Vanillaware are masters at crafting engaging action RPGs set in imaginative fantasy worlds. Dragon's Crown Pro is an enhanced version of their 2013 beat 'em up RPG so let's see if it holds up almost 5 years later.
For the unfamiliar, Dragon's Crown is a highly enjoyable beat 'em up with heavy action RPG elements. You play it by controlling your character of choice in order to traverse dungeons while fighting hordes of enemy monsters and hulking bosses. Meanwhile, there are plenty of quests that you can attempt to complete as you play that include objectives such as slaying a certain number of specific enemies or discovering secrets. The actual combat is chaotic and a great deal of fun as you attack, dodge, block, use the occasional item, and take advantage of the odd sub-weapon. You also have a thief who follows you around and is useful for picking locks and gathering treasure. Later on in the campaign, you'll amass a collection of runes that you can use to spell things out at certain points which usually grants you a cool bonus. It all comes together to form a mostly traditional yet involving gameplay dynamic that'll keep you hooked.
One aspect of Dragon's Crown that stands out is game director George Kamitani's art. Many gamers love the exaggerated sprites where men have muscles on top of muscles and women have boobs so big that they could crush a pop can. Personally, this style of fantasy art is a bit too nerdy for my liking but I definitely appreciate the amount of detail put into every character and understand how many folks love it. Either way, it's definitely unique and that says a lot in an age where there are hundreds of games constantly being released. On a less divisive note, the orchestral score featured in Dragon's Crown Pro is actually new and it sounds fantastic.
Although Dragon's Crown sounds like an arcade-style beat 'em up, there are many RPG elements that make it a much more fully featured experience. Every time you arrive at the town after one of your mini-adventures, you'll have plenty of new loot and may have even gained another level or two. So, it's then time to put all that treasure and experience to work. First, you can resurrect characters from any remains that you found who then fill out your 4 person party. If you don't want to resurrect a particular pile of bones, you can bury it and perhaps get a bonus item in the process. Next, you can appraise, buy, and sell goods at the shop as well as repair damaged equipment. Of course, turning in completed quests and claiming your reward then accepting more tasks can be done at the guild where you can also assign points to your character for specific boosts. Overall, the character growth is impressively rewarding.
Differences from the original game
Dragon's Crown Pro is an enhanced version of the original game for PlayStation 3 and Vita. This iteration includes 4k support for those who own a PS4 Pro, options for both English and Japanese audio, music performed by a live orchestra, all of the DLC, and the option to use your save file between all three consoles that Dragon's Crown has been released on.
Obviously, not everyone who owns the original Dragon's Crown will appreciate these additions enough to purchase it yet again which makes me wish that there was additional content in Dragon's Crown Pro such as new stages and character types.
Once you reach a certain point in the campaign, Dragon's Crown Pro can be played online and it's a great deal of fun to do so. However, I found the onscreen action to get far too chaotic and often lost track of my character as a result. This is especially annoying when your weapon gets knocked out of your hand and you don't realise it so you keep fighting and doing barely any damage until you notice that your sword is across the room. Another downside is that after the campaign opens up, you'll find yourself traversing the same 9 stages over and over again which gets repetitive super-fast. Speaking of which, the gameplay doesn't evolve much either so that only contributes to the feeling of repetition. It's definitely the sort of game that's most fun in short bursts.
When it comes to beat 'em up / action RPG hybrids, Dragon's Crown Pro is certainly a must-have game for any fan of the genre. However, it still has some substantial shortcomings that hold it back from being a universally recommended experience.
- + Solid beat 'em up gameplay that's even more enjoyable online
- + Unique art and superb orchestral score
- + Rewarding loot and character growth
- - Gameplay and stages get repetitive shortly after the campaign starts to open up
- - Visuals frequently become too chaotic
- - Not much added from the original game