Shortly before PlayStation 4’s launch in 2013, Dragon’s Crown was released for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. Dragon’s Crown was a throwback to beat ’em ups that were popular in arcades during the ’80s and ’90s. It took the brawler template, put it in a fantasy world like Golden Axe or Legend, added some RPG elements and Vanillaware’s signature art style to create a title that may not end up on any PlayStation 3 top ten lists but was still a strong entry before the next generation took over. The game wasn’t perfect, but its pros greatly outweigh its cons as it was a great way to experience some old fashioned arcade action with a contemporary feel in the comfort of one’s home. Dragon’s Crown has been resurrected with a couple upgrades for anyone who missed it when it first came out under the name Dragon’s Crown Pro.
Just to get it out of the way, Dragon’s Crown Pro is exactly the same game as Dragon’s Crown with some minor cosmetic changes. The differences are the graphics have been upscaled to 4K/1080P depending on the PlayStation 4 model and TV and the soundtrack has been re-recorded with a live orchestra, giving the player the choice between hearing the original score or a subtly-improved version. The trophy list is even shared between the PlayStation 3 and Vita version. Given the extensive revamping that went into Odin Sphere Leifthrasir that greatly improved an already good game this might seem like an odd route for Vanillaware to go with Dragon’s Crown Pro. My theory is that because multiplayer is such an appealing aspect of this title there may have been some difficulties in making the online multiplayer Dragon’s Crown Pro cross platform with PlayStation 3 and Vita users if they made significant changes to the game.
The most basic description of the premise of Dragon’s Crown Pro is to retrieve the titular Dragon’s Crown and slay an ancient dragon. During the first part of the game the player will be given a quest location from someone in town and take the conveniently-located portal at the edge of town to the quest destination or a previously cleared area to take on an adventurer’s guild quest or do some level grinding. After the player has cleared these nine areas they are tasked with retrieving the nine talismans that are needed to weaken the dragon in order to defeat it. In order to get these nine talismans, the player will need to go back through each area but take on the newly opened Route B and fight a more powerful boss.
To complicate matters, the portal becomes unstable when Route B opens up and the player will be randomly teleported to any area. Sometimes this will land the player in a spot where the Route B boss is too powerful for them, at which case they can go with Route A again. The positive side is during this portion the player can chain several locations together, provided their companions don’t all day, and hit multiple areas on a single outing that can greatly increase their score and gold earnings for the quest. The random area thing can be annoying when the player reaches the point of having seven or eight talismans, but there is also the option of renting a horse from the stables and traveling to the desired destination. After the ancient dragon is defeated, the player may continue playing on the Hard and Infernal difficulties, each one offering new guild quests, greater challenges and new, more powerful enemies.
There are six different characters to choose from each with a different play style. The warrior type characters — the Fighter, Dwarf and Amazon — are generally considered easier for newcomers. The Sorceress, Wizard and Elf are more challenging to play but once they get some good equipment and skills with the right team of NPCs or other players to help keep them alive their extremely powerful attacks and abilities can make up for their fragility. The character designs are exaggerated and faced some criticism and ridicule in 2013 and nothing has changed since then. The way the Sorceress’s H cup global endowments flop and jiggle make us wonder why she hasn’t tapped into her arcane power to conjure up a sports bra. The Fighter doesn’t really show any skin at all but one has to wonder how he found a blacksmith to give his plate armor the superhero spandex fit and the booty on the Amazon suggests that she squats 585 for her warm up set.
Being identical to the version on the previous console generation, Dragon’s Crown Pro retains everything that made it so enjoyable and everything that could have benefited from improvement. The action-driven gameplay is still a great time, and the magic spells, multiple on-screen enemies and destructible environments make for complete mayhem. The downside to this there are times when there is so much chaos on screen it’s hard to figure out where exactly the player is and what all is going on, which becomes more common further in the game and on higher difficulty levels. Dragon’s Crown Pro supports up to four player simultaneous co-op play, both local and online or a combination of the two, and the player can enlist resurrected NPCs from the bones they collect to help out if they wish to play solo. For some reason voice chat was never a part of the online Dragon’s Crown experience and that was always my biggest complaint with it.
Despite the criticisms Dragon’s Crown received for certain character anatomical designs it received back in 2013, this was an amazing looking game for the time and it looks even better upscaled. The worlds are bright and colorful, and some of the boss monsters take up the full screen. Completing optional guild quests rewards the player with pieces of art, and given the high visual quality of Dragon’s Crown Pro, these are actually worthwhile rewards. With all the actions that happen on screen, it’s easy to lose track of where the player actually is sometimes, but it’s impressive that the game can handle that much mayhem and not suffer from slowdown.
Dragon’s Crown Pro is one of those games whose very existence elicits mixed reactions. The game holds up quite well as it’s just as enjoyable now as it was back in 2013. The gameplay can be on the repetitive side as is often the case with frenetic action games, but the RPG elements and story breaks help break up the monotony while multiplayer helps keep things interesting, though not adding voice chat support to online multiplayer is still a puzzling decision. The increased resolution makes a beautiful game look even better, and the ability to play cross platform with people on PlayStation 3 and Vita is a welcome feature, though including it may have come at the expense of making significant upgrades to the title. As good as Dragon’s Crown Pro may be, there are no significant additions and with only the soundtrack and visuals receiving polish there’s no point to upgrade to this version if you still have an original copy of Dragon’s Crown. But if you missed out on Dragon’s Crown five years ago, Pro is a perfect excuse to experience it.