The Legend of Dragoon
|The Legend of Dragoon|
|Developer(s)||SCE Japan Studio|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
The Legend of Dragoon[a] is a role-playing video game developed by SCE Japan Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation in 1999 in Japan, 2000 in North America, and 2001 in Europe. Set in the high fantasy land of Endiness, the game follows a group of warriors led by Dart Feld as they are caught in a war between Endiness' nations. The player guides Dart's party as 3D character models through pre-rendered environments, fighting battles using a combination of turn-based mechanics and real-time commands.
The game took three years to develop, with over one hundred staff members and development costs of $16 million. Yasuyuki Hasebe was the director, game designer and story writer. Shuhei Yoshida acted as producer, while the music was composed by Dennis Martin and Takeo Miratsu. The game was designed to promote player immersion, realism and cinematic style. Reception was generally positive, although several critics found it lacking compared to other PlayStation RPGs at the time. A commercial success, The Legend of Dragoon sold over one million copies worldwide, with most of those sales coming from North America.
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The Legend of Dragoon uses a turn-based style of gameplay with a quick time event-like mechanic called "additions". When the "attack" option is selected from the battle menu, two blue squares will appear on the screen and start to converge. If the player times the button press at the right time, they can continue the addition and do more damage. Characters will receive multiple additions over the course of the game, which have a longer chain and deal more damage. The longer additions, however, allow enemies the opportunity to counter. When they do, the player needs to time a different button press to continue their attack. All the party members eventually gain access to their titular "Dragoon" forms. While in Dragoon form, the characters materialize armor and wings and gain a boost in attack power as well as access to alternate attacks. Dragoon form is only usable for a limited number of turns and must recharge to be used again.
The story begins when Dart, the protagonist, is heading home from a five year long journey to pursue the Black Monster, a being that killed his parents and destroyed his birth city, Neet. On the way, he is attacked by a mantis-like dragon controlled by the Sandora, a rebel faction in the Serdian civil war. Dart is saved by a mysterious woman named Rose, though they soon part ways. As he arrives at his hometown, Seles, he discovers that it has been destroyed by Sandora, and that Shana, Dart's childhood friend, has been taken away. Dart sets out to rescue her. Throughout the game, he is periodically joined by people that he helps along the way.
After rescuing Shana and going to Serdian castle, King Albert sends the party to defend the fort-city of Hoax against attacks from Sandora. During the Sandora's surprise attack on Hoax, Dart gains the ability to transform into a Dragoon by using the Dragoon Spirit of the Red-Eyed Dragon he carried around as his father's memento. With the fort safe, they travel to the city of Lohan where they meet a man named Lloyd, supposedly the greatest swordsman in the world. Later they discover that he kidnapped King Albert and took the Moon Gem from him, an ancient artifact held by the Royal Family. The king is rescued, but Lloyd escapes with the Moon Gem.
The party soon discovers that Lloyd is gathering similar artifacts held by human kings since the days of the Winglies' empire, a race of humanoids that could fly and use magic. While the party tries to reverse Lloyd's work, Lloyd manages to obtain all three of the artifacts, and also manages to obtain the Dragoon Spirit of the Divine Dragon, the most powerful dragon in the world. Dart and the party finally manage to defeat Lloyd, who then agrees to take them to Emperor Diaz, the ancient Emperor of Gloriano during the Dragon Campaign. Emperor Diaz reveals several things to the party.
During the height of the Wingly reign over 11,000 years ago a creature called the Virage Embryo, also known as the God of Destruction, came to the world to end all other life. Before it could be born, the Winglies used their magic to separate its body from its soul, making it unable to destroy them. They then cast the body into the sky, where it became the Moon That Never Sets, and sealed it using several magical Signets, one in each of the ancient Wingly cities, to prevent the soul and body from reuniting. The soul of the God of Destruction was originally placed inside the Crystal Sphere, which was worn by the ancient Wingly ruler Melbu Frahma to increase his power. However, when Dragoons attacked the Wingly capital of Kadessa, the Crystal Sphere was shattered during the fight between Melbu Frahma and Zieg Feld, leader of the Dragoons.
