Title: Dragon Fantasy Book II
System(s): Vita, PS3 (cross-buy)
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Muteki Corporation (Muteki Corporation)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone 10+” for Alcohol Reference, Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, and Mild Language
A few months ago, the PS3 and Vita were graced with a hilarious, JRPG-inspired adventure made by developers who truly loved games. Dragon Fantasy Book I was a great game, and easily provided a few days worth of joy. It made the wait for its sequel, Dragon Fantasy Book II even harder, because we now knew Muteki Corp was capable of good things.
Now, Dragon Fantasy Book II is here and, while it’s everything I hoped it would be, it’s really only welcoming to people who played the original installment and is hampered by technical issues.
A not-so-ideal group of heroes set off to save the day.
Ogden had just accumulated a fairly reliable party of dependable warriors in Dragon Fantasy Book I when disaster struck. The group was shipwrecked. Fortunately, they met some pirates. Unfortunately, bad guys are swarming the world, trying to find them, and an assassin named Serpent Diablo is keeping a close eye on Ogden. I wish I could offer another “fortunately,” to make things better, but things are pretty sticky when Dragon Fantasy Book II begins.
Simply put, for those who skipped the first game, Dragon Fantasy Book II follows a group of heroes, led by a semi-retired hero named Ogden who’s called back into service, as they try to save the world. They’re in the middle of their journey, attempting to save Prince Marlon of Wester, figure out the implications of a mysterious artifact, and fight song truly fearsome enemies.
Unfortunately, Dragon Fantasy Book II doesn’t work well as a stand alone tale. Muteki Corporation has a missed opportunity in the first 10-15 minutes of the game. There’s a dream sequence that acts as an excuse to books Ogden up to a decent level to face the enemies in the game, while also wandering through areas visited in the original game. This would have been the perfect time to review what happened in Dragon Fantasy Book I, and prepare people for the ensuing adventure. It could have introduced newcomers, or jogged the memory of 30 year old reviewers who haven’t played the game in five months. Instead, people are left hanging, wondering what happened prior, and coming up on another cliffhanger.
Inspired by the classics, but hampered by modern technical issues.
Dragon Fantasy Book II doesn’t just show the progression of a single game, it shows the evolution of RPGs in general. Dragon Fantasy Book I was heavily inspired by classics like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Earthbound, but its visuals were heavily inspired by early NES games. With the sequel, we’re looking at a game that seeks inspiration from even more diverse games. The visuals are in-line with what we would have seen on the SNES, with battle system mechanics inspired by Chrono Trigger and Pokemon, of all things.
Dragon Fantasy Book II battles are turn-based, but happen in real-time, as they did in Chrono Trigger. Ogden and his companions and pets may be walking on the field, when suddenly some enemies will run up. Everyone jumps into place, and a turn-based battle begins. Further inspired by the source game, Muteki has given every character AOE skills that target large groups, to make things more manageable. Once all enemies are defeated, the battle ends, though it can be extended if other enemies wander by and jump into the fray.
Like Pokemon, Lufia: Ruins of Lore, and RPGs, Dragon Fantasy Book II allows the party to capture monsters with nets. These monsters will then follow Ogden around, taking part in battles for its new masters. Some side-quests even involve capturing specific monsters for people, or showing you have a certain creature under your thumb. The problem is, it’s very difficult to capture said monsters for quests. I encountered this problem in the first moments of the game. A sidequest tasked Ogden with catching a Land Shark. Like Pokemon, monsters must be weakened in Dragon Fantasy Book II to be captured. The problem was, Ogden scored a manly (critical) hit on the first try, and the Land Shark was gone. I entered and left the area numerous times, but he didn’t respawn until later. So while monster capturing is a novel way of increasing the roster, it can be difficult to catch the ones you want.
Despite the monster catching needing a little work, the rest of Dragon Fantasy Book II is solid. The script in particular is wonderful, injecting plenty of humor into a tale that could have almost been considered commonplace without it. The difficulty is just right, meaning people will need to level grind a smidge, but won’t be spending hours building levels. Not to mention there’s a good balance between story and supplemental content. While the original Dragon Fantasy was fairly straightforward, there are a number of extra tasks Ogden and his party can undertake, and most of them are on the way to story-centric missions. Not only that, but the aforementioned monster catching and crafting system also help keep people playing.
The only thing is, Dragon Fantasy Book II does have a few technical issues. I noticed them more on the PS3 than on the Vita, though it’s important to note that I’ve only been able to play it on my Vita a few days. The most common problem happened when I went into battles with a full party. Some characters would move and perform their attacks, while others would freeze. They’d still attack, but their sprites wouldn’t move. There was also some noticeable lag, especially when special skills were used. Most troublesome was the fact that Dragon Fantasy Book II froze on me three times when I played it on the PS3, with the first freeze happening after I had been playing for just after an hour. Ogden was leaving Port Awesomegrogg’s town hall, and everything came to a halt. Of these issues, I’ve only noticed a bit of the lag on the Vita with a full party, but it’s worth noting. Fortunately, these are issues that Muteki Corporation could, and probably will, fix with patches.
Dragon Fantasy Book I was good, Dragon Fantasy Book II is better.
Dragon Fantasy Book II is a classic example of a RPG that just works, provided you’re coming in after immediately playing Dragon Fantasy Book I. It flows well, carrying players along without making the affair ever feel like work. It’s refreshing, especially since it means people can enjoy themselves, and not get caught up grinding for hours. I wish the monster capturing was handled a bit better, perhaps with quest-based monsters respawning more frequently, but the few instances where it caused a problem didn’t break my heart. And, if there was ever a point where I did find myself frustrated, the colorful descriptions of enemies’ attacks or general dialogue would pick me up again. Dragon Fantasy Book II has the potential to be a solid game, once its bugs have been fixed, but it doesn’t stand well on its own. It only works if you’re committed to the series and willing to pick up every installment.
Site [Dragon Fantasy Book II]