What were they thinking with this one? Dragon Song easily has some of the worst video game mechanics I’ve ever seen. Another issue here is at least most titles stick to just having one awful gimmick that was thrown into the game. This has a bunch of them and we’re definitely going to have to talk about why they are an issue. There is a decent game buried in here somewhere but the game makes it as difficult as possible to try and find it. I can see why the franchise basically died with this one.
The story takes place many years before Lunar Legacy so now we can see why everyone looked up to the Dragon Master and why all of the dragons were in poor shape from the start of the first game. Well, Jian is just your average main character who looks up to the old legends of strong fighters. One day he and Lucia are on a usual delivery job from their guild when they wander into a town and fight some monsters. That’s when they find out that the town general is actually a mad man chasing power. He takes out the dragons and becomes the Dragonmaster. After that he kidnaps Lucia.
Jian has to get her back but the only one who can defeat a Dragonmaster is another Dragonmaster. Jian needs to take down all of the dragons and get some powerful friends by his side if he is to save her but it won’t be easy. Fortunately Jian is the kind of guy who learns really fast and isn’t afraid to mix it up with the enemies. In fact, he does have more character than the first game’s protagonist even if he is unreasonable a lot of the time. Get ready to hear Jian constantly talk about how he has to save Lucia and he will do whatever it takes. He says this a whole lot.
Dragon Song has a fairly weak character cast though. You won’t remember any of the heroes for very long which is a shame. Additionally, the main villain is so unremarkable that the game doesn’t even let you fight him. Yes, you have a main villain who actually goes out without a fight. If that’s not anticlimactic then I don’t know what is. It was such a bad way to go out too. Then for the heroes you have a revolving door here as your party members keep on changing. Maybe that’s part of what makes it hard to really sync up with them. They also don’t level up with you so be prepared for a level 1 guy to join you when you’re past level 10. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
While Jian’s determination to save Lucia is good, he does come across as unreasonable parts of the time. A big moment of this is when the world is at stake and he has deliveries to do but gets baited into joining a tournament to prove that humans are just as cool as the Beastmen. It wasn’t really a good time for that and he ended up being cursed for his efforts. The game has a theme about humans vs beast men similar to Arc the Lad, but it is not handled nearly as well to be honest.
Lets talk gameplay now though. On its surface this is a turn based combat game where you attack enemies and level up to victory. Here’s the first issue..you can’t choose who you attack. Yes, it is completely random by the system so get ready to always be attacking in the worst possible combinations. Enemies who you should defeat easily suddenly become an issue due to this. At least you’re earning EXP the whole time right?
Wrong! You only earn EXP if you switch to EXP mode but then you won’t earn any materials or items. Moreover, the enemies and bosses level up with you. The issue with this is that your efforts are largely wasted as the bosses get a whole lot of extra health for leveling up. Grinding up your levels just isn’t as satisfying as it usually is. Also, you don’t get money from minions no matter which route you choose so earning enough to buy the good equipment takes a long while. The best way is to just farm guild missions which is still quite slow and tedious.
It’s also worth noting that your weapons and equipment can break. Yeah, this has never been a good gimmicku and Lunar Dragon of all games was not going to be the exception here. Did I mention that you can run at your own peril? The game encourages you to walk because if you run then you will rapidly lose health points. If you get too low on health then you have to walk until you can find the nearest healing statue. It’s incredibly inconvenient when you’re at lower levels and don’t have a whole lot of health to speak of.
There is no quick travel system for each town. You can use ports to skip some areas but at the end of the day be prepared to do a lot of running. If you want to open the chests in an area you have to defeat a bunch of minions within an allotted time while in EXP mode. The game really wanted to make sure every aspect of the game was as painful as possible. Now you may be wondering, why isn’t the game a negative score then? Well, the answer is because the game still has enough interesting points where I would say it’s worth a playthrough. Even if just to see how bad these mechanics are.
The graphics are decent even if I would definitely not call them very good. I would have liked actual cutscenes or at least some illustrations instead of the hard to read text that is spammed at you. The soundtrack is pretty forgettable though so you won’t remember it for long. The game took me around 20 hours to complete which is really not all that bad. It definitely could have been a lot worse that’s for sure. There isn’t really any post game to speak of though so forget about having any replay value.
Overall, Lunar: Dragon Song is definitely what I would call a soulless RPG. A lot of the decisions are completely baffling as to why you would ever even want to add them in. They straight up take a lot of the enjoyment out of the experience. This game should have been an easy 7 and yet I couldn’t give it a positive score. The gameplay is just slowed down far too much. To run away you even have to blow into the microphone which is also horrible. There are probably even more mechanics I could mention but you get the general picture. Dragon Song was just never going to be all that good because the gameplay is a huge part of any RPG. Same with the story and that was just pretty bland.