Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Finishing "The Legend of Dragoon"

After several years of playing off and on, I’ve finally reached the end of The Legend of Dragoon.
For those unfamiliar with The Legend of Dragoon, it was a JRPG released on the original PlayStation back in 1999. Though never as popular as Final Fantasy, it was a solid game and got a lot of attention in both Japan and the United States. It’s become something of a cult classic or sleeper hit, with fans raving about it still.
I first played the game many years ago with the original PlayStation disc. Though I didn’t play it on the PSX (which I never owned), the PS2 was backwards compatible, so I played it on that. It’s been so long ago, that the details are hazy. I didn’t own the game, it belonged to my cousins who did own an original PlayStation. I didn’t get very far, probably not even through the first disc, but it was enough to make me want to finish the game. However, I eventually migrated fully to my PS3, and the original discs for The Legend of Dragoon were either lost, sold, or otherwise disappeared.
For a few years, my interest waned. As much as I enjoyed the game, I almost forgot about it. I was too busy playing new releases on a modern console. Then, in May of 2012, I started thinking about the game again. Surely, as much of a cult following as it had garnered, Sony would eventually see about releasing a remake or sequel of some kind. Doing a little research, I discovered that the game had been ported to PS3 and PSP, and had been released on the PlayStation Store just earlier that month. What a coincidence!
Obviously, I purchased the game immediately. With the opportunity to play it again on a modern generation console, surely I would finish it this time. Though PSX games were available on both the PS3 and PSP, I preferred the portability of the PSP. I downloaded the game and started again from the beginning.
At first, I played it feverishly. Not only is The Legend of Dragoon a great game in and of itself, I was experiencing an extreme case of nostalgia. It had been years since I last touched the game, so finally playing it again was fantastic. But eventually, that nostalgia was satiated and the excitement for getting to play the game again wore off. Sure, it was still a good game, but I tend to get bored of handheld games very quickly. Even in the situation of The Legend of Dragoon, originally released on a home console, but playing it on a handheld system, I rarely stick with them.
After a while, I put it down. By December 15, 2012, I was done with the game for a while. I just stopped playing it. There were other things to play at home, and other things I could be doing while away from home. It didn’t help matters that the 2012-2013 school year had me working an internship, doing research for my data mining honors senior thesis, AND finishing up all my other classwork for my senior year. I had a lot going on, and not a lot of free time to play games or anything else.
In January of 2016, over 3 years since I last played The Legend of Dragoon, I picked up my PSP again and continued where I had left off. I had made it through the first disc, at least, so why would I start over? Unfortunately, I experienced the same burnout very quickly and stopped playing again for some weeks or months.
I repeated this cycle over and over again, several times over the years. Each time, I would continue where I last left off. Sure, it would take me a little while to figure out where I was and what I was doing, but I could usually refresh my memory pretty quickly. Besides, why would I start the game over again when I already had a save file pretty far into the game?
The most recent time I picked up the game again from a break, I was clueless about my position in the game. Fortunately, I stumbled into a scripted interaction in Feltz, which gave me the opportunity to read up on the story thus far and figure out what I was doing again. At that point, I swore that I would play the game to completion this time.
Upon finishing the content on disc 2, I looked into Stardust, a collectible key item in The Legend of Dragoon. I found a guide, and discovered that I had missed a few pieces here and there. I decided that I would try to get all 50 pieces of Stardust, and pursue the optional boss at the end of the game. I was conveniently able to backtrack and grab the few that I had missed before continuing on to disc 3 and the rest of the game.
At one point during this stint, a coworker mentioned that it would be terrible for him to delete my save file. I casually mentioned that I only had about 60 hours in the game at that point, which is minimal for most RPG titles I’ve played. However, the number of years that those hours were stretched across is insane. I would be losing only a few days worth of time, but it would be progress that I had been working on since 2012. Progress that I started when I was still a student, before I got married, and had kids, and bought a house of my own.
Sure enough, I stuck to my word this time. I played the game to the end. I finished all of the content, from disc 2, through disc 3, and to the end of disc 4. There were days, and occasionally a few weeks that I didn’t get a chance to play any, but my PSP stayed in my messenger bag, and I made a point to keep the battery topped up and play whenever I got a chance.
On Tuesday, April 18, I finally beat the game with just over 85 hours. The hours leading up to the final boss are extremely dense, story-wise, and it's fairly obvious that you're creeping up in the end. Upon finishing the final fight and seeing the credits begin, I was filled with an immense feeling of satisfaction, and almost relief. Don't get me wrong, the game was continually fun, it just felt like I was never going to reach the end. To succeed after so many years was a weight lifted.

After the credits finished, I expected some sort of save option. My understanding was that the optional boss could only be battled after completing the main story. On the final screen, I waited and waited. I began pressing buttons, and the game returned to the start menu. Maybe there was some sort of auto save during the credits? Surely, I hadn't missed some sort of prompt to continue the game and go for the optional boss. The game clearly indicated several times that there was a point of no return before the end. I figured once I beat it, it would put me somewhere that I could continue from.
After doing some research, I discovered that the optional boss actually became available at a certain story point in disc 4, not the end of the game as I previously thought. Fortunately, I had made a save branch right before this point of no return, just in case I wanted to do some more exploring before the end. This last save was at right under 80 hours, so only about 5 hours behind where I actually beat the game. Little did I know, you were supposed to return to the optional boss before the end of the game, if at all.
I loaded up that previous save and geared up to tackle the optional content. I went through the trouble of getting all the stardust, I was dang sure going to take advantage of it. Knowing of the great magical power that Faust possessed (and maybe having read a few guides), I bought Legend Casque head gear for all 3 of my party members. Guides recommended at least 1, but I had the gold and it's not like I was going to do anything else with it. Stocked up on Angel's Prayer to receive any fallen party members and I was good to go.
I spent an hour or two wandering around where I thought Faust was, only to discover that he was in a completely different area. Once I figured out where I was actually supposed to be going, it was a swift process. Trial and error through the maze before Faust, and I reached the Magician himself.
The fight with Faust was almost depressingly easy. Admittedly, the Legend Casque is extremely overpowered, greatly increasing both magical evasion and defense. Magical attacks rarely hit, and the ones that do probably only inflict a fifth or so of the damage they would've done without a Legend Casque equipped. Still, I was able to kill him with minimal effort, and in only a fraction of the time that I would expected it might take. Without any Legend Casque equipped, I don’t see how the fight is possible. With all players having Legend Casque, it was absolute cake.



When Faust died, I had a few moments of almost disbelief. As of May, I would have been playing this game for 5 years, half a decade. Same save file, and it took my 5 years to beat the game. Albeit, I only spent a little over 80 hours total, which is completely reasonable for an RPG. Something about playing a game on the same save file for 5 years off and on just has a gravity about it.
Overall, I enjoyed the game, and I’m tremendously glad that I finally finished it. There will be a full review coming eventually, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good JRPG. The story was compelling, the characters were interesting, and the gameplay was unique. It’s a great game, I’m just really happy to finish it and get it behind me.

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