Hands-On with Dragon’s Crown, Vanillaware’s gorgeous 2D beat ‘em up

Posted on Jul 1 2013 - 9:00am by Gabriel Zamora

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Dragon’s Crown Hands On with Dragons Crown, Vanillawares gorgeous 2D beat em up is a cooperative 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up/ RPG adventure developed by Vanillaware, the studio responsible for Odin Sphere, GrimGrimoire, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Unlike Vanillaware’s previous titles, Dragon’s Crown is a side-scrolling fantasy beat ‘em up, in the same vein as the Dungeons and Dragons and Golden Axe arcade games of yesteryear. Featuring fantastic artwork by George Kamitani, solid combat mechanics and controls, RPG character and ability growth, plenty of treasure-looting and equipment customization, and a satisfying co-op multiplayer experience, Dragon’s Crown is turning out to be an extremely promising title. I managed to get some hands-on time with the PS3 version during E3 2013, and experimented with some of the characters and their many abilities, while at the same time ogling the gorgeous environments and art.

Controls in Dragon’s Crown are easy to grasp after a bit of practice. Each character has basic attacks that can be executed with a press of the square button. Directional inputs (down/up) change the effect and animation of these attack. Characters generally have a sweep (down while attacking) and launch attack (up while attacking), as well as a basic combo.

Additional common commands include a dash (double-tapping forward, or holding the basic attack button while moving forward), and an evasive technique, the animation of which varies by character.

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Charged attacks are another command that characters share. These are performed the same way for most characters (I hesitate to say all, since I didn’t experimented with all characters) – pressing and holding the square button. The Amazon will raise her axe to deflect attacks, and Fighter will raise his shield to defend himself. Dwarf will harden his skin to reduce damage. Sorceress will recharge her magic. Elf will cast a basic elemental spell, depending on the terrain she’s standing in.

Special attacks further define each character. These are executed with the circle button. Amazon will focus energy into her axe and smash it down onto anything in front of her. The attack has a lengthy recovery that leaves her without her weapon for a few seconds, forcing the muscular dame to fight bare-handed. Sorceress will cast a spell, the type of which varies based on the scepter she has equipped. Elf will shoot arrows in a variety of ways. Dwarf will grapple enemies. As with basic attacks, directional inputs will change the effect of many of these special attacks.

What this means, in short, is that characters have plenty of unique attacks and techniques that can help them devastate the monster hordes in the world of Dragon’s Crown.

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Much like Vanillaware’s past games and Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons arcade games, items found during questing will play a role in expanding a player’s attack options. Treasure chests scattered around the map often store consumable weapons in addition to food and gold. During my demo playthroughs of Dragon’s Crown, I encountered a crossbow, a dagger, a bomb, and a spellbook. These items have a limited number of uses before they either break or run out and are discarded. My crossbow came with ten uses, as did my dagger. Players can equip these secondary weapons with the triangle button and switch them in and out as needed.

Food is another interesting facet in Dragon’s Crown, and has been a recurring gameplay element in Vanillaware’s games. As mentioned, treasure chests will often have food hidden within them. Once collected, the character will automatically consume it when they stand idle. Eating food in dungeons not only replenishes health, but allows players to increase their maximim HP to up to 150% of its base value, should they consume more than they need at the time.

During my demo runs, I encountered player remains at some point within the dungeons, represented by a pile of bones sitting in an empty room. In essence, when players die in a dungeon their skeletal remains are left for other players to find. Should other players decide to collect these remains, they can revive the deceased player in town and recruit them as an NPCs to aid them in dungeon crawling. Useful for single-player play, no doubt.

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During my time at E3 2013, I jumped on the Dragon’s Crown demo twice to fiddle around with the characters and dungeons. The two dungeons were relatively short, but showcased unique elements that would undoubtedly become more common as the game progressed. One dungeon had enemy mounts that players could hijack when defeated. Another had a hidden room that could be discovered if players studied the environment carefully, which was filled with orc enemies and treasure.

Combat in Dragon’s Crown is hectic and fun, and the looting and treasure ranking system encourages players to replay dungeons to maximize their score and acquire the best equipment for their characters. Dragon’s Crown is being developed exclusively for the PS3 and PSVita, and is scheduled for release on August 6th.

You can pre-order Dragon’s Crown (PS3 version) Hands On with Dragons Crown, Vanillawares gorgeous 2D beat em up at Amazon.com for $45.39.

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Gabriel Zamora is a freelance writer, ghost writer and hardcore video gamer. He has contributed written works for 2D-X, Examiner and MultiplayerGames among other sites.

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