Indie Quickie: Dragon Fantasy: Book I

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? JRPG adventuring modeled after classics from the NES and SNES eras is what you get from this retro tribute.

Who made it and where can you get it? Muteki Corporation is the curator of this fine role-playing throwback, which is newly available with cross-buy on PS3 and Vita for $9.99. Previous versions have been released on PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. Click over to the official game site for links to the various platform marketplaces.

How much did we play? Got the valiant out-of-retirement Ogden to level 31, assembled the legendary Hero’s Armor, and defeated the Dark Lord and the Really Dark Lord to complete chapter one. Began chapter two and reached level 15 with the new adventurer, Prince Anders, while defeating Frosty the Snowman’s evil twin, Freezie the Doom Man, in the frigid depths of the Ice Cavern dungeon. Most play time was spent on the Vita, though I did dabble some with cross-saving over to the PS3 and back.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? When launching the game on many occasions the sound effects and music volume sliders will both be toggled completely off without me ever having touched those menu options. Even after turning them back on and seeing the auto-save icon flash, they’ll often be turned off again the next time I play. It is fairly annoying having to hit the setup screen to toggle the same options almost every time the game starts up. Other than that I haven’t experienced anything serious bug wise.

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Why should you play it?

    • Retro Role Playing to the Max: As the title implies, Dragon Fantasy is pure homage to genre greats Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy (with minor touches from other classics mixed in for extra nostalgia). Dragon Quest’s influences are especially strong, from the first-person, menu-based battle system, to the House of Healing style save/revive system, to the heavy dent death puts on your gold coin pouch (don’t forget to bank!). Everything you love–or love to hate/hate to love–about JRPGs is wrapped up in this indie fantasy quest, whether it’s tirelessly grinding out levels to become strong enough for the next boss or farming enemy fodder for enough gold to stock up on supplies or buy that vital weapon/armor upgrade that’ll push your party over the top. Random encounters also come fast and frequent, though fortunately the combat screen pops up right on the map so battles typically fly by in a hurry, without the disruption of load screens taking you off to a separate battlefield. The hit ratio during combat used to be old-school harsh as well, meaning both you and the enemy would miss attacks with absurd regularity. But fortunately a recent game update balanced the ratio to be far less infuriating.

    • Two Nintendo Eras in One: Dragon Fantasy captures the style and spirit of Japanese role playing on the NES and SNES all in one game. Not only does the game itself gradually evolve as you work from chapter to chapter—you’ll begin the first chapter as a single hero, by chapter two you’ll be able to hire companions to fill out a party—but you’re also given options to tune the graphics and audio between 8-bit with chiptunes or an enhanced 16-bit mode with a higher quality orchestral sound. Or you can mix and match pixel and audio fidelity if, let’s say, you like the sharper color palette of 16-bit contrasted by the bleeps and blorps of an NES game, or vice versa. Now that’s customizable nostalgia!

    • A Dash of Parody: This is an incredibly simplistic game, breaking down the JRPG formula to its barest of bones. Combat is nothing more than clicking a menu option and watching little slash or rudimentary spell sprites flash on the screen while text describes the effectiveness of the attack. An underlying sense of comedy keeps these basic elements light and refreshing. With names like Obligatory Ork, Sangria Enthusiast, Sgt. Killface, and Skelly Claus (yes, a skeleton dressed like Santa Claus wielding a giant candy cane like a club), you’ll always be on the lookout to see what silly creature pops up in the next encounter. But more than the names, it’s the combat descriptions that really amp the humor. “Hunka Burnin’ Love has you all shook up.” “The Eater of Faces gets confused by a spork.” “Skelly Claus knows Anders has been naughty.” “The Mystic Man stops being so mystical.” It’s hard not to chuckle at battle text like that.

Parting Thoughts: Dragon Fantasy is a lighthearted reminder of how great JRPGs used to be back before the Square Enix merger, when Squaresoft and Enix were two separate entities dueling for genre domination. There isn’t an ounce of originality or complexity to the game, but it’s loaded with personality, old-school level grinding, peppy battles and plenty of nostalgic giggles that any one with a fond remembrance for this type of game is sure to cherish. They just don’t make ‘em like this any more. Oh wait, I guess they do!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!