Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Corey Wingate 12.10.2015

Review for Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria on Nintendo 3DS

RPGs have gone through a lot of evolution since the NES days, certainly apparent when Final Fantasy's history is considered. For many fans, it's just not that easy to give up modern conveniences in the genre and go back to a time when the graphics were simple, not to mention the battle systems. This RPG developed by The Muteki Corporation shows off a lot of retro appeal, appearing to do well on iOS, but how does it hold up on Nintendo's handheld? After reviews of the PC and Wii U versions, Cubed3 delivers another point of view with the 3DS release.

Chapter one of Dragon Fantasy starts by introducing the kingdom of Wester, which is under the rule of Queen Becca. Thirty years before the opening scene begins, central hero, Ogden Thomas, slayed the last dragon known to the kingdom and brought peace to the land so that everyone could live happily ever after. Ogden went bald when his hair got singed by the dragon's flame breath in that fated battle, but other than having to join the Hair Club for Dragon Slayers, he's lived a happy, semi-retired lifestyle. Since those glorious days of his youth, Ogden has grown a bit rusty. With no major battles to worry about, he's gained weight and mainly just rescues the occasional cat from being up a tree. The tone, if not yet fairly obvious, is a humorous one, choosing to mildly spoof the RPG genre. The admittedly fun introduction doesn't really lead to anything all that exciting in the way of gameplay, which is a real tragedy considering how well the writing turned out.

The settings menu actually allows for two graphical styles - a novel idea, for sure. The less refined graphics show off a basic 8-bit look, while the default enhanced graphics style is a spiffier 16-bit display. Even the music can be toggled in this way. These options are independent of one another, allowing for a custom mix of old and new in the presentation. Overall, the graphics do a great job of looking like an early game in the genre. Playing on 3DS even gives it a Game Boy Color feel, really piling on to the already nostalgic mood. 3D is supported, but it's just not employed enough to be all that impressive. Only some light layering of the battle graphics along with minor depth to the overworld occurs, with no 3D effect at all while inside of towns and dungeons.

In terms of the gameplay, to put it bluntly, but fairly, the core experience comes across as tired, generic, and dull. That doesn't mean there aren't at least a few things present to keep it alive, though. The writing does a commendable job of entertaining and almost single-handedly carries the game, although much of the writing tries a bit too hard to include general gaming references. The first two fights are against skeleton henchmen, one named Biggs and the other named Wedge - an obvious Final Fantasy reference. A bit later, while figuring out what to do in a town full of pirates, Ogden meets a man who calls himself the "Master of Unlocking" (anyone else hungry for a Jill Sandwich?). It sort of gives the feeling the developers might have been reaching much too far with their gaming references when Resident Evil creeps in. By the way, the two individual skeleton fights are required because that's how primitive battles are in Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria; there are no groups of enemies to encounter.

Screenshot for Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria on Nintendo 3DS

Surely not by accident, the feel of this RPG is very close to that of an early Dragon Quest style game, with just one monster encounter at a time while exploring the overworld or a dungeon. Ogden ends up serving as more than just a regular warrior to make up for a lack of traditional allies, so he also has many spells to learn to help with a lot of the adventuring. It's the standard deal here - the hero's party going from one town to another with a dungeon in-between to break the adventure up into chunks. For any veteran RPG gamers out there, nothing about the gameplay is the least bit challenging - certainly nothing a bit of grinding won't fix - and that is a shame. With more depth to the gameplay and a more sophisticated battle system, perhaps closer to an early Final Fantasy, at least, the writing wouldn't be left with the burden to entice players back for more.

The way battles are displayed ends up being an annoyance. Instead of having both the battle graphics and the message window displayed on the same screen, these are split up so that the enemy portrait and background appear on the top screen while the messages about battle results are at the very lowest spot on the bottom screen. It may seem like nit-picking, but an option to display these together on one screen would have been much better. It's just hard to understand why this setup was preferred by the developers. Having to glance back and forth to enjoy battles doesn't make smart use of two screens; it makes irritating use of them. While the bestiary is full of some hilarious monsters to giggle at, like a "Hunka Burning Love" monster that cruelly steps on Ogden's shoes as an attack, at some point the player is likely to stop caring about reading these messages, since it means having to look down too often to appreciate it when all of the action to the visuals is on the top screen. The list of spells also grows pretty large, leading to a spell menu that's not at all optimised for quick access to different spell types. A simple category option, or even just a way to sort the spell menu, would have gone a long way in fixing this.

Dragon Fantasy may be stuck circa 1986 mechanically in most ways, but there are a few more modern touches included to reduce some of the grind, just not nearly enough. While exploring dungeons, monsters are shown on the screen, rather than being random encounters. Also, buying new equipment in shops is made easy, with stat improvements listed clearly when purchasing, along with a fast equip option. Monsters are even able to be captured and used as allies to lighten the battling load, but an auto battle option is not present, making the process of choosing the basic attack option over and over again an unmitigated practice in monotony. Visits to the church to save progress, along with trips to the inn, are, thankfully, not big events by contrast. Both are streamlined so that it all passes without any fanfare - a welcome design choice to cut down on so many repetitive moments that hurt the experience.

Screenshot for Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that, sometimes, being retro in design to attract gamers longing for something nostalgic can mean making a game that's far too primitive feeling. Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria may have been a hit on iOS, but on a dedicated gaming handheld it's totally out of its league, offering mechanics far too outdated to be considered engaging these days. It also fails to work well when adapted for two screens. The charm and humour are there, but it's just too much of a grind to appreciate them.

Developer

The Muteki Corporation

Publisher

Choice Provisions

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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