A peaceful beginning.
The legend was born 10,000 years ago.
A violent uprising.
A civilization of flying creatures enslave the human race.
A bloody war.
In a bid for freedom, the humans harness the spiritual forces of Dragons and triumph.
Tranquility and harmony exist between all.
But the past and the future are about to collide.
Unveil a fantasy of magnificence, deception, magical combat and retribution.
The journey that seeks the past ends.
And the journey to discover today begins.
Unleash the spirit of the Dragoons.
And discover your destiny.
The Legend of Dragoon is an RPG released on PlayStation in 1999. This game absolutely captivated 10-year-old me in 2003 - I only know the year because I kept a mini exercise book full of notes throughout the game. I was obsessed. Whenever there is dialogue in the game, certain keywords such as place or character names are coloured yellow or red - clearly this meant they were important, so I religiously wrote them all down.
There are ten more pages of this
The Legend of Dragoon is huge - set in a fictional world called Endiness, the game spans four discs, each containing a part of the map and a chapter: The Serdian War; Platinum Shadow; Fate and Soul; and Moon and Fate. Each nation in Endiness is characterised by a different climate zone: Serdio is temperate; Tiberoa desert; Death Frontier barren desert; Mille Seseau a forested mountain; and Gloriano a snowy desert. The ever-growing party travels all over the land during the complex storyline, ultimately journeying to the Moon That Never Sets. The plot is difficult to summarise here, and while I tried, it mysteriously deleted itself...so I'll take that as a sign. Each chapter is full of separate threads of journeys and themes, that all weave together at the close. To briefly summarise the mythology without too many spoilers; the Winglies once dominated the humans as slaves, but eventually some humans learned to control dragons. These humans became known as Dragoons, and led a revolution against the Winglies during the Dragon Campaign. The leader of the Dragoons, Zieg Feld, physically killed the Wingly leader Melbu Frahma, but was petrified for 11,000 years.
Chapter 1 begins with Dart returning from his five-year quest to find the Black Monster, who killed his parents and destroyed his home town. Unfortunately not only did he fail, but he is attacked by Feyrbrand, the poisonous Green-Tusked Dragon, controlled by the Sandoran Army. As Dart is desperately running away from the dragon into the forest, the mysterious Rose saves him, although she is confused as to why the army would need a dragon- they have enough manpower to destroy the nearby town without one. Dart panics, realising that his town is under attack, and upon returning discovers that Seles has been completely torn apart by the Sandoran army. Fighting off soldiers, Dart realises childhood friend Shana has been kidnapped and is held in Helena Prison, as she appears to contain some mysterious power. He resolves to rescue Shana - and the adventure begins. Not too long after, during a battle with the Sandoran army Rose reveals to Dart that his father's memento is the Dragoon Spirit of the Red-Eye Dragoon - allowing him to transform into a Dragoon warrior. More on this later.
Legend of Dragoon contains nine playable characters; each eventually gaining access to an elemental-based Dragoon Spirit and = the ability to transform into a Dragoon Warrior. God, the character design. I love the dragoon designs. They are dramatic, colourful, and look so powerful. At one point I nearly tried to make my own Dragoon Stones by cracking coloured marbles in the oven (I was too scared of it not working to actually try...might remember that one for a rainy day). Each character's design is different, reflecting their element and personalities; Kongol, for earth, is bulky and brutish with a helm that allows for his mohawk. Meru, for ice, is peppy and energetic with lightweight armour matching her shocking white hair. Shana, for light, is squishy and has her stomach and thighs unarmoured (sorry, couldn't resist!). Two cosplayers have produced incredible costumes and that capture their characters - Dessi-Desu from the US as Meru, and Nina from Indonesia as Shana.
There are three types of settings in Legend of Dragoon - locations, battles, and the world map. Locations are comprised of a pre-rendered background image, which is overlaid by 3D characters and effects such as water, sunlight, or rustling leaves. I always liked the effect - definitely a very fantasy feel and allowed for some nice detail. In the world map, you run along pre-determined paths between locations as 3D Dart, and the battles are almost typical RPG fare. While a lot of people understandably dislike that you need to travel along predetermined paths on the world map, when passing back through I enjoyed using it as an opportunity to remember what happened there - I played this game over a number of years so at times it seemed like an age ago.
I say the battles are 'almost' typical RPG fare because Legend of Dragoon's battle system kept me from getting bored (turn-based fighting can really numb your brain..) by employing Additions. Each playable character has a list of combos that are unlocked through levelling up - each are executed by pressing X at the correct time during an attack. Although now I see that this system has received criticism for its difficulty, I always enjoyed the challenge and viewed it as a way of getting into the 'flow of battle' - each character and combo has a rhythm. Not to mention, the sound clips and fancy footwork were very appealing.
And the best part - once a character has a Dragoon Stone, they can transform in combat - with a dramatic cinematic that I adored every time. Once each character has the ability to transform, you can even have them become Dragoons ALL AT ONCE. Again, each character has a personalised sequence that reflects their personality and element. Rose is the Dark Dragoon, and in the UK/AUS version lets out a blood-curdling scream when she transforms. Being the Dark element, during her transformation she seems to condense into an atom. Her attacks appear to banish her enemies to other dimensions, or prevent them from even existing in the first place. In contrast, Shana is the Light Dragoon, and her transformation makes her appear as a sort of saintly or angelic figure, while her Dragoon magic either heals her allies or smites her enemies.
Legend of Dragoon's music is catchy, and while the boss battle music isn't overly panic-inducing like One-Winged Angel, it definitely gives me a feel for the desperation and anxiety of battle. As a kid I learnt to play Royal Castle and Shana's Lullaby on piano. The tracks are so memorable, when replaying the game this weekend it only took a few seconds for me to remember each tune. Deningrad is probably my favourite song - I clearly remember first entering the city and when the Divine Dragon attacked it. There isn't much to say about music, you really need to hear it!
Finally, the story is captivating. Although my summary disappeared during my writing, I'm relieved - it is so difficult to explain, but I feel like these sorts of stories aren't very common in games anymore. Spread over four discs, Legend of Dragoon really is an epic journey. I remember becoming so emotional over this game as a kid I would dream about this game, and become too scared to finish it. In fact, I'm still in Law City Zenebatos - halfway through chapter four. While Legend of Dragoon didn't sell as well as hoped, there is a small group of fans who write petitions for a new game, a remake, and for Sony to have Dart as a character for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Regardless of whatever happens with the franchise in the future, the original game will always be something I love to gush over.