Dragoneer's Aria PSP
Published by: Koei
Developed by: HitMaker
Release Date: Out Now
As much as we love RPGs here at Deaf Gamers, and we are rather partial to them, not all of them really hit the spot. Dragoneer's Aria is one of those games that on the whole isn't that bad but it doesn't have that certain je ne sais quoi that keeps us coming back for more. It has most of the ingredients of a great RPG but the end result is a little half-baked and a little disappointing. That said, it has its positive elements and there are aspects of the game that will appeal to RPG enthusiasts but it's a rather punishing experience and one that will continually frustrate.
In Dragoneer's Aria you'll play as Valen Kessler, your typical young effeminate male hero type character. The game is set in Granadis, a land where 'humans, dragons, and spirits live in relative harmony.' As you might expect, that harmony is soon shattered when, as Valen is about to graduate from the Dragoon Academy, an evil black dragon makes a rather violent entrance in the nation's capital doing a whole heap of damage in the process. Valen, along with a young female empathic healer called Euphe must travel to the Fire Dragon, one of the six elemental dragons (the others being the Water, Earth, Thunder, Frost and Wind dragons), to seek answers. Valen will end up attempting to protect the six elemental dragons and gathers additional party members on his travels such as the cynical Ruslan and the child-like Mary Murphy, the daughter of a pirate.
Three of the key ingredients in any RPG are the battle system, the storyline and the dialogue. In Dragoneer's Aria there are major problems with all three. The storyline just feels clichéd. It seems like a storyline that you have come across many times before and the developers should have been much more inventive. The dialogue is very poor. You expect the odd piece of cheesy dialogue but Dragoneer's Aria has more than its fair share. If the dialogue is not cheesy it's just outright tedious and does nothing to either develop the characters or encourage your interest in the game. The fundamentals of the turn-based battle system are sound (if unoriginal) but when you are forced to sit through very long battle animations time after time it can really test your patience. It's not uncommon for a standard battle to take in excess of ten minutes to complete. To make matters worse, you're going to need to do an insane amount of levelling up to avoid being constantly defeated. Dragoneer's Aria certainly isn't a game for who don't have the patience to dedicate many hours simply to levelling-up your characters before expecting to progress in the game. The game offers a special ad hoc mode for up to four players but even this can't do anything to add appeal to the game.
Graphically Dragoneer's Aria is a mixed bag. Some of the textures in the game look very bland and are lacking in even basic detail. The character models are decent but some of the animations are disappointing. This is particularly unfortunate when, as we have just mentioned, you don't get to skip them during a battle. At least the camera behaves itself most of the time and won't cause any real problems. Given the number of other disappointments however, it's unlikely that this will come as much of a consolation.
If the aforementioned problems haven't deterred you, you'll be pleased to learn that Dragoneer's Aria won't give deaf gamers any real problems. The cutscenes are subtitled, although there are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text. This doesn't really cause any problems however and it's easy to follow who is saying what. Other dialogues do have the speaker's name placed above the dialogue and are text only. Comments made during a battle are not subtitled but this doesn't cause any real problems. All of the information during a battle is given through the use of text, numbers or icons.
Whilst the PSP certainly doesn't have a wealth of RPGs to choose from, it certainly has an ample amount of quality ones and it's difficult to recommend Dragoneer's Aria to anyone other than a hardcore RPG enthusiast who must own every RPG on the system. The game is punishing in that it demands you dedicate many hours into levelling-up otherwise you'll run into enemies who will simply make mincemeat out of your party. This wouldn't be so bad if the battles were short and sweet and the dialogue was interesting. Tediously long battles, disappointing dialogue and a storyline that's difficult to get excited about mean the game is tough to recommend.