretty much have the same point of view. I’d think it would make a good pick up and play game, but perhaps not at the current price.

      Startled at this review though, perhaps makes me think twice about the game but then there is a very delicate balance between an enjoyable RPG grind and a repetitive play through. No doubt the multi-player helps rather than hinders this aspect of the game.

  2. For me this game easily is a 8 or 9 out of ten.

    A five (the lowest score I’ve seen for this game, even lower than the feminist who hated the portraying of women in this game) really does this game injustice.

    For someone he likes this genre, this game is utterly fantastic.

    I think a few points in your review are very wrong.

    You state that “No matter which character you play, the controls and mechanics are largely the same.” On the contrary; each character plays very differently: the Dwarf has throws and grabs, the Elf shoots arrows, the Fighter has sword combat, the Sorceress has magic spells,…

    And you can develop your character a lot through levelling: new moves, moves that get a lot stronger,…

    For me it’s a very complete game.

    And it’s incredibly beautiful.

    • By “plays the same” I was referring to the button lay out and flow, mainly. Personally, I tried the Dwarf, Sorceress, Elf, and Amazon. Each have their own nuances but the gameplay experience (even after purchasing a horde of upgrades) remains largely the same.

      Also, can’t say I’m much of a radical feminist. I’m not as sensitive as most people, I’d say, and actually enjoyed the artwork a fair bit.

      In the end it was repetition that really let the game down, driven mainly by the lack of depth in gameplay.

      • wait, you’re marking a side scrolling beat-em up, down for having similar controls for each character?

        I guess games really can’t win.

        (it does look repetitive though…but then what game doesn’t?)

  3. The character with the over sized arse and thighs really disturbs me for some reason. Like “nightmares tonight” disturbs me. I don’t even know why.

    • It’s because she has so many bloke-like physical attributes. It’s downright freaky!

  4. Played this for the first time last night, while I thought some of the character design made DOA look like a convent school, I found the game itself to be pretty good fun, once you got the enforced tutorial out of the way.

  5. So far I’ve been playing it for about 23 hours as the dwarf and i have really enjoyed it.

    I do have a few issues with it, mainly the fact that the number of dungeons is a bit low. Each dungeon does stand out from the others but the amount of times side quests have sent me repeatedly send me through dungeons is probably the biggest irritation.

    The online component of the game has also been handled very badly i feel which is a shame as it was the reason I bought the game day one.

    Overall I am really enjoying the game but i dont feel the need or desire to replay it with any of the other characters as, combat aside, I know it will largely be the same experience.

    Things I like: frantic combat, short dungeons, good loot system, leveling/character development system has good pace, enemy design is excellent, in fact the art direction is great with brilliant use of colour. I find the oversexualised characters to be laughable rather than annoying. Story is a huge jumble of cliches, but in a good way.

  6. Shame really – though I think I’ll probably pick it up in a sale further down the line – I like Dynasty Warriors so repetition clearly isn’t too much of a problem for me!

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