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Anthony Capone
05 Apr, 2008

Dragoneer's Aria Review

PSP Review | Will this Aria win you over?
Dragoneer's Aria on the PlayStation Portable is a standard turned-based role-playing title that attempts to replicate the success of the Final Fantasy franchise. In the game, players control a small group of adventurers on their quest to save dragons from the approaching forces of darkness. The idea is an interesting one, but it isn't fleshed out by the run of the mill story or generic RPG gameplay. Combined with the average presentation and deeply flawed battle system, Dragoneer's Aria is a mediocre game that will only frustrate and rarely entertain.

In Dragoneer's Aria, players assume the identity of Valen Kessler, a student on the verge of completing his training as a dragoon – a soldier tasked with keeping the land free from evil. Just as Valen is about to graduate from the academy, the Black Dragon – an evil creature banished centuries earlier – returns to create chaos in city of Granadis. It's now up to Valen to protect the good dragons and discover why the Black Dragon has reappeared after so many years.

Over the course of the game, Valen is joined by a variety of other characters. Euphe, a healer with a secret, is the first new member of the team, but players are quickly partnered with Ruslan, a cynical warrior, and Mary, a quirky pirate. All of the characters are based on various stereotypes, and together with the predicable story, Dragoneer's Aria fails to differentiate itself from other RPGs on the market.

Characters in Dragoneer's Aria are about as stereotypical as they come.

Characters in Dragoneer's Aria are about as stereotypical as they come.
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As the small band of heroes travel from one dungeon to the next, Dragoneer's Aria forces you to take part in the same dull and grinding battles. There are two different enemy types, called ravens and eagles, but both are represented by the same winged eye during combat. Ravens are very easy to beat, but encounters with eagles are always extremely hard. This unbalanced combination makes gameplay incredibly frustrating and repetitive. Further, enemies have an uncanny ability of sneaking up on your party, so you can seldom tell what kind of creature you battling until its too late. There is the option to escape from battles, but it hardly ever works. When it does, players will usually be forced to re-enter combat regardless.

During combat, characters can cast spells, known as lusces. You can switch lusces on the fly, but can only carry as many as there are equipment slots. Experience gained from battles only goes towards levelling up health, so you have to spend time using lusces to improve their power. To cast spells, players must first have the requisite amount of points in their 'mana' gauge. For example, a level three spell requires 3 'mana' points. You earn 50 points for performing a basic attack, and 100 points equals 1 mana point. So, in other words, you have to spend time executing conventional attacks in order to perform spells.

Regrettably, the constant process of gaining points takes away any fun that can be derived from the game. Players will have to choose between using a weaker spell, or accumulating their points to perform a more powerful ability. Further, as you can only generate up to 10 mana points at one time, characters can only perform a few spells during each battle. Indeed, you will eventually forgo casting spells, because they cannot be used on a constant basis, and simply rely on standard attacks. It is also worth mentioning that you can earn points by guarding. Guarding initiates a minigame that allows players to block damage by turning a required number of spinning icons blue. However, this feature simply makes gameplay even more tedious.

Characters have to accumulate enough points before they can cast spells.

Characters have to accumulate enough points before they can cast spells.
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Further complicating matters is the length of battles in Dragoneer's Aria. Every time an attack is executed, players are forced to wait through a torrent of inescapable animations. Each skirmish takes over ten minutes from start to finish, and given the high amount of enemies, the game quickly becomes a never-ending drain. Consequently, Dragoneer's Aria is a very long experience – we certainly racked up over 40 hours of play time.

Players can gain money and items in the game, but stumbling across equipment is very uncommon. Stocking up on potions is essential because of the game's long skirmishes. Other items can be sold or crafted into new supplies. However, if you don't have the right crafting formula, you'll find yourself lugging around a heap of unusable junk.

The visual abilities of PSP have been put to great use recently in games like Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow and Dead Head Fred. While the graphics in Dragoneer's Aria aren't terrible, they nowhere near the high standard we've seen of late. Creatures – especially dragons – look fairly ordinary, and the remainder of the game is pretty average. Though some of the environments are presented well, characters seem generic and textures look downright ugly. Sound is slightly better, with decent music and serviceable sound effects. However, the voice acting is uninspiring and clichéd. Though the script isn't exactly the best, the actors don't help much either.

Dragoneer's Aria features an interesting concept, but the RPG is marred by a predicable story and stereotypical characters. Gameplay consists of a series of never-ending and poorly executed battles with unbalanced and frustrating enemies. Average presentation does nothing to help the game, which is more maddening then it is fun. If you own a PlayStation Portable and are a fan of the role-playing genre, then you should do yourself a favour and give this game a miss – there's much better fare out there to be had then Dragoneer's Aria.
The Score
Dragoneer's Aria could have been a good game, but the dreadful battle system, lacklustre story and average presentation make it very difficult to recommend.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 Comments
6 years ago
I won this frolm PALGN from the Spoons shop, I got it (thanks) but I only went to the start menu, because at the time I had some assignments to do. Hopefully it's not as bad as the review makes it out to be.
6 years ago
Kind of amusing to see the advertisement right next to the review that's panning it. at least this goes to show that PALGN scores aren't influenced by money.
6 years ago
Yikes I was thinking about getting this title... luckily I decided on Jeanne D'Arc (play-asia link).
I recommend it. It's slightly quirky but has some nice solid strategy gameplay and beautifully suited to a handheld and quick gaming bursts.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  20/02/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  Koei
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2007

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