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Review: Dragon Fantasy Book I

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dragon fantasy book i

Title: Dragon Fantasy Book I
Price: $9.99
System(s): Vita (Also on PS3 via Cross-Buy promotion. Buy one version, get the other free)
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Muteki Corporation (Muteki Corporation)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone 10+” for Mild Language and Violent References

Sony has embraced indie games. It’s Spring Fever 2013 campaign proves this, with a different title from an independent developer taking the spotlight each week. Last week, Muteki Corporation’s Dragon Fantasy Book I had its moment to shine, and it has definitely made both the PS3 and Vita a little brighter with this lighthearted adventure.

dragon fantasy book i

Multiple heroes tread their own paths until they unite to save the world.

Dragon Fantasy Book I is the story of a gathering. Dark things are happening in the world. A Black Knight abducts a princely heir to a kingdom, a king disappeared years ago on an unknown quest and a thief has suddenly come into the possession of a strange amulet. Instead of using a narrative technique that swaps between characters just when things get good, Muteki Corporation has dedicated three chapters to each of the main characters, as well as a supplemental “fun” chapter set in the world of Minecraft.

With Ogden’s chapter, players see the queen’s retired bodyguard step back into action to search for her kidnapped son and get back into hero-shape. In Prince Anders’ story, he escapes Wester Castle after the Black Knight kidnaps his brother and goes off to investigate his father’s disappearance. Meanwhile, the final chapter sees Jerald and his niece Ramona attempt to outrun the foes the the thief has made and escape a desert kingdom. All three offer a standard, RPG adventure, though Ogden’s story is the longest of the three and took me about three hours to complete. Anders and Jerald’s stories each took me about two hours. It isn’t a lengthy experience, but it is an enjoyable one.

Then, there’s the Intermission M story. This is a little side, joke adventure where the Woodsman, a minor character, and Jerald’s niece Ramona have to explore a Minecraft cave to find Notch’s hat. It’s cute and silly, and an extra bonus for people who enjoyed the battling and writing of the previous three chapters.

dragon fantasy book i

Getting into the retro-mood.

First off, I’ve got to say, if you’re not playing Dragon Fantasy Book I in Classic Mode, you’re doing it wrong. Muteki Corporation included an option that changes the graphics and music. Switch on Classic Mode, and it’s like an NES RPG. Swap to Enhanced and the graphics and music are more modern. I highly suggest, for authenticity’s sake, you go with Classic. I belief it not only looks better this way, but found the soundtrack to sound far superior in this mode. I know, it’s the same music, but for a game like this, chiptunes sound better.

With that out of the way, Dragon Fantasy Book I is a pretty faithful recreation of old school, NES RPGs that used to pour out of Japan. Players take a hero, journey around the worldmap to acquire items from dungeons and defeat specific enemies, taking part in random battles and stopping in towns for rest, extra items and new equipment regularly. Ogden’s chapter is the most difficult of the four, and the one in which I found I needed to spend the most amount of time level-grinding, but for the most part it feels like any RPG you would have played back in the 1990’s.

The battles especially remind me of those classic games. Like Dragon Quest, Phantasy Star and Earthbound, only the enemy is seen. The players are represented by boxes at the bottom of the screen. It’s turn-based, with party members able to attack, use magic, skills or items and run. What makes it special is, like Earthbound, the opponents all have silly names and detailed, ridiculous attack descriptions. For example, one enemy called Mr. Rock Monster’s attack is described as, “Mr. Rock Monster takes out his marital troubles on Ogden!” I loved that, and made a point of taking Vita screenshots of the funniest attacks.

I really appreciated the quality of writing in Dragon Fantasy Book I in general. The story isn’t revolutionary, but the humorous asides, witty remarks and sarcastic jabs help keep things fresh. Sure, I’ve seen heroes save the world hundreds of times, but comical RPGs don’t come along every day and I really appreciated Muteki Corporation’s attempt to keep players’ interest by injecting levity into the script.

There are a few quirks, however, that keep Dragon Fantasy Book I from being perfect. A big one has to do with battles. I found that my characters missed entirely too often. The hit ratio needs adjusting. Missing once during a three or four turn battle is fine. Missing three times in a row, extending the length of the battle by that many turns, is unacceptable. A patch is out for the PS3 that bumps up the hit ratio to about 85% and is coming soon to the Vita, but I wish that was more like 90%. Especially since the characters are supposed to be skilled warriors. Another issue has to do with color schemes. When the lead character’s health gets low, the dialog and status boxes turn red. However, this makes it impossible to see the indicator showing which menu option you’re hovering over. This isn’t as bad on the Vita, when I can just tap on the touch screen whatever option I want, but is frustrating on the PS3 as I don’t have that luxury. Finally, after battle there’s a pause after it finishes. If you immediately press and hold a direction button to resume walking, your character won’t. You have to wait a moment, release the button, then press in a direction to move. All of these are relatively minor annoyances, but they do start to add up.

dragon fantasy book i

A lighthearted love song to classic RPGs.

I feel like Dragon Fantasy Book I gave me my childhood back. I’ve played retro-inspired RPGs before, but this is the only one that made me feel like I was back in my grandpa’s house again, playing Earthbound on the SNES he bought for me. I’ve played a lot of games I’ve loved and adored since then, but none have been able to tap into that memory and make me remember what it was like to experience that kind of simple and entertaining joy. There were so many moments that make me smile just thinking about them, and I feel fortunate to know I can play Dragon Fantasy Book I at any time on my Vita.

Site [Dragon Fantasy Book I]

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