For many, the PS1 was defined by the global recognition of Japanese role-playing games. Final Fantasy VII obviously led the charge in this regard, but it was flanked by now legendary properties like Breath of Fire, Wild Arms, and Suikoden. It's easy to see the impact that the JRPG boom had on the gaming landscape of the late 90s and early 2000s.
Understandably, Sony wanted a piece of the pie. At the time, The Legend of Dragoon was a big budget, large scale production. A 50-hour epic packed with CG cutscenes and cutting-edge visuals, it was pushed to be a true competitor to Final Fantasy and its established peers. However, Japan Studio's effort fell short of those lofty goals — both critically and commercially.
When The Legend of Dragoon came West in 2000, it was met with a wave of rather lukewarm reviews. Many of these critics made unfavourable comparisons to — you guessed it — Final Fantasy, which had undoubtedly set the JRPG standard. In hindsight, such comparisons were perhaps a little unfair given that this was a completely new property from a relatively inexperienced developer, but again, The Legend of Dragoon had significant backing from Sony. It was meant to be the next big thing — and that set certain expectations.
Playing The Legend of Dragoon over two decades later, you can understand where some of the original complaints were coming from. This is a stereotypical RPG of its time, held back by a rough English localisation and a combat system that's still more than capable of dividing player opinion. But even with its noticeable flaws, there's an undeniable charisma to this fantasy epic, and for long-time fans of the genre, it makes for an effective nostalgia trip.
The Legend of Dragoon's strengths lie in its sense of adventure. It's a proper good-versus-evil plot that drags you across a delightfully drawn world map that's packed with memorable locations. Looking back on it now, it's a predictable blueprint — the same blueprint that so many classic RPGs rely upon — but the game's inherent charms carry the experience. Its art direction, character designs, and varied soundtrack create a journey that can still be captivating.
Even with its wonky Japanese-to-English script, The Legend of Dragoon manages to tell a surprisingly emotional tale. You're playing as a group of ragtag heroes, but they all struggle with their own problems throughout the story, coming to terms with what can be fairly dark themes. At points, this can be a refreshingly curt RPG, refusing to beat around the bush when the narrative demands a hard-hitting moment.
The story itself is fairly standard stuff as the ancient power of dragons, all-powerful artefacts, and an evil empire make up the plot's core, but there are at least some intriguing ideas sprinkled into the finer details. As alluded though, it's really the main characters that keep things interesting — an endearing bunch even 23 years later.
Gameplay-wise, The Legend of Dragoon is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a 2000, Japanese-developed, PS1 RPG — but it does boast a few interesting wrinkles. Needless to say, battle is where you'll find them, thanks to a system that still feels unique.
Combat is built on two central pillars: Additions and Dragoon transformations. Additions are basically combo attacks, and each party member learns their own set of moves. In order to unleash these techniques in a fight, you need to get used to pressing X at the right time in a kind of rhythm minigame — but calling it that doesn't really emphasise how important the mechanic is to your success.
More powerful Additions tend to require longer, more intricate rhythms, and then you've got enemy counters to worry about, which force you to hit a different button before your attack is interrupted. Compared to the menu-based, more tactical approach of other RPGs, it's a strange system — but that's not necessarily a negative. Again, it helps give the game a unique identity, and once you've actually got the timing down, the process is oddly satisfying.
However, repetition does set in as soon you've found your favourite Additions, because you can only equip one technique at a time. Eventually, you'll just be tapping your way through the same attacks over and over again, and you seriously start to question the system's depth.
Thankfully, the arrival of Dragoon forms hours into the game adds a very welcome layer of strategy to later encounters. Spirit points, accumulated by pulling off successful Additions, can be spent on character-specific transformations. These temporary evolutions open up powerful new Additions and a range of magical spells that can provide a significant advantage in tougher fights. A game-changer and, arguably, a game-saver, just as the repetitive combat system begins to creak.
Before we wrap things up, we should probably touch on the game's technical issues, which are annoyingly frequent when playing on PS5. We noticed a bunch of graphical bugs during our playthrough, from flickering backgrounds to clipping character models. Audio problems can be persistent as well, with voice lines cutting out, and some sound effects missing in action. Restarting the game seems to fix things, but frame rate hitches are also a concern, particularly in combat — and battles are already glacially paced to begin with.
