Hundreds upon hundreds of years ago on the continent of Legendra, a fierce battle was fought between the forces of Light and Darkness. Madruk, the God of Darkness brought chaos and destruction in his wake, and brought Legendra into an era of despair. Fortunately, the Goddess Astea, using what remained of her powers, summoned the Divine Dragon Harsgalt to battle Madruk. A long battle ensued and Harsgalt used the last of its powers to seal Madruk, bringing upon Legendra a temporary peace. This last effort on Harsgalt’s part bought some time until 8 chosen heroes were born and the final battle against Madruk could finally begin…
That’s how Working Design’s classic Strategy/RPG on the Sega Saturn begins. Dragon Force is one of the few good Strategy/RPGs available out in the gaming market. In fact, you could easily say that Dragon Force is a near rival of the Shining Force series, though I admit the Shining Force games were longer. Dragon Force allows the player to choose 1 of the 6 playable characters at the start and 1 of 8 once the game is completed. Each character has his or her own strengths and backgrounds but the objective of the game is simple: win the war and find all 8 members of the Dragon Force to battle Madruk and his minions.
Each character starts out at a certain point of Legendra and will have to deploy/recruit troops, directing their destinations and battles, as well as exploreing in real-time. After one week of game time, which is a few minutes, the game will then switch to Domestic Affairs mode where players can interview generals/captives, fortify/search occupied castles, present awards, save, view map information or in some cases, view story events. Most of the controls are executed simply by selecting an option and does not involve any intricate button pressing. Learning to control the flow of the game is a breeze.
Battles are carried out on the World Map. When your character or general storms a castle or bumps into an enemy army, the game will switch to a battle map. Enemy troops and their general will be on the left side while your character/general and his/her troops will be on the right side. After the enemy has announced their attack formation, the player will then select his/her own battle formations for his/her troops, after that, various movement orders can be selected. During battles with troops, the generals do not move at all. They can only issue orders if the Melee option had not been selected or they can execute special attacks when their power gauge is fully charged. The battle is won when the enemy general is defeated, retreats or if time runs out. If both generals’ troops are wiped out, they will have to duel each other. The duel battle is managed by the computer and the character class, remaining HP and whatever item equipped can effect how well a general fares in a duel.
There is a lot of depth when it comes to troops and generals. Each general has its own class, such as Fighter, Knight, Dragonman, Archer and more. When generals reach certain levels, their class is upgraded and they might learn a new special attack. An example would be a Priest becoming a High Priest. There are 10 useable troop types in the game. They are Soldiers, Cavalry, Mages, Archers, Samurai, Harpies, Monks, Beasts, Zombies and Dragons. Each troop type has its own strengths and weaknesses and generals usually start with the ability to command 1 or 2 of the mentioned troop types. Special Crests must be found and used on a general to allow him/her to use other troop types. This factor allows players to customize their fighting force and try out many different strategies. This class system plus the good story really add depth to the game. Not to mention it’s extremely easy to learn.
The graphics in the game are quite good, using detailed sprites to represent characters and troops. The continent of Legendra uses simple 2-D sprites to point out castles, villages, shrines and towers. Certain plot events will bring out well-drawn anime stills that really make the story of the game more interesting. There are also some anime scenes and these can be reviewed once you’ve viewed them in the game in the options menu. Spells and Specials are all well animated, vivid and occasionally unique. A fine example would be using a giant frog to belch projectiles at an enemy general! Some spells literally pound the battlefields and the troops charging at each other is a real sight.
The music in the game is great and the fact that you can listen to them in the options menu is an added plus. Some tunes are relaxing and tranquil while some are atmospheric and invigorating. My favorite tunes are the ones heard when fighting the Dark Apostles or the final battle. Sound effects are your typical fare, explosions, clashing of weapons, war cries and basically all the sounds you’d hear in a fantasy-style battle. There is some good voice acting for the introduction and ending sequences, but other than that, don’t expect much.
Working Design’s trademark humor is present as well. From wacky battle taunts like: “Have you signed your organ donor card?” to some wacked dialogue like: “Muchos Gracias! Mi Amigo! Thank you very much!” You can expect a few chuckles from this game. I noticed that there are some grammatical errors in the game and I seriously think this is one of the very few games where the guys at Working Designs actually make such mistakes! Even so, this flaw is noticeably minor.
Overall, for those of you who want some Strategy/RPG mayhem on the Sega Saturn and have already cleared Shining Force 3, Dragon Force is the definite fix you! Well, maybe the only problem is finding a Sega Saturn and the game if you DON’T own a Sega Saturn in the first place. Not to mention Working Designs had long since stopped production for this gem of a game.