Ever since, the soul of the God of Destruction has wandered the Earth and, every one hundred and eight years, possesses the body of a human child in an attempt to return to its body. The body can be summoned if the Signets are destroyed, which can be done using the immense magical power contained within the artifacts that Lloyd gathered. In present day, the human that is the soul of the God of Destruction is Shana. Emperor Diaz then reveals himself to be Zieg Feld, Dart's father and leader of the Dragoons that fought alongside Rose in the Dragon Campaign. After Zieg defeated Melbu Frahma 11,000 years ago, Melbu cast a spell that both petrified him and kept his own spirit alive within Zieg's body. Finally, it is revealed that Rose is the Black Monster that destroyed Dart's birth city, in an attempt to kill the person carrying the soul of the God of Destruction.
After all this is revealed, Zieg – who is being possessed by Melbu Frahma–,takes Shana away and proceeds to destroy the remaining three Signet Spheres that seal the Moon That Never Sets, which is the flesh of the God of Destruction, causing it to fall from the sky. He then carries Shana to the body of the God of Destruction, so that the body will sense the presence of its soul and prepare to restore itself. Instead, Melbu Frahma unites with the body himself, taking the form and power of the God of Destruction. Zieg is released from Melbu Frahma's possession, and aids the party in their attempt to defeat Melbu. The party defeats him, but at the cost of Rose and Zieg who sacrifice themselves to destroy Melbu Frahma. The surviving party members manage to return home to live their own lives.
The Legend of Dragoon was developed by SCE Japan Studio, a first-party studio for Sony Computer Entertainment. As the studio were also creating teams for the production of Ape Escape and Ico, development on The Legend of Dragoon began in 1996 with a very small team. The game was directed and designed by Yasuyuki Hasebe, who also created the basic story. The producer was Shuhei Yoshida, and was the both one of the last and one of the largest project he worked on prior to leaving SCE Japan Studio. Kenichi Iwata was the game's art director and designer of the Dragoon armor, working on character designs alongside Tatsuya Nakamura. The game's monsters were designed by Itsuo Itoh, and the dragons were created by Hirohiko Iyoku. The script was written and supervised by Takehiro Kaminagayoshi. The team were assisted in producing the game's CGI cutscenes by Sony's internal studio Polyphony Digital.
Production of The Legend of Dragoon lasted three years. While the team started small, it eventually grew to 100 staff members and had a budget of $16 million, both considered very large for a PlayStation game. The "Addition" battle system was designed to make players feel like they were actively participating in a battle rather than selecting commands and waiting for actions to finish. The team's wish for realism also resulted in magic—a common character ability in RPGs—only being incorporated into the Dragoon state or through items with equivalent effects.
There were originally no plans for CGI movies as the character models were polygon-based and there would be a disconnect between real-time and CGI graphics. Eventually it was decided to include CGI movies for key events because they looked "cool", with their main theme being watching characters flying through the air, but ground and environmental effects were added; a noted effect was smoke, which was challenging for the developers due to it being their first time handling it. When designing the game's real-time lighting, which was designed to emulate the lighting used in CGI cutscenes, the team focused on what parts the player would be drawn to, allowing economical use of lighting. The amount of CGI movies and pre-rendered backgrounds meant that the game had to be spread across four CDs, which was the maximum number of discs possible for a single PlayStation case.
According to Yoshida, a dedicated team of ten artists worked on the game's concept art. When creating character names, the team created 100 names from the letters A to N, then picked out the best-liked and attached them to characters who best fitted them. Iwata originally had no hand in designing the characters, but after noting the anime aesthetic of his designs, the team decided to have main characters designed by Iwata. Iwata originally only designed Dart and Rose, with Rose's hair being a bright green. As the setting shifted towards a more realistic tone, elements such as Rose's green hair were removed. The characters were given key colors so players could easily distinguish them from each other, with each color matching a character's personality.
The music of The Legend of Dragoon was co-composed by Dennis Martin and Takeo Miratsu. Martin was an American-born composer with a resume including Japanese television series Rasen for TV Asahi, while Miratsu had worked on the music of Jumping Flash! and its sequel in addition to forming one half of the duo Twin Amadeus. Martin was both the soundtrack programmer and pianist. The soundtrack also featured contributions from guitarist Chuei Yoshikawa, bass work by Jonathan Maron, percussion from Ray Grappone, and saxophone by Jay Rodriguez. The synthesizer operator was Tetsuo Yamazaki. Recording was split between the Tokyo-based SEDIC and the Sound On Sound studio in New York. Mixing was also done at Sound On Sound. The Legend of Dragoon was Martin's first work for a video game, having been brought on board due to Sony wanting a different style to other RPGs at the time. Martin was originally intended to composer all the game's music himself, but the game's 4 CD length made this impractical, so Miratsu was brought on board by the Japanese staff. During their time on the project, Martin and Miratsu never met, although Martin stated that having a native Japanese composer with a different style to his broadened the soundtrack's variety.
