Thoughts on Dragon Force 2

Dragon Force 2 Boxart

Dragon Force 2 has always been one of those long lamented “why did they deprive us of this game by not localizing it” mystical games that get much build-up from being Import Only. However, the recent completed fan-translation has changed that, making the game accessible to all. With that in mind, how does it really fare when the veil of language barrier is removed? Let’s take a look (SPOILER WARNING)

DF1

Let’s get the good things out of the way first:

They streamlined a lot of the tedious Domestic Affairs actions – for example, at the end of every session your officers will automatically Search castles for items rather than having to manually order them 1 by 1.

You can now have up to 2 troop types in battle, which in theory deepens the strategic experience. In practice the AI are morons so it doesn’t, but that was true of the first game as well.

Lots more voice acting and FMV sequences which is a technical achievement I guess.

Also there’s a crafting system. I hear some people like those.

MOVING ON

The music is terrible in a really bland way, which is just strange considering music was one of the better parts of the original. The standard battle theme drives me nuts with its blandness and considering how often you battle in this game, Sonic Sez that’s no good. Outside of that I can not recall a single piece from the game and I just beat it!

The graphics are a mixed bag. Most of the colours seem really dull/washed out for some reason. Some of the new character designs are OK, but a lot of them look very amateurish in a derpy way.

DF2

I mean, watching one of the few returning characters get Michael Jackson’d facelift is really… ack

Here’s my biggest problem with the gameplay – officers are TOO tough. It’s really likely that even sending 100 troops at an officer with none will result in them still being alive by the time they finish killing all your troops or the time runs out forcing you to have to deploy another character in. It’s just so tedious that I did a lot of multi-tasking while playing this game.

One way to get around this is to train up Officers with spells that can attack the enemy officers directly, which seem to deal surprisingly high damage. 4 or 5 of those will usually kill off any officer in the game no matter their level.

I am going to admit, this might be an actual weakness from the original game but it’s been too long since I played DF1 so I can’t say for certain.

Other gameplay flaws IMO is that the game map is designed too linearly – the way the paths lead to each other and how the game is fond of placing high level’d maxed troops armies in places they don’t want you to go which magically disappear once you hit plot triggers forcing you to just stick to the “storyline”

In addition, the AI is simply too passive – I think I was attacked a grand total of like 5 times in the entire game, and a couple of them were probably “accidents” in the sense that I took a city that the AI was in the process of shuffling troops to (for… some reason) and would probably never attack otherwise.

Ok, so I’m going to go into something that will probably end up in quite a few paragraphs, the WRITING because I’m a huge hypocrite who doesn’t play games for story but write 6 billion words on them anyway but first I want to do a mini rant somewhat.

I think people usually portray those that complain about things like continuity as nitpickers and whiners etc like the fat comic book nerd from the Simpsons, but you know what? That’s just strawmanning and dismissal.

Keeping track of continuity is important because if characters don’t act in a manner that is consistent with what has been established or at least appear to make some kind of sense (including being irrational due to pressure etc) then it breaks immersion and reveals how artificial everything is… which technically I guess is always true because fiction is by definition artificial BUT YOU GET THE IDEA.

Same thing goes with world-building – things like how Porre is handled going from CTrigger to CCross (random village town to super military power) is rather dumb because it was never set-up outside of a dumb retcon and there was no logical development to that point etc…

Now, let’s move on to Dragon Force 2.

DF3

Dragon Force 2 continuity is STRANGE. I know it takes place 500 years after the first game and in real life that’s quite a long period and many things can change in such circumstances. But the changes done don’t feel narratively satisfying at all. Apparently, all these has happened in the jump from 1 to 2

1) The united nations eventually fell to in-fighting and all broke up and returned to their original divisions, mostly redistributed in roughly the same places they were in the first game although curiously Izumo and Bozack seemed to have jumped from the left of the map to the right side when I looked up a picture of DF1’s map, which is ???

I mean, really, the structure hasn’t changed in 500 years despite DF1 ending with like 2-3 political marriages? This seems rather contrived, I mean you would think SOME changes would occur in the set-up.

Also some areas seem to have completely changed their climate. Like I was under the impression that Tristan was a Soviet Russia-like arctic land. Apparently it became THE country that focuses on industrialization in the world.

