RPG battle systems can be fairly bland and boring after a set amount of time. Everyone knows that there’s only so much you can do with pointing at a word and selecting it. It can be cool to watch a 30-45 second spellcast go off the first few times, but after a while a certain sinking feeling can kick in watching the same animations over and over. For me, I need a little more interaction in my RPGs to keep me interested.
Enter Legend of Dragoon, a PS1 era RPG cult classic, and in all honesty deserves to be just called a true classic.
The story can be a little clichéd at times but such is the way of 1990s JRPGs. The real reason that Legend of Dragoon is so cool is its unique battle system. Legend of Dragoon challenges players in two ways compared to most standard RPG systems challenging them in only one.
The biggest, and coolest part of Legend of Dragoon’s combat is called the “Additions” system. Mechanically challenging, “timed hits” if you will. Additions make your basic attack command into a timed minigame that requires fairly tight timing in order to pull off some of the harder Additions. Such as a 6 button press combo named Gust of Wind Dance that will live in infamy for many of the RPG’s players. Without spoiling the story, how successful you are in landing either partial or full Additions directly effects your combat strength by giving you portions of a “meter” that is used for a different part of the combat system.
If pressing buttons isn’t enough, the game also challenges you in terms of maintaining your party’s health. With a limited inventory for all healing/combat items (32!) and no standard magic command to spam heals on your party, health management can be tricky in some situations. Enter the Guard command, an ability that makes your character take half damage until it’s next turn and heal for 10% of it’s max HP. While not as exciting as the Additions system, an RPG obviously needs to tax your decision making somehow to remain challenging, and I believe this is an excellent method of doing so.
So what’s cool about this at the end of the day? Legend of Dragoon is different and addicting from many RPGs because it is a game that challenges you both mechanically and mentally to improve. By having two points of improvement that you can see, it truly achieves the satisfying feeling of “progress” that many RPGs can be lacking in. From personal experience, going from whiffing Gust of Wind Dance after 2/6 steps to landing it almost 80% of the time is more satisfying than any 45 second summon cinematic I’ve ever used in an RPG (I’m looking at you Knights of the Round Table). When going into later boss fights as well, one attack instead of playing it safe with a Guard can cause a full party wipe, making boss fights taxing on your execution of Additions and your decision making on party tactics.
If you’re tired of a generic pick target, pick skill RPGs and need a little more interaction in your gameplay, check out Legend of Dragoon, and be prepared to be sweating bullets when you get into the later boss fights.