Dragon Fantasy Book II Review – Cracked Nostalgia

The same way as Dragon Fantasy Book I was a tribute to the 8-bit JRPGs of yesteryear, Dragon Fantasy Book II takes classic 16-bit RPGs and blends them into a retro smoothie that entertains its target audience, but not without a few caveats. Most notably, it has several technical issues that unfortunately slow down the experience. While this is a game that looks like it might have worked on the SNES, its performance is questionable at best on the PS3.

The game will periodically need to pause when you enter a new area, and whether you’re in combat or just going through an environmental effect, you’ll often experience a slowdown when things activate on screen. These problems are not improved by the Book II occasional bouts of buggy-ness. You can probably count on something unfortunate at some point, whether it’s the game crashing or, in my case, having to fight the same boss twice because I fell into said bad guy’s area and the game (supposedly) had not registered. my first victory.

These questions aside, however, Dragon Fantasy Book II is great fun. At first, you play as Ogden, the returning protagonist of book one. A knight off the hill and out of retirement, he begins the game awakened by a psychic message from a supposed princess. From there, the game sets the player on a quest to stop a big bad guy from doing evil things. It’s a plot that RPG fans have seen countless times before, but the overall goals of your quest tend to be on the periphery of the game’s focus. These are excuses for the adventure to happen. and nothing more.

The game instead focuses on referencing nerd culture and RPG tropes wherever it can. You won’t need a sharp eye to spot allusions to HP Lovecraft and Dr. Who, for example. There’s also no shortage of subtler moments to reward players who invest in exploration. Overall, the tone is very clearly turned towards humor and it has fun with its RPG and geek heritage. That’s not to say that the playfulness of the game excuses all of the story’s flaws. He could have done a better job of filling in the blanks for players who missed Book I, for example. That said, his energy and willingness to entertain are enough to contain his flaws.

The game’s combat should feel immediately familiar to anyone who’s played an RPG on the Super Nintendo. Much of this is due to the fact that Book II basically, icing picks gameplay bits from some of the most famous RPGs ever made. The core of its combat system is probably taken most directly from the trigger of a stopwatch. When you enter a dungeon, you can see enemies and sometimes even avoid them. However, when you come into contact with one, your party enters a turn-based battle where you trade attacks and skills until you or your opponents are killed.

Dragon Fantasy Book II Screen 07

The game also incorporates a monster capture system, a la Dragon Quest V, which allows you to add enemies to your party. It’s a nifty feature to have, but it’s not as useful as you’d like because the main cast will generally be more effective than your monster allies. It’s nice to have the option and it’s handy for a long time when the main cast is split, but it’s more of an ancillary feature than anything.

Other parts of the game will also be less than appreciated. Book II features ship combat sequences, for example, which are clearly well-intentioned but never amount to much beyond a boring diversion from the main experiences. Likewise, the game’s Bounty system falls short of its potential. Wherever you go in the game, you will meet people with problems to solve. If you agree to help them, you will receive a side quest which, in turn, can earn you money and items as rewards. On paper, it’s a smart way to expand the game’s content. In practice, however, it never really amounts to more than busy work and quests to collect.

The game’s combat, while mechanically sound, can also be a bit too easy at times. You’ll face the occasional baddie that might take a moment or two to wear off, but, overall, most encounters, including boss fights, are a breeze. In turn, retro fans hoping for something to eat like the good old days might come away a little disappointed.

Perhaps the one element of the game that cannot be faulted is its presentation. Muteki has perfectly recreated the look and sound of the 16-bit era. You could play alongside any of the old classics and it wouldn’t feel out of place. The music too, while perhaps not as immediately iconic and memorable as the tracks it mimics, is generally well done and still matches the mood. It’s worth mentioning that the pixelated visuals suffer from some stretching if played on a large screen TV, but if you’re playing on a smaller set or the Vita you shouldn’t find much to complain about.

In many ways Dragon Fantasy Book II is an ambitious undertaking, aiming to revisit and recreate one of the most beloved periods of console role-playing games. The fact that it is not quite successful is certainly disappointing, but nevertheless, Book II remains an entertaining experience that retro gamers and RPG fans alike would find it hard not to love. It has an inherent charm that helps it out of the quagmire of its troubles, and in the end it manages to be a fun game with a lot to enjoy. It may not be as tall as the classics it emulates, but it’s hard to blame it for getting lost in the giants’ shadows.

Conclusion: technical flaws and narrative gaps aside, Dragon Fantasy Book II is a fun, retro-inspired RPG that hits the notes it needs.

Recommendation: Plain and simple, this was made for hardcore and old school RPG fans.

[rating=3.0]

This review is based on the PS3 version of the game.

Game: Dragon Fantasy Book II
Genre: RPG
Developer: Muteki Corporation
Publisher: Muteki Corporation
Platform(s): PS3, PS Vita


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