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You may have heard of Vanillaware’s latest hand-drawn masterpiece due to a controversy revolving around certain “buxom” characters, but at its heart, Dragon’s Crown is a throwback to old-school arcade side-scrolling sword-and-sorcery yarns like Golden Axe and Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom. Six distinct fantasy tropes—Amazon, Wizard, Fighter, Elf, Sorcerress, and Dwarf—add a nice bit of variety to the proceedings.
I was glad to finally get my hands on Dragon’s Crown at E3. Not only have I been anticipating this one for two years—former EGM editor Shane Bettenhausen revealed the title at E3 2011 when he was working for the troubled Ignition Entertainment—but I was ecstatic to finally put the controversy aside and simply focus on Dragon’s Crown for what it is: a game. If you’ve played any Vanillaware or ’80s arcade beat-em-up, you’ll be right at home, as Dragon’s Crown delivers everything you’d expect from a marriage between the two concepts. But it also features that dreaded stable of the side-scrolling brawler: absolute chaos. Yes, you will have trouble keeping track of your character at times. Yes, it will be frustrating. For me, though, it didn’t happen enough to ruin the experience, and I’m sure I’ll get more than used to it when I get my hands on the final game.
It’s also good to hear that Dragon’s Crown isn’t a straight-up modern-day reincarnation of Golden Axe, a game you could rip through in a couple of hours if you had enough quarters bulging out of your pockets. This game should take players closer to 15 to 20 hours, which means the overall experience might feel a bit more like Vanillaware’s Odin Sphere in the end. Some players found that game a little tedious, but I loved exploring the various areas will all the different characters—and based on what I’ve played, I’m confident I’ll enjoy it here, too.