During the early parts of development, Martin had trouble getting going on the project, citing the patience and help of the main production team in finding a suitable style and pace for the music. When creating the game's soundtrack, Martin was mostly given a free hand, although he did need to fulfill requests from the production team on both the soundtrack's overall style and individual pieces. During his early work, Martin focused on percussion and ethnic instruments, but the team wanted "strong melodies" for the game. As he was afraid such melodies would get tiresome due to the requirement to loop several times during gameplay, he added groove elements to negate the issue as he felt groove "[could] loop forever". Martin used the game's artwork and storyboards for inspiration when creating the tracks. One of the two demo discs Martin submitted became the music for the opening CGI cutscene. Martin found the limited PlayStation hardware frustrating for compositions. The game's main theme, "If You Still Believe", was performed by Elsa Raven. The song was composed, written and produced and Martin. Recording for different parts of the theme song was split between Tokyo and New York.
An original soundtrack album for the game was released in Japan on January 21, 2000 by SPE Visual Works. The main theme "If You Still Believe" was included in the compilation album Game Music Collection ～Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Best～, published by King Records on January 23, 2005. RPGFan's Lucy Rzeminski called the album "a passable CD if you give it a chance to sink in", praising some tracks but finding most of the album lacking in both quality and variety. Chris Greening of Square Enix Music Online gave the album a score of 6/10, saying that while innovative at the time, had been superseded in quality by later soundtracks and called it a buy for established fans of the game despite the album missing several tracks from the game. Both critics praised "If You Still Believe" as a high-quality theme song.
The Legend of Dragoon was first announced in September 1999. Cutscenes from the game were earlier shown off at that year's SIGGRAPH event. It was among the games displayed at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show. The game released in Japan on December 2, 1999. The series was twice adapted following its Japanese release; a novelization written by Hiranari Izuno and published by Famitsu Bunko in March 2000, and a short-lived manga created by Ataru Cagiva published in a tankōbon by Enterbrain in June the same year.
A North American release was confirmed by Sony in January 2000. Yoshida was able to personally supervise the North American release following his move from Japan to Sony's North American branch. The gameplay was adjusted based on feedback from Japanese players that it was too difficult, with Yoshida calling it the "complete" version. The game was released in North America on June 13, 2000. In Europe, the game was released on January 19, 2001. The game was re-released as a PlayStation Classic through PlayStation Network on December 22, 2010 in Japan and May 1, 2012 in North America. In a retrospective article about the series, Yoshida stated that a sequel was in pre-production after Yoshida left Japan, but it was cancelled for unknown reasons. Main protagonist Dart was also intended to be a downloadable content character for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.
The Legend of Dragoon was given a score of 74 out of 100 by review aggregate site Metacritic based on 12 reviews, indicating a "mixed to average" reception. The game was nominated at the 2001 D.I.C.E. Awards in the "Console Role-Playing Game" category.
The Legend of Dragoon received mixed to positive reviews. The game was praised by IGN for its graphics and cinematics. However, the combo system was criticized for requiring too much precision, while the titular element of Dragoon transformation was deemed inconsequential to gameplay. The game's battles were considered repetitious due to an excessive frequency of random encounters. GameSpot's Peter Bartholow was more critical of the game. Bartholow called it a "highly generic RPG" and stated that the game "borrows too heavily from other games and lacks that 'hook' to make it worth dealing with excessive defending."
Upon its debut in Japan, The Legend of Dragoon reached second place in charts behind Pokémon Gold and Silver with sales of over 160,000 units, being the best-selling new release that week. By 2007, the game had sold over 280,000 copies in Japan. According to Yoshida, sales in the United States were stronger than those in Japan, allowing the game to recoup its large budget. By 2007, The Legend of Dragoon had sold over 823,000 copies in North America. The game's PSN release topped the PlayStation Classics charts, and remained in the top five for the next three months.
- Rejendo Obu Doragūn (レジェンド・オブ・ドラグーン)
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