KEMCO and ever-busy developer EXE-CREATE along with a few other studios have been whipping out dozens of mobile JRPGs for years and fortunately, a bunch of them have been slowly but surely arriving on home consoles, a great thing if you happen to be a fan of “old-school” dungeon dives. Dragon Sinker – Descendants of Legend is one of their latest and it’s a wonderfully, intentionally rustic style of gameplay that recalls the early Final Fantasy series as well as bits of Dragon Quest and a few other well-aged classics.
Granted, the game is going for more of a very solid homage to 8-bit JRPGs than it goes for the gold standard in terms of its familiar plot points. But between the clever use of the Unity engine to deliver appropriately chunky sprites and the developer implementing elements of its other role-playing games to great effect, this one’s a time-sink worthy of your time.
While deceptively short if you follow the main quest and stick to it like glue, as with other EXE-CREATE games, the true depth lies in players seeking out side quests and late to post-game content. Sure, you can blow through the game in about a dozen or so hours, but you very likely won’t see everything or find some fun secrets that require more time leveling up for some fairly tough battles. This is one of those rainy or snowy weekend games where you plop down on something comfortable and only come up for air and food when required.
The story is about as simple as it gets: A trio of heroes decides to take on the evil dragon, Wyrmvarg, but he’s too powerful and two of them manage to escape while the third attempts to hold it off. Making it back to their kingdom, there’s a quest undertaken to find three legendary weapons while reuniting the human, elf, and dwarf races in the process. Not “groundbreaking” stuff (that word is overused in gaming these days, trust me), but it works in that manner good games do when they hook you in and keep you up too late with a big determined grin on your face.
As you expand your party, you’ll find 16 different jobs and 6 pets to discover that add a bit of variety to the game experience. You start with a single party and eventually end up with three that can contain up to four members each. Abram is the human leader, Mia is the elf leader, and Bowen is the dwarf leader. Each has a companion, but you can swap them out with characters you meet in your travels. The job system allows you to unlock certain skills for your parties, so experimenting is a good thing to mess around with. For example, having three hunters in your party boosts Job Point gain to 200% and gives you a skill that can summon enemies to fight while offering double the gold, experience, and JP while sometimes dropping some decent items post-battle.
Other ally placements add buffs, reduce damage taken, enhance magic and so forth and so on. The game is initially vague about some of this because it wants you to discover that fun in figuring out what works best for you. That said, you can also get away in some areas by abusing some low to medium-level spells as well as skills that cost HP to use instead of MP. The game is a cakewalk on Easy, but you can bump up the challenge to Normal, Hard, or Extreme at any time outside combat. Just expect to have your poor party eaten up and spit out if you tackle Expert from the get-go and some cheery looking goo monsters royally muck up your day. Enemy encounters can be tailored to half, normal, and double (if you like even more challenge) with expected bonuses as a result.
I did like that getting new characters to join up involves some side quests that range from simple versus battles to more interesting “fetch me this” challenges. Getting new party members allows you to level their jobs up and gain a skill scroll once those jobs max out. Those scrolls can be used to have one of the three leaders learn a class-based skill that adds a passive permanent buff to whomever the scroll is used on. Once a job is maxed out, you can (and should) swap in a new job and level that up as well. It takes time to do this and yes, adds time to the game if you’re going for unlocking every bit of content.
As with other EXE-CREATE games, there’s a bit of romance teased between some characters and you’ll find a bit of humor here when the game plays coy from time to time despite you probably figuring out where things will lead. That said, there are some decent and brief side missions including one late game event that’s a nice mystery to solve if you want to spend about 15 minutes or so exploring an almost deserted mansion. The game doesn’t include all the developer’s tricks, however. Other than needing to search for items hidden in barrels and crates, you won’t find pits that drop you down to lower floors. weapon crafting, or some of the other diversions from other KEMCO mobile games. The fun here comes from the by the book nostalgia on display as well as the nicely balanced dramatic and humorous elements.
The art style here is super-exaggerated to the point where characters, those bigger monsters and some bosses look as if you’re playing a NES game as viewed through a magnifying glass (but without a single scan line). It’s hard not to love a game that wears its influences on its sleeve as much as this one does, but I know some folks are ogling those screens and making weird faces because they don’t “get” it at all. Eh, you’ll figure it out if you appreciate a bit of game history. Even the soundtrack goes for that NES feel and while it’s a mere eight tracks, those of you who groove on this sort of stuff will be pretty pleased overall at the music and sound effects. Headphones or decent earbuds are recommended, by the way.
If you’re curious, the Vita version is the same as the PS4 save for longer load times on the handheld. As with other PS family ports, cross-saves aren’t applicable, so you’re actually paying for two versions of the game which makes it an even better bargain. There’s paid DLC of you like breaking the game with too-handy goodies, but you may just want to use the random lottery ticket/DSP (Dragon Sinker Points) system to try your luck in obtaining some pretty slick goodies. As noted, it all boils down to how much you like the game and how long you want to keep playing. Me, I spent more time than I expected with this and want some sort of follow up or at the very least, a different game using the same art style.
Now, if only we could get the entire Alphadia series on PSN or some more of KEMCO’s other decent to stellar mobile titles that have previously only appeared on devices or the Nintendo 3DS, that would be a nice thing to see. But I’m happy to see and play another excellent EXE-CREATE game on console, especially one that’s so determined to evoke a those weekends or other days when you’d tune out the outside world for a bit and deal with digital dragons until the sun dropped from the sky for the day.
Score: A- (90%)
Review code provided by the publisher
Aw, man, these are the games that are like catnip to me.
Psst… hey, buddy… step into this dark alley here and whip out your phone (or tablet): http://www.kemco.jp/sp/games/drs/en/index.html
That sound you heard was my free time quietly burying itself in the backyard.