The original Dragon's Crown released on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita only months before the PlayStation 4 entered the market. After five long years, I was delighted to see the game make the transition to PlayStation 4. Great care has been taken to ensure the game retained all the addicting brawler gameplay elements that you remember, bringing the game to the current generation. Not only does your quest for the Dragon Crown look amazing, but the inclusion of a newly recorded soundtrack is truly awe-inspiring.
Even when the original game was released in 2013, the hand-drawn animations and painterly visuals were quite impressive. At the time of release, I played the game much more on the PS Vita than on the PS3. Enough for me to claim the game was a much better fit on the mobile device than on a console; however, with the release of Dragon’s Crown Pro, my mood has indeed shifted. The crisp, vivid details in the environments and characters when playing the game on a PS4 Pro in 4K is simply breathtaking. Vanillaware didn’t forget about upgrading the game’s audio, as they have included the option of playing the game with a newly recorded and fully orchestrated soundtrack.
More importantly, Vanillaware and Atlus have seen fit to ensure the game has a bustling online presence by including the option for cross-play support with both the PlayStation PS Vita and PlayStation 3 versions of the game. At launch, the PS3 and PS Vita games did not support cross-play. Taking it a step further, Dragon’s Crown Pro supports cross-save functionality, just like the original two versions. This means that anyone that already owns the game can upload their save file (if you don’t already have one uploaded) and continue your adventure on PS4 without skipping a beat. Since it has been some time since I played the game, I opted to start a new character on my save file, instead of picking up from my already high leveled Dwarf. I mostly did this to run through the game’s starting tutorial to ensure the controls, considering I played the game mostly on the Vita. The game’s trophy list is also shared with every version of the game.
If you skipped the game previously, Dragon’s Crown Pro is an arcade style side-scrolling brawler with a heavy influence of action RPG titles. Think of it as an arcade brawler version of Diablo, as both games emphasize the hunt for loot. There are nine different themed fantasy areas to explore, each with a branching path once you complete the game’s story at least once. The six distinct classes fit into the traditional fantasy RPG trope, mixing both melee and ranged style of combat. While the Fighter and Amazon are strong close-range characters, the more advanced classes, such as the Wizard focus on magical spells and staying out of harm's way. As you level up, you gain skill points to spend on either shared or class-based skills. These help to flesh out the abilities of each class, such as giving the Wizard the unique power of hovering high above the ground. Not only can you avoid damage, but you can unleash some pretty scary spells in the air.
The PlayStation Vita used its touch screen support to direct the thief that accompanies you on every quest, while the PlayStation 3 version of the game limited the mechanics to the right stick. PlayStation 4 features the best of both worlds, as you can use the touchpad to accomplish this task or use the right stick. This also goes hand-in-hand with activating the rune symbols scattered about the levels for revealing hidden treasure or providing various types of boosts and powers. One of the downsides of playing the game on the Vita was the frequent stuttering/slow down when the screen became littered with characters and special abilities were triggering at the same time. I have yet to see a single moment like that, even playing the game at 4K on a PlayStation Pro with a team comprised of four Wizards.
Playing through the narrative is only one piece of the game and one that is not even the primary focus. While the game does feature a fully voiced narrative tale, the game truly shines as a co-op local or online experience. In fact, you have to reach a set point in the story once per character to even access the online portion of the game. This does not mean you will be alone, as you always have the chance of playing locally or by letting NPCs fill the slots. The game tries to mimic the online experience, by having players drop in randomly and at random intervals. If you collect the bones of fallen allies, you can resurrect them and set them as your party members before venturing out into the world. Speaking of the game’s audio, Dragon’s Crown Pro features both English and Japanese voices for the playable classes and even the narrator. It also contains the downloadable content from the original release, adding additional voices for the narrator based on the classes. The screen can become quite cluttered with both enemies, players and special effects. Vanillaware includes plenty of customization options to tone down effects, add or remove various player indicators and the option for transparencies if characters are overlapping.
Dragon’s Crown Pro is the definitive version of the game, especially if you have a PlayStation 4 Pro and a 4K supported display. The developers have done an outstanding job, boosting the visuals fidelity from the original release, and including the orchestrated version of the soundtrack. I have already spent dozens of hours on the initial release and considering I was able to use my save file from the PS Vita; I see myself once again spending a crazy amount of hours chasing high-end loot. It is a shame that no new skins for the classes have been released or included and the high price tag may scare some players from double dipping.Note: Dragon's Crown Pro was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.