"Enjoying greater flexibility in design choices and a longer development cycle, Book II may in fact be a bigger better battle book."
Kyle Miller and I had the pleasure of meeting with Adam Rippon, the Creative Director of Dragon Fantasy Book II, and he candidly shared with us many details regarding the game currently in development as well as some personal history that inspired its inception. Based on what we learned, we think fans and dissenters alike will find much to appreciate in the next book of the series.
Those who've played the first installment will find some changes to the game in several respects. For instance, the gameplay includes multiplayer, wherein players can tag along with a friend as one of the characters in Ogden's party. Rippon described this as closely relating to Dragon Quest IX's mechanic in that player two is able to traverse the map or dungeon sans the leader, though this may change with further development. In battle, other players are able to choose commands, adding an element of strategy and cooperation that a single-player experience can't offer.
Rippon mentioned inspiration from Chrono Trigger in that players can deftly position enemies such that skills like a spinning sword attack may target several enemies. Also of note: any number of enemies can enter the battle, depending on how the player kites the monsters around a dungeon. However, if a party is swarmed by a horde of enemies, only three plus the number of party members may attack, turning potentially cataclysmic battles into a manageable affair. In addition to battles, players may recruit monsters to aid in combat or add to their collection, craft, or hire class-specific mercenaries like "Punchy," whose role remains yet unknown.
In terms of presentation, Rippon acknowledged that the first book adhered closely to the 8-bit style. With Book II, he wanted to make sure that the game is "the SNES as you remember it, not as it was." By this, he meant that he has borrowed heavily from the SNES stylistically, but the possibilities and engine are capable of much more, serving more as an "SNES-plus." For instance, instead of using four layers as the SNES had, Book II includes up to twenty layers. Rippon also noted that the game can hold more sprites, includes CD audio, and enjoys a more varied color palette. However, without question, the game remains rooted in its 16-bit ancestry. With over 300 maps and plenty of collectibles (e.g. monsters), Rippon estimates that the game can take anywhere from twelve to twenty hours, though considerably more if players pursue said collectibles.
Of course, Book II is a continuation of Book I's story. This game, too, follows Ogden. At the onset, the protagonist follows a misguided path in pursuit of something far larger than himself. Interestingly, Rippon's inspiration for much of the game's characteristics lies in his own father, who has passed away. With a total of two years in development and a modestly-sized team, no release date has yet been set, but Rippon hopes that the game will be ready for launch by PAX Prime, which will be held from August 30 to September 2 this year. No price has been set, but he estimates that due to the greater complexity and depth of the game, the game may cost slightly more than the first, so expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $15.
If you played Dragon Fantasy Book I and weren't wowed, you may yet enjoy what Rippon has brewed up with his next entry in the series. And if Book I fixed your nostalgia itch, this installment may scratch yet deeper. Enjoying greater flexibility in design choices and a longer development cycle, Book II may in fact be a bigger better battle book.