If you're looking for a PS1 RPG experience that typifies the era, The Legend of Dragoon is a solid shout. A big budget title at the time, its ambition is still hard to fault — but with the benefit of hindsight, it's also easy to see where this Sony-backed release stumbles. The combat system is uniquely satisfying, but it can feel frustratingly stunted. Meanwhile, endearing characters carry an emotional story, but an awkward localisation effort comes close to sabotaging the script. A flawed classic, but a memorable adventure all the same.
If anyone's got any questions about the game let me know and I'll try to answer them.
Enjoyed playing this one again, you can still see why it resonated with a lot of PS1 fans. Would love to see Sony tackle turn-based RPGs like this again, however unlikely that might be.
I’m going to get ***** for saying this but I actually think this game would benefit from being turned into an action rpg like FF16 if they ever do a full remake. Combo systems feel odd when your character just stands in place most of the time. I love the game but agree there’s not a lot of variety. Each character has a few combos and that’s about it
Gonna be rough to go from God Of War Ragnarok to this but that's what I'm gonna do. This plat will be mine.
This is one of my top 3 favorite games of all time, together with Total Annihilation and Persona 3. The fact that this has trophy support now is definitely making me want to go back again and 100% it. In due time, I will. Appreciate the review!
Played this when it first released on PS1, so good, then traded it in along w/ Xenogears b/c obviously I’m an idiot.😝
@ShogunRok Did this release a few years back on PS3 or maybe PS4? My wife says I bought it for like $8. I kind of sort of recall but it all blends together. And if it did, besides adding trophies is this version any different.
Edit: According to this very random website week old article it was on PS3, but much more importantly if you bought it on PS3 you can download it onto your PS4 or PS5 for free!!
Considering all the hype around this game at the moment an interesting development, especially if we can download this upgraded version for free. I’ll go check and let ya know later.👍
Just downloaded the enhanced PS4 version to my PS5 for free.😁 Don’t know about trophies but also don’t care so I’ll leave that up to you. $10 is ok for people who don’t have PS+++
@rjejr Yeah I believe it was a PS1 classic on PS3 in the US.
@rjejr I bought wild arms 1 on psvita and actually surprised that I can play it free on ps5, I hope sony release more psone classic since I bought a couple of them for my ps3/psvita back then
@ShogunRok bought this morning for $6 on the ps3 cheaper than wuts on ps4 ps5 and the app
@wiiware I can't remember what I bought on my PS3s, I have 2 of them but neither is hooked up, so this was a surprise to me. I never bought much tho as I already have too much to play, but I had to buy LoD to help get over the whole trading it in regret. I wonder if Xenogears is out there somewhere? 🤷♂️
@ShogunRok "in the US"
Ah man sorry if you guys didn't get it over there. 😩
@ShogunRok You Missed a Pro The Menu has its own theme song.
@Areus Haha, I came very close to mentioning that.
I'm happy this exists. I found 1 of the discs in my old bedroom @ mom's house. Lord knows where the other 3 are LOL.
@ShogunRok: Are the technical issues still present after the patch?
I only played it a little back in the day.
But the thing that stuck with me was how hard it pushed the original PlayStation.
The game had issues, but from a technical standpoint it was extremely good. You could tell it was pushing the PS1 to its breaking points at time.
@ShogunRok, I'm old enough to have played the PS1 version (PAL) and the loading was slow. Especially noticeable in battles, you'd wait a few seconds with the camera panning round the battle zone before the characters appeared, then the battle itself...
The PS3 version I noticed an improvement, how is the PS5 version for loading?
@eltomo Honestly, it's not much different as far as I can tell. The battle intros are still noticeably long.
@McBurn The ones mentioned in the review are, sadly. The patch seemed to target the softlocks specifically — which, to be fair, were the biggest issue. Based on my experience, there are still visual / audio bugs, and the frame rate can hang during battles.
It's an 8 for me.
It got a bad rap in the shadow of FF7 back in the day, it's actually why I avoided it. Shame on the reviewers from back in the day.
