Take up your sword, lead armies and save the world in Dragon Force. Oh yeah.
While I was cooped up at home yesterday, I dug out my old Sega Saturn and started playing one of my all-time favorite fantasy RPG videogames. It's called Dragon Force and it's a fantasy strategy war sim/anime RPG epic starring none other than yours truly.
The game is set in the beautiful land of Legendra, your garden variety fantasy continent created by the goddesses of good for the many races of human and human-like blood. Of course, there has to be a force of evil there somewhere, and here it's a dark god called Madruk. Thousands of years ago, Madruk invaded Legendra and it was only with the help of a holy dragon sent by the goddesses that he was sealed away. Now, in present day Legendra, minions of the evil one are attempting to awaken him and throw the land into chaos once again.
Dragon Force puts you in the regal boots of one of the rulers of this realm- seven powerful overlords, each with his or her own kingdom, vassals, strengths and weaknesses. Those who want the more conventional route of the goody-twoshoes will shine to either valiant Prince Charming Wein or elf princess Teiris. A decidedly more darker path to follow is that of the masked and mysterious Junon, or the exotic swordsmaster Mikhal. Then there's the more comedic road of the beastlord Gongos, whose feral people are looked down upon by the other races. Beat the game with these first five overlords and you'll unlock two more rulers whose thrones you can try on for size- Reinhart, a young but incredibly powerful wizard king, and Goldark, the fearsome warlord who starts out as the 'bad guy' in the game.
At the heart of Dragon Force is combat between small to large numbers of various troops. Military units can number up to a hundred members, so you may see up to two hundred cartoony SD knights, monks, warriors, dragons and more clashing onscreen. You control troop movements and formation, and just watch your warriors go. While the kind of troops facing another is a big factor in deciding victory, the tide of battle can turn with a well-done maneuver or a pivotal magical spell/attack cast by your general. Worse comes to worse, battles will be decided by a one-on-one duel between the commanders, so choose your leaders well.
Despite the battles being fought by cartoony SD sprites and repetitive animation, the satisfaction of victory never seems to get old with this game. And fortunately so because you'll spend half of your time in Dragon Force fighting battles.
The other half of the game is played from a map screen of the continent, with armies and troop movements shown by cute little warriors walking about the map, going to castle to castle, invading, retreating or getting killed (and turning into cute SD angels). There are lots of short but well-written quips of dialogue as various generals talk trash or interact during battles, or in the periodic Domestic Affairs sections where you, as overlord, promote your vassals, manage your armies and push forward the plot (with well-done anime artwork).
And speaking of plot, while the story is your run-of-the-mill quest to find-the-prophesized-heroes-in-time-to-stop-an-awakening-evil" kind of thing, the execution of the short but sweet story segments, the cool replayability of playing through the game with different nations and different storylines keeps it all fresh and playable and incredibly addicting.
Cool anime artwork, addictive gameplay with strong strategy/rpg elements and easy resource management, a nice story, great music and TONS of replayability make this a classic and one of my all-time favorite games.
Which is incredible since the game first came out in, oh, 1996? Which makes it eight years old. Not bad for an old Saturn game. So if you just happen to have a Saturn and happen upon a copy of Dragon Force, try it out for some old-school anime RPG epic madness.
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