North American Saturn cover art
|Genre(s)||Real-time strategy, real-time tactics|
Dragon Force (ドラゴンフォース) is a real-time strategy and tactics video game from Sega created for the Sega Saturn. It was created in Japan and translated for North American release by Working Designs in 1996, a translation that was also used by Sega in Europe under license from Working Designs. A sequel, later translated by fans, was released for the Saturn in Japan in 1998. The first game was re-released for the PlayStation 2 as part of the Sega Ages series.
The player assumes the role of one of the continent's eight rulers and sets out to, depending on the ruler, unite the continent, bring peace to the land, and put a stop to the great evil that wants to destroy the land. Each of the eight rulers move along predetermined paths between towns and castles, with castles being the primary objective of the game. When two armies meet, or an army approaches an enemy castle, the focus then switches to that battle.
Gameplay is generally divided into two categories; the strategic "world map" view, and the tactics-oriented battle. On the world map, the player organizes and moves his forces in real time, although the game pauses when the player enters a menu. Armies may only move along predetermined paths between towns and castles.
At the outset of the battle, each side chooses a general and corresponding company of troops to command. After the selection of generals, each side chooses a formation which determines the arrangement of troops. The battle is then fought in real-time, again pausing the action when the player goes into a menu to select commands or use the generals' special attacks or spells. Battles end when one general runs out of hit points or retreats; if both generals' armies are depleted, both generals have the option of dueling or retreating. Generals who run out of hit points are, depending on the general, captured, injured, or (rarely) killed in action. If the player's ruler is defeated in this manner, the player loses the game and must restart from the last save. Once the battle is finished, the process repeats until one army's generals have all been defeated.
Every in-game "week" (a fixed amount of time on the world map), the player attends to administrative duties. During this time, players may give awards to generals (increasing the number of troops they can command or items that increase their capabilities), persuade captive enemy generals to join the player's army, search for items or recruit generals in the ruler's territory, fortify castles, and save the game. Plot-advancing cut scenes frequently take place at the end of the week.
Dragon Force is set in the world Legendra, which lived in an era of prosperity under the watch of the benevolent goddess Astea, until it came under siege by the evil god Madruk and his armies. To stop him, a defender came in the form of the Star dragon Harsgalt, and his chosen warriors known as the Dragon Force. Unfortunately, personal disputes amongst the Dragon Force led to their downfall and left Harsgalt to face Madruk. The two faced each other in a fight to death, and Harsgalt, unable to kill Madruk, sealed him away until eight new chosen warriors could rise to permanently defeat him.
300 years later, the seal imprisoning Madruk has weakened and two of his Dark Apostles, Scythe and Gaul, have begun working towards his release. To ensure none would stop their master, the two of them manipulate the eight nations of Legendra into warring amongst themselves. Eventually, one of the monarchs will successfully end the war, though the events of how it occurs vary depending on the monarch. Regardless, each of the monarchs will discover that they are the eight members of the Dragon Force, and that the only way they can kill Madruk is by obtaining the Dragon Power left by Harsgalt.
Despite attempts to stop them by Scythe and Gaul, whichever monarch the player controls gains the power, and then has to use it to defeat Madruk's final apostle, a robot named Katmondo. Subsequently, Madruk's prison continues to weaken, allowing him to release his army of dragonmen. Despite his army's release, the Dragon Force fight their way to Madruk's prison and find his three Dark Apostles waiting for them there. Whichever monarch that has the Dragon power leaves to face Madruk, while the remaining seven fight the Dark Apostles, and defeat them despite the three becoming even more powerful thanks to the seal on Madruk weakening. The monarch with the Dragon Power then faces and kills Madruk, finally ending his threat. Though the monarch's generals initially lose hope of them surviving, they are saved by Astea, who leaves the world to be governed by the mortals, saying it is time for them to stand on their own. Whatever events that follow during the credits vary depending on the monarch the player uses.
Within the game, eight different storylines exist—one for each monarch. The campaigns for Goldark and Reinhart can only be accessed after the game has been completed, as they contain spoilers from the outset.
Dragon Force won Electronic Gaming Monthly's Game of the Month award, and its Saturn Game of the Year award for 1996. EGM later ranked the game at #111 on its list of 'The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time'.
Dragon Force II: Kamisarishi Daichi ni was developed and published by Sega, and released only in Japan in 1998.
- Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue 90 (January 1997), page 60
- Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue 92 (March 1997), pages 82-88
- The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time from 1UP.com