2) Advanced technology is now a common thing – such as Robots being a troop type and some of the officers being cyborgs etc. There was A BIT of this in DF1 which sort of came out of nowhere but what, did they all rip that one robot apart for spare parts for all of the country?

3) Dark Elves are now a thing and they’re the main antagonistic force in the plot. This, I am almost certain was NEVER a concept at all in the original Dragon Force. One strange aspect of the storyline is that it appears to be bringing back some elements of the Marduk main plot from DF1 and then promptly resolves that in an extremely anti-climatic manner.

There are a small handful of characters that return from DF1 to DF2, none of which I feel actually add anything.

I think there’s a particular returning character which really kind of sums up all the flaws of the continuity in the transition which I shall now put in this giganto spoiler paragraph

DF4

(Highlight to Read) Katmando from Dragon Force 1. If you don’t remember him, he’s the giant robot that falls out of the sky and starts kicking your butt.

In DF2 for one the character’s plotline, they excavate him and fix him up. After which he inexplicably becomes good.

Actually, I didn’t even REALIZE he was the same character until the other returning characters started pointing it out. Because he has a completely different character design from the first game – while in that he was a giganto killer mecha of doom, here he is… The Iron Giant’s anorexic drunk little brother… for some reason.

Damnit, you can’t randomly entirely change a character’s appearance with absolutely 0 explanation, especially if you want players to recognize him and thus understand his significance… how does his body change even happen within the logic of the game world?

Also I like how every time he meets a returning character we get a conversation that basically points out how entirely strange and lazy the writing for this turn of events is.

“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be an evil killing machine?”
“NO, I AM GOOD NOW BECAUSE… UH, I DEVELOPED A LOVE OF LOLIS?”
“Fair enough”
Me: “WHAT’S FAIR ENOUGH ABOUT THAT!?!?!?!”

Come to think of it, I suppose his entire plotline is essentially a direct copy of The Iron Giant. I enjoyed his interaction with the main character but that’s because I have an irrational love for the concept of children being protected by giant robots who also serve as a representation of a missing distant father figure.

On a narrative level though this really makes no bloody sense – he doesn’t LOOK like the original character, he doesn’t ACT like the original character and there’s no reason for him to develop in the way he does in this game – and I’m talking about a bloody robot whose text comprises of lines like “Target acquired, activating kill mode, systems failure doop dee doo” so that’s like an extra level of fail. There was no reason whatsoever for this not to be an entirely new character, though I suppose this can also be said of the entire game in general – any ties to the previous game are awkward at best.

As another strange decision, you would think that in a game called DRAGON FORCE 2, that the new rulers of the kingdoms would be the titular Dragon Force, in a “new team” sort of way, but no, they’re pretty darn unimportant if you didn’t choose them as your main. Mostly you conquer their country just so that you can get them to do something fetch-questy for you and then mostly become completely unimportant. I beat the game with a team of Main character and 4 randoms.

Though it’s funny how all the rulers are like “I WON’T GIVE YOU MY KINGDOM EVIL DOER AAAAA NOT LISTENING TO ANYTHING YOU SAY” as soon as you meet them. I suppose I can’t blame them. because no one in the Dragon Force universe has heard of the concept of just sending over a messenger to ask if they could give you Item X.

And oh boy, the end game sure has the impact of a wet towel. An EVIL island which is apparently the Dark Elves main base rises from the sea in the middle of the map, WHOO SPOOKY.

Said island is surprisingly unpopulated – there are like 15 castles in it and yet only like 4 of them are actually occupied with enemy troops, so you just kind of casually stroll in their island and pick them off one by one. HUH!? Maybe no one answered their Craigslist ads for evil minions. Either that or the Dark Elves forgot that people can’t breathe underwater

Oh well, I appreciate that it means I don’t have to play more battles than I need to though.

DF5

This isn’t the worse SRPG I’ve ever played or anything, but it really comes off as being VERY sloppy in many ways – 1 step forward, 2 steps back. I don’t think it was that well-received in Japan so I guess it’s an example of the whole mystical “Japan-only game gets worshipped in English-speaking land until people actually start playing it” so oh well. Quite a shame really because it had SOME inkling of potential within.

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