Dragon’s Crown was… controversial to say the least. Our original review only briefly mentioned that some character designs were over-sexualised, but took more of an umbrage with its repetitive nature. VanillaWare games do tend to look better at higher resolutions and with Dragon’s Crown Pro the game now boasts 4K graphics and an orchestral soundtrack.
Though I personally don’t have a 4K display, it’s clear even at 1080p that they’ve seen a rather significant upgrade and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it looks even better in 4K. Environments look greatly improved, while the characters and monsters are far more crisply detailed. All the better, it maintained a smooth frame-rate throughout in my experience and there’s no loss in the detail whatsoever.
As for Dragon’s Crown Pro’s other achievement, the orchestral soundtrack is an obvious boon as it better emphasises the notes the original was going for. Whimsical tracks are more enchanting, dramatic ones more tense. Having both available to choose between meant that it was easy to compare, so if for some ridiculously nostalgic reason the orchestral track doesn’t tickle your fancy, you have the option to select the original and play with that.
Despite not really changing the gameplay, the inclusion of the game’s DLC narrator packs is a nice touch and the game definitely runs better online now than it did at launch. Having said that, playing online is still gated behind beating the campaign, meaning if you want to have friends join you, you need to either play through the entire game, or hope and pray you uploaded your save to the PlayStation Network last generation.
In perhaps the nicest touch for existing fans, there’s a path for the original game on both PS3 and PS Vita that allows save data to be compatible with the new PS4 version, as well as enable cross-play for multiplayer. So in case your friends don’t have a 4K TV or wish to splash out on a brand new version of a game they already own, you can still play with them. Of course, this version is prettier and boasts an orchestral soundtrack, but we’re not one to judge!
As the game was released on both PS3 and PS Vita, it makes sense for the PS4 version to take advantage of the controller in some way. You could use the right analogue stick and shoulder button to direct the thief, but the touchpad allows for a more dynamic experience that feels more like using a mouse. It’s obviously no replacement for a proper mouse, but it does feel better than other control options in my opinion.
These changes emphasise the game’s strengths, but don’t really address the weaknesses that were pointed out in our original review, as far as I’m concerned, namely of repetitive combat that doesn’t really evolve over the course of the game. That’s not to say I agree wholeheartedly as the genre does have certain limitations, though VanillaWare were at the cusp of exceeding them with the game’s RPG design philosophy and quest structure.
I would have liked to have seen something new included with this version. The decision to include cross-play may have hampered the potential for additional stuff here, but maybe new levels, new enemies/bosses, or perhaps new character class complete with a skill tree could have been added. Since the characters are all archetypal fantasy class tropes, a hyper-sexualised male bard would have been a very tongue-in-cheek nod to the initial criticisms held against the game and seems like a missed opportunity.
Alas, what we do have is a port that’s far more breathtaking in its presentation, even if it’s the same game from nearly five years ago. It’s a shame not to see anything new here for the gameplay, but the 4K visuals and orchestral soundtrack do a lot to drive home the point that VanillaWare make good looking and sounding games. It’s a decent sign that their next original project will be stunning in its design.