Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”Â Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
This week we’re not looking so much as a franchise than at a single game. Although this game was deemed merely mediocre and/or highly generic by critics when it came out in 2000, it sold over a million copies and was well received by the average gamer. The The Legend of Dragoon is often brought up as one of the most requested games to receive a sequel. Since there was such a disconnect between critics and users on this game, it seemed like a good idea to choose this game for this week’s column and see if things have changed over the past nine and a half years. Imagine my surprise when I learned only four of our near thirty staffers had actually played the game. The reaction generally was, “There were a lot of more interesting RPG’s (or games in general) back in 2000.” Perhaps this shows that The Legend of Dragoon‘s popularity is heavily accented by a small but loud minority on the internet akin to what the Snakes On a Plane hype turned out to be. Let’s check in with our four staffers who actually spent time with The Legend of Dragoon and see what they feel should be done with the franchise.
Alex Lucard – Sequel
Here’s the thing – I didn’t like The Legend of Dragoon. I found it highly generic, predictable and that the game was plagued with way too many random battles. However, I thought the story was interesting, if cliche, and man, was there a lot of protagonist death. However back in the PSX era, Sony’s first party titles all pretty much stunk to me. I mean, I can go over and look at my collection of PSX games and see that the only Sony first party title I own is Arc the Lad Collection and even that had to be brought over and localized by Working Designs. In 2000, I was playing RPG’s like Baldur’s Gate II, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, Dragon Warrior VII, Grandia II, Icewind Dale, Ogre Battle NGPC, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Phantasy Star Online, Pokemon Gold & Silver, Skies of Arcadia, Tales of Eternia/Destiny 2, Timestalkers, Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption and several others. That list doesn’t even include the amazing wrestling, fighting, and shoot ’em up titles that came out that year as well. To be perfectly blunt, nearly all those games I listed are universally considered to be superior to The Legend of Dragoon and even fans of the game would have a hard time justifying LoD making a list of the top ten RPG’s for the year 2000.
So why do I want a sequel? Simple, because Sony has had ten years to correct the mistakes they made in the first one and there is a large enough fan clamoring on the internet to probably make it worth their time and effort. As well, Sony’s first party developers have improved dramatically over the past decade and god knows they need a solid RPG franchise under their belt as Untold Legends certainly hasn’t been successful. It’s a risk Sony needs to take and something that would actually help bring back some gamers to their system. It’s really a no-lose scenario for Sony and even though I found the original to be lacking, it would be both a smart business move and a smart PR one to test the The Legend of Dragoon waters one more time.
DJ Tatsujin – Sequel
Back when Final Fantasy VII struck paydirt on the Sony Playstation, much like any trendy genre, the RPG found itself in full swing in the latter half of the ’90s. Since Square was making a mint on the Playstation, Sony unsurprisingly felt it had the chance to do the same on its very own system. The result was The Legend of Dragoon, which was supposedly in development for three years when it was finally released in 2000 (1999 in Japan). In my experience, people are really mixed about the game, but I’ve yet to come across someone who claims the game is downright horrible. As such, it is my opinion The Legend of Dragoon attempted enough to separate itself from the pack for its time and I know I wouldn’t be the only person to support a sequel.
The title sold around the one million mark in the United States, receiving a Greatest Hits re-release, so it isn’t crazy to imagine it could have similar success in an updated form. Since the Playstation 3 is scraping for exclusives and Square-Enix isn’t delivering on the oft-fanaticized Final Fantasy VII remake, Sony could really swoop in on basically what was an imitation of that classic RPG. Even a moderately updated PSP release could be the ticket for the portable system where most of its RPGs tend to be mediocre at best. The real-time addition commands and counters (Players attacked in command strings that had strict timing along to onscreen indicators but finishing the string resulted in a devastating special attack.) really shook up the RPG genre for its time and seemed to be the factor between whether or not one enjoyed the title. I did and the interaction made me enjoy the title more than Final Fantasy VII, admittedly.
That’s not to say LoD was a perfect game, however. It surely had its issues and I would even say Final Fantasy VII was a more well-rounded RPG experience. Even when you take that into consideration, LoD had some great cinematics and RPG gameplay even if the story was cliche (Getting caught in the middle of a civil war, for example) and put you in the role of dorky-named characters like Dart from Neet. Everything about the game’s appearance, mapping and environments screams Final Fantasy VII, so it would be a familiar entity even today. There are online petitions abound to have this made into a sequel, and it’s a cause I can support. Morphing into Dragoon forms, real-time attack strings and more went above and beyond the standard menu surfacing and watching animations. If the right minds were put to use, I could see innovation making way once again on current systems.