I've never played this until now and, despite the dodgy localisation, I'm loving it. I now understand the love this gets online.
I think it's time this game gets the respect it deserves.
I played the game a long time ago. I agree that it is a bit slow paced sometimes, that's why so many want a remake with a modern interface and combat system; However, I still love this game.
@motorik6 I looked into the reviews Dragoon got back when it released, and there was definitely a tendency back then to outwardly compare games to others, like it was a constant competition. It made me wonder why that was such a common thought process.
I think it's at least partly because in a lot of cases, these reviews were appearing in magazines rather than on websites like they do today. They had to come up with a hard-hitting angle to sell copies, and it that meant pitting similar games against each other, that's what they'd do.
I still remember an old unofficial PlayStation magazine reviewing Syphon Filter, and pasting "THE METAL GEAR SOLID BEATER" across the cover.
It's an interesting topic because you just don't get those kind of direct comparisons anymore — or at least not to that blatant extent.
@ShogunRok definitely an interesting topic.
I guess in terms of now we get the endless sea of 'this is a Soulslike' observations.
It seems every generation is fraught with lazy comparisons.
To be clear, FF7s influence on Dragoon is clear but it's by no means to it's detriment. At least, not for me! Cheers for your review.
This is fantastic and everything and I can’t wait to get into it. But please give me Broken Sword Sony!!!
@ShogunRok I still have a huge pile of opsm in the attic somewhere, think I’ve got quite a few demo disc cases as well. Great review it’s made me want to get into it even more as I never had it back in the day, I had another similar title
I was about to play until I heard about the bugs. Then I decided to play Elden Ring instead. Now I’m hooked on that and don’t see myself starting this for awhile. My point is the way the game released really didn’t do it any favors. Hopefully whenever I start it, it will be a blast to try out.
@KaijuKaiser it's only fondly remembered because it's a highlight of the turn based age, I'm pretty sure turning it into an action RPG would lose most of its current fan base and not really have anything that a new ip wouldn't to attract a new one.
@Balosi I love the game but there's a reason why turned based games even to this day use sprites. Its extremely odd to have realistic graphics and have characters standing in place. If they make it more cartoony they can keep the system in place but more likely it would be a massive project using Unreal Engine 5 and if that's the case its better to just make it an action title. They can still bring up button inputs for special movies to make it stand out or something.
@KaijuKaiser that's subjective I guess. I've personally got no issue with characters standing around waiting their turn, I enjoy it even, I don't really get anything out of the free for all's of action RPGs.
Edit: especially party based RPGs. What do I care what two NPC characters I have no control over mostly out of sight win or not?
@ShogunRok What's the likelihood of them going back and patching/fixing the other present issues?
@ShogunRok Why isn't there a remake for this fantastic game. 🤣
I love this game so much I will not shut up about it. 😅
@KidBoruto It's possible — they did release the first patch very quickly.
@Flaming_Kaiser Yeah even playing it all these years later you can still see why it has such hardcore fans. There's definitely a magic to it.
As much as I love this game, I definitely do agree with the score. Game is fantastic but does has issues. And they are even more obvious now then back then.
Also one thing I noticed replaying this is how many bloody 1 shot attacks bosses have. Not even taking damage, just "Out of combat!" It's so cheap lol
@ShogunRok Did you play this on the original release or after the update/patch?
If both did you notice any improvement?
@themightyant Both, the patch arrived while I was playing it. Thankfully fixed the softlocking combat issues, but I was still noticing graphical / audio bugs post-patch.
@rjejr Good to know, I bought all these back in the day on my PS3 and PSP, so I'll have to go and grab it then as I wasn't willing to pay for it again since I also have it emulated. Never did beat it, so guess now is finally the time.
@Shredderlovespizza And if you beat it now you get trophies. I don’t care about trophies but I know a lot of people do.🤷🏻♂️
@ShogunRok Fingers crossed that's the case, I'll hold off on playing it for now and keep waiting.
@ShogunRok I really am at a loss why Sony does remaster or remake it it does not have to be a Final Fantasy 7R look at what Square Enix did with Crisis Core I think something like that would be amazing.
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