Dragon Fantasy Book II review for PS Vita, PSN
Platform: playstation vita
Also on: PSN for PS3
Editor: Muteki Company
Developer: Muteki Company
On line: Cross-save
I’ve never thrown a controller before. I’m not saying this to brag (because that’s not really bragging-worthy), or to show off my skills (because I usually play games on the easiest difficulty). Rather, I say it to give context to this next sentence: I hated Dragon Fantasy Book II so much that I almost threw away my Vita in frustration.
Of course, I didn’t, because I can’t imagine throwing a piece of semi-expensive tech into a room. But still: there was a point in the game when I was so annoyed with what was happening on screen that my instinctive reaction was to throw my Vita to the ground. The only thing that stopped me was the sudden realization that… well, I was so angry I was ready to throw away my Vita.
My reason for being frustrated was simple: Dragon Fantasy Book II is a mind-numbingly repetitive game with an absolutely atrocious combat system. Or, to be more precise, half an hour into the game, I was pissed at being forced to engage in combat for what felt like the thirtieth or fortieth time against enemies I had already defeated. at least half a dozen times before. .
Really, this sentence contains everything that is wrong with Dragon Fantasy II, so I’ll break it down a bit. First, the enemies: they are panicking everywhere. You’d think this would count as an improvement over the first game, since in that game all enemy encounters were randomly scattered across the map, but that’s not the case. Here you come to a new screen, and you are almost instantly besieged from all sides. Even if you’ve already defeated them, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for their reappearance; I lost count of how many times I went from section to section and then back, only to find that the rocks/goblins/fish/whatever I had just killed had all returned.
This is especially a problem, of course, because each battle takes so long to play out. You see, aside from the first two minutes (when many battles are solo), almost all the battles here involve large groups of fighters taking part in turn-based combat with opponents taking more than one hit to kill. This means that each battle – which, again, happens frequently because the same monsters are everywhere – requires you to first cycle through each of your characters to select moves, then watch your opponents each make their moves, then you actually make your moves, then you choose others, and so on. On top of that, most of the time you fight monsters in large groups, as they are hyper-aggressive and instantly gravitate towards you as soon as you move to a new part of the map. You can attempt to run, but even then you must select “Run” for each party member, then wait until your opponents have all made their moves before attempting to run. Of course, running is a bit futile, because even if you manage to run away on the first try, you’ll quickly find that your escape will be short-lived — after all, you’re surrounded, which means that even if you run away from a monster that you are always running towards another.
This means combat is usually your only option – but that too has its downsides. First of all, every turn-based battle has a ridiculous amount of misses. The upside, I guess, is that both sides are likely to miss, but that doesn’t make it any less absurd to watch when everyone in your party senses their attacks, and then most of your seven or eight opponents also miss. And when you make contact, there’s really no way of knowing how effective your attacks were, as the game doesn’t give your opponents a health meter. In other words, you just hack, hack, and hack, and hope that at some point that will be enough to finish off the other group.
What if you won your battle? Then you see the same “funny” lines repeated until nauseated. Now, in the first game, that was kind of a high point, because the writing was funny and unexpected – although, of course, it was a case of diminishing funny returns, because what was funny the first times was much less so by the 50th. Here, however, you don’t even have that; the lines seem played at the beginning, and are a bit rough by the tenth (not to mention the thirtieth, fortieth, fiftieth, etc.). There’s a slightly witty dialogue that takes place between your character and those in towns/villages/villages, but it’s offset by the sheer volume of repeated laugh lines in battles.
What makes the game utterly unpleasant, however, is that Dragon Fantasy Book II lacks even the audio-visual charm of Book I (our review here). This game showed off the talents of some guys who not only knew how to be funny (at least in small doses), but clearly loved the look, sounds, and gameplay of 8-bit and 16-bit RPGs from their youth, and were able to to recreate their experiences quite perfectly. This time around they’ve updated their benchmarks a bit – think really high-end 16-bit graphics, but with significantly better music – but it’s nowhere near as charming. Time and again, I found myself comparing Books I and II, and the latter came out worse each time.
At this point, I wish I could say something positive to counter all that negativity. I’d like to point out something – anything – that redeems the game. But I can’t. Dragon Fantasy Book II was tedious at best. At worst, it made me seriously consider breaking my long-standing personal ban on smashing my electronics. Recent price drop or not, this isn’t an option anyone should take seriously, so you better skip this game altogether and save yourself a world of aggravation.
To note: D+