Drakengard

Review

posted 3/8/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Most of you probably don’t remember this but there was a period of time when Square was synonymous with more than just RPGs. Sure, you’ve heard of less than stellar titles such as The Bouncer and Emotion Racing Type S but I doubt that many of you actually remember Bushido Blade or Einhander. In truth the aforementioned games were all pretty good but were pretty much overlooked because they didn’t fit into the typical Squaresoft mold. The press disregarded their importance while gaming enthusiasts passed on them because it they didn’t give them the opportunity to fawn over more Moogles and doe-eyed characters. Now the company is looking to return to its past by branching out from its RPG confines and returning to its multi-genre roots with Drakengard, a title composed by a group of former Namco employees. While most will probably miss the point and disregard its importance due to the name that’s slapped on the bottom corner of the package, those who are able to look past the company’s typecast heritage will be able to find a damn fine action/adventure game that’s well worth the forty dollar price tag.

You’re Caim, a battle-weary warrior who is mortally wounded as he tries to defend his homeland from an attack. As he’s wandering the landscape he encounters a dying dragon; in true kooked out Japanese fashion the two enter a pact by pulling out glowing orbs from their chests and linking them up. Upon doing so the two have to rely upon each other to survive and will do so by joining each other in destroying the Empire. Caim himself looks a little bit like Squall from Final Fantasy 8 while the heroine is a textbook Squaresoft heroine. You have a very typical storyline with one unusual twist; it’s extremely dark and violent. It won’t really creep you out too much with its visuals (although there are plenty of graphic depictions to be found) but instead it’s the kind of creepiness that really messed with your mind and sticks with you throughout the day. If you’ve been getting comfortable with Square’s more kid-friendly products like Kingdom Hearts you’re in for a huge departure with Drakengard. Without a doubt, Drakengard is Square’s darkest title to date and is one of gaming’s most mature titles. There are plenty of disturbing images in the game and if you’re not careful they just might haunt you in the long run. I’m not talking about cheap scare tactics where you walk into an obvious setup and a zombie pops up from behind a corner to say “ooga booga” while you blow him to shreds. Drakengard is a mature game so it resorts to some pretty mature imagery to mess with your head. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Japanese have quite of way of expressing themselves after they’ve been repressed for the majority of their lives. What you get here is some messed up stuff like a little girl dancing around a dead body and a creepy antagonist whose eyes are laced with blood.

When you’re not being creeped out by the game’s cutscenes or the eerie music you’ll be hacking your way through endless legions of foes. On the ground you’ll utilize a wide variety of weapons as you dispose of endless hordes of enemies. At the start the combat system is pretty entertaining but it wears thin rather quickly. It simply lacks the amount of depth required to carry the game through a 15+ hour quest. And while it’s nice to see that the designers tossed in a cavalcade of weapons, they simply don’t add enough variety to make the combat interesting throughout the experience. Sometimes you’ll want to hit the triangle button to execute a finishing maneuver, but you’ll generally start with your thumb on the square button and keep it there for most of the duration. This is when the game’s second core gameplay element, the aerial experience, tosses in a much-needed change of pace. When mounted on the dragon you’ll engage in aerial battles that can be as intense as they are frustrating. Although sometimes the aerial combat can feel like a straightforward shooter it generally boils down into a sequence of timed patterns. This doesn’t mean that it’s not fun, but it just might become cumbersome for those who are looking for something a little more.
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