Chris Bowen – Sequel
On the one hand, The Legend of Dragoon really doesn’t stand out from the JRPGs of its era. Yes, it was a good game (review scores be damned), though as DJ mentioned, it’s very much like Final Fantasy VII stylistically speaking, even if it did have things going for it that FFVII didn’t (like voiceovers). If it were released today, reviewers would be giddy in checking off the stereotypes they’d be finding in the two hours of gameplay most big-site reviewers give games.
On the other, just by default, re-releasing this game as a PS one classic would put it at the top of JRPG releases for 2010; that’s how far the industry has fallen. The “fall” of the JRPG market seems to mirror the “fall” of the anime market, mainly because in both markets the majority of what sells is fucking Moe. For those unaware of what Moe is, take the worst elements of Lucky Star, Magical Teacher Negima! and the abominable K-On. Do those anime appeal to you? Congratulations! You’re destroying the anime market, and the video game market is following close behind with shit like Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja (Yes, this is a rogue-like, but seriously), Record of Agarest War and Ar Tonelico. I like JRPGs, and I like breasts, but it’s getting to the point where buying a game in this genre makes me feel like a lolicon fetishist. The American otaku has pretty much destroyed both markets.
The Legend of Dragoon was a fairly serious minded game when it was released ten years ago, and I wouldn’t see that changing unless the game was developed by Namco Bandai. People tend to forget this, but Sony is actually one of the best developers around, as most of what they touch turns to gold. I think if they put their muscle behind a The Legend of Dragoon sequel, not only would it stay true to its roots, but I have some faith that Sony wouldn’t fall into the trap that other companies like Square-Enix fall into that is turning the JRPG market into a parody of itself.
I’m willing to bank on that instead of remembering that we’re talking about a B-list RPG that has fallen into dreaded “cult” status, where noisy fans clamour loudly for a sequel without realizing – or caring – that a sequel will likely not sell for shit. I just know that things are sad when I’m looking to Sony to “save” the JRPG market.
Aileen Coe – Sequel
One of the first things that spring to mind when Legend of Dragoon comes up is this commercial, which I thought was side-splittingly hilarious at the time (what can I say, I can have a broken/odd sense of humor at times). Once you get past the goofy commercial, there’s a RPG with some strong points despite what reviews said. The FMVs and backdrops were impressive for their time, and the game’s soundtrack was decent. However, the character models and in battle voice acting were mediocre. The plot was basically paint-by-numbers: hero’s village is razed, female important to hero (a.k.a love interest) is captured, time to save her and stop the bad guys. Even character designs gave away a lot. Character dressed in red? Gee, wonder what element they’re going to use and what kind of personality they’ll have…
The Additional system was a change in pace from the usual, “select action from menu, sit back and watch character execute it and enemies counter it” in that it added more strategic elements to battles and forced you to pay attention to the battle at hand. You had to time button presses correctly to maximize damage, and defending had more benefit than in many RPGs since it restored a bit of HP along with reducing damage taken. Once you got access to Dragoon abilities, things got even more involved.
All that being said, while it doesn’t quite stand up to the 32-bit era titans like Final Fantasy VII or the first two Suikodens (story/character wise), there’s still enough here to merit a sequel. The combat system would still be worth implementing, and with an overhaul in graphics, increase in or elimination of the irritating inventory limits that led to lots of running back to a village to restock, this could have real potential in the right hands.
End Result :
Stay Dead: 0
Start Over: 0
Well, it appears to be our first unanimous column where everyone actually WANTS a series to continue. Usually when we have a unanimous column, it’s for a series to stay dead. It’s also interesting to note that not only did a mere four members of our staff even bothered with the game when it came out (or in the decade since), but none of us really liked it all that much. This was more a nod to the fact that Sony has improved its quality control in regards to first party titles and that it desperately needs an RPG franchise of its own.
Next week we’ll be looking at a From Software series that was originally developed for the Nintendo Gamecube. It’s actually my second favourite series by them, after Echo Night and it’s a series I’d much rather experience than another King’s Field or Demon’s Souls. See you then!