The Loneliest Elf

Playing as the Elf in Dragon’s Crown certainly has its benefits.

For starters, she’s not super deformed. I don’t mean in that SNES-era JRPG, cute kind of way, either. No, by super deformed I mean these bodies are a grotesque mass of muscle, breast, and/or butt cheek. It’s as if a gym and a plastic surgeon’s office were smashed together, taken over by a mad scientist, and then blown up. Surrounded by such monstrosities, the Elf is a breath of fresh. Normally proportioned, fresh air.

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Her other benefit is she kicks ass. Up and down the streets, butts are imprinted with cute elven boot marks. Of course, anyone can go nuts and swing their fists around, landing a blow here and there. What makes the Elf so unique is her archery. It provides a nice ranged attack, allowing the mess to spill onto the ground, not over her finely quilted hood.

Oddly, she was recommended for ‘expert’ players, so my fear now is joining a lobby, the other players relieved to see an ‘expert’ among them. I politely wave, then quickly stumble, spilling the contents of my quiver. Sorry guys, I’m actually terrrible.

If my odd aside about a fictional character wasn’t clear, Dragon’s Crown has been fantastic thus far. It’s awesome  playing that Vanillaware title that marriages art and gameplay as well as I had hoped. Dragon’s Crown takes the speed and beauty of Muramasa, removes the boredom disguised as ‘taking in the sights’, and just builds on the good stuff. Of course, Crown is a traditional brawler compared to Muramasa‘s take on the action genre, but elements are shared. What really sets Crown apart is its depth; I am surprised at how layered and technical of an experience it has been.

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The combat is interesting, and shouldn’t be much of a shock for someone versed in the ways of Super Smash Bros.. A press of the square button in combination with a direction yields an attack. It’s kept simple, and much like Smash Bros., it’s not about dialing combos, it’s about knowing what your moves are capable of. As an Elf, I keep on my toes; getting in close, punch ’em in the gut, shoot an arrow, and get the hell out. Learning where my attacks place me and their duration is crucial if I want to survive. Being mindful of my health is super important, as health potions are limited. You can buy in large quantities, but can only be used three times per mission. It’s an interesting twist, one that makes sure you can’t abuse potions and ‘cheese’ your way through.

One aspect that does cost me a bit of health is the layered battlefield. If you’re familiar with most any brawler, you’ll know the play field allows you to move between the foreground and background. It’s entirely subjective, but I prefer moving between three individual planes, as opposed to having free reign. Games like Guardian Heroes and Code of Princess use my preferred system, while Dragon’s Crown allows for a wider range of movement. I find myself misjudging the line of attack, and with a limited set of arrows, I can’t afford the loss. Nothing I can’t get used to, but still bugs me a bit.

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Once your hacking and slashing has come to an end, it’s time to collect your spoils. What I enjoy here is that Crown has made a minigame of sorts out of this. You’re provided a screen that lists what you’ve found. Aside from it’s grade (A, B, C, etc.), and which class can use it, the information is obscured by question marks. You can choose to pay to have the item appraised, revealing that information, or you can sell it off. It’s important to weigh your options, appraising an item you may not end up using is a waste of money, but blindly selling them means you may be passing over something beneficial. It’s an interest approach to loot, and I really enjoy combing over it and picking out just what I need.

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I couldn’t be happier with Dragon’s Crown, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s a lot of game here, and I’m excited to take it online (when I finally unlock it…a ‘feature’ I’m less than happy about). Not only is it fun to play, but it’s stunning as well. While you may be put off by some of the more sexualized portraits, there’s still some splendor to be found in the environments and enemy designs. Hopefully my Elf is happy fighting alongside the game’s other heroes, and isn’t too distracted by muscles she hasn’t even known existed.

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