Dragon’s Crown Pro
(Atlus for PS4)
By Mike Delano
Dragon’s Crown was one of the few shining lights in the PS Vita’s library when it originally released in 2013. A gorgeous side-scrolling brawler from the creators of Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon’s Blade, it mixed old-school arcade gameplay with light RPG elements to great effect, and the bold characters and environments popped off the Vita’s OLED screen.
Now, despite its age, it makes a smooth transition to the PS4 in Dragon’s Crown Pro. The exaggerated artwork is timeless, so it still looks great in 2018 and it’s been given an upgrade for the big screen. (There are still some highly questionable depictions of female characters, though.) The fireworks fly when certain combinations of warriors unite — it’s a sight to see when an ironclad Fighter bashes away at an enemy while magic spells and arrows are blasted across the screen by the Sorceress and Elf, and all the while a Dwarf is hurling boulders and other debris down from the sky. Little touches, like black water ripples illuminated by the moonlight or the neon slime green of a zombie’s drool, also help to tie together another 2D masterclass from developer Vanillaware.
The creators know that brawler gameplay, even when it’s augmented with a varied moveset for melee characters and support-style abilities for casters/archers, is inherently limited and repetitive over long stretches, so the levels don’t overstay their welcome. Instead, you’ll visit many of the areas again to complete objective-based quests that make use of arcade brawler staples like limited-use power weapons and rideable beasts. Using a cursor to scan the environment for hidden treasure is another welcome layer of engagement, new late-game paths unveil some of the game’s best bosses and extensive post-game content is available for those who want to level their characters into the stratosphere.
If you’re a fan of old-school Capcom and Konami arcade brawlers and, like me, for some reason never connected with many modern attempts at the genre like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim, Dragon’s Crown Pro should be right up your alley. It understands the genre and delivers satisfying, bombastic combat in short bursts, but also finds ways to deliver a full-length adventure that meets modern expectations. And all the while, you get to live inside the Painted World of Vanillaware, which is always a beautiful place to be.