The journey chasing the past ends and the journey to know today begins.

The Legend of Dragoon is a JRPG (Japanese role-playing video game) published by Sony Interactive Entertainment (formerly Sony Computer Entertainment) for the PlayStation. It was developed in-house by Japan Studio, notable for the Ape Escape franchise (starting 1999), Ico (1999), and later on Shadow of the Colossus (2005) and Gravity Rush (2012).

The game marks Sony’s attempt to make a foray into the internationally booming JRPG genre on the PlayStation with one first in-house production. Set in a high fantasy world and spanning four discs (the maximum number of discs that the largest case could hold), the game was notable for a development time of over three years, a production team involving over one hundred members, and a budget of 16 million USD, all of which was considered massive for a PlayStation game at the time. It was eventually released for the various regions between December 1999 and January 2001:

  1. Japan: 2 December 1999
  2. North America: 11 June 2000
  3. Europe: 19 January 2001

To put it in perspective, the PlayStation was released in 1994, Final Fantasy VII in 1997, and Final Fantasy IX in 2000, the same year the PlayStation 2 launched. The Legend of Dragoon thus had the deck stacked against it: Firstly, it came at the end of the console’s life cycle; though the PS2 is backward compatible, it naturally offered many next-generation games and JRPGs. Secondly, Sony was dipping its toes into a market dominated by Square, whose Final Fantasy series had been claiming monumental, record-breaking sales figures and exuberant praise from critics.

Now, I don’t know whether Sony’s marketing campaign actually advertised the game as “the FFVII killer”, as frequent claims around the web put it, but what’s evident is that many (Western) players’ first point of contact with the genre revolved around Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, many of these, critics and fans alike, judged (and are still judging) The Legend of Dragoon entirely by how it measured up to the — established — series, FFVII in particular. As a result, the game had a rather mixed, mediocre reception in the West. Though that assessment is not unmerited on its own, branding the game as an uninspired clone or rip-off on the basis of superficial genre similarities and clichés bespeaks an undifferentiated and narrow-minded understanding of the genre itself and of storytelling in general.

The Legend of Dragoon was rereleased as a PSone Classic on the PlayStation Network in Japan on its tenth anniversary (22 December 2010) and, considerably later, in North America (1 May 2012). With the exception of the SIEE region (i.e. Europe, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East), the game thus became available for the PSP, PS Vita and PS3. Over time, however, access became lamentably poor, posing challenges on multiple fronts: The PSP store was closed down in 2021; content for the PS Vita and PS3 is no longer displayed outside of the respective device’s store, and thus inaccessible notably from the web store; making the purchase on the PS Vita or the PS3 store itself requires topping up your wallet through the PS4, PS5 or web store first. If I’m not mistaken, a game purchased this way can additionally still be downloaded and played on the PSP.

On 21 February 2023, the game was added to the PlayStation Plus Premium’s classics catalogue, making it available for the PS4 and PS5 at last. This port is enhanced with up-rendering, rewind, quick save, custom video filters and trophy support.

The Age of the Dragoon

An account of the game world’s creation story and history is presented in the game manual (emphasis mine):

The Legend was born 10,000 years ago… and began with the Divine Tree. Nothing could compare to its mystical powers. It is said that this massive, yet graceful entity gave birth to all living things. One after another, races of plants, animals, and unique beings fell from its branches and life spilled forth over the land.

The 105th race born of the Tree was the powerful Dragons. These towering winged destroyers would strike terror into anyone who beheld them. In time, their Dragon Spirit would be revered and worshipped. The 106th race was the Human race. These peaceful beings lived a quiet agrarian existence in harmony with the world. The 107th race was the formidable Winglies. These flying conquerors set out to build great floating cities and gain dominion over all living things. In time, their aggression enslaved the passive Human race with little resistance.

The spirit of the Divine Tree coursed through all its offspring. The races took their place on earth, filling the desolation with lushness and activity.

But the beauty of the tree could not hide an ugly blemish in the land of floating cities. The Winglies reigned supreme. The Humans were enslaved. Divided by hatred, a battle for freedom would ensue. Both thought their very survival depended on victory over the other. According to the legend, the Humans enlisted the help of the Dragons. Drawing on magical forces, the Humans became Dragoon warriors harnessing the savage power and soul of the Dragons. Dragoons were supernatural warriors who attacked with fierce combat skills and deadly magic. They overpowered the Winglies in a bloody confrontation. The Humans prevailed. And they learned to co-exist in peaceful harmony. But beneath the tranquility lurks a mysterious prophecy. Love. Revenge. Death and destruction. A Black Monster. The emergence of another race. No one knows what its presence will bring. Eternal peace and happiness for all? Or the darkest evil imaginable?

The past and the future are about to collide. Behold your destiny…

The Main Character

The story follows Dart, a 23-year-old swordsman who lost his parents and his hometown Neet to the fire and mass slaughter at the hands of the Black Monster eighteen years ago. As the sole survivor, he eventually embarked on a quest of revenge in pursuit of the vile creature.

Five years later, he returns to his second childhood home Seles on the day it is ravaged only to learn that his childhood friend Shana has been abducted.

And so the journey begins anew…

When the clash of swords echo,
The journey chasing the past ends and
The journey to know today begins.

One soul seeks another and
Pledges their sworn friendship to another.
One mystery begets the next and
The doors of fate are opened.

“You are free to sever the chains of fate that bind you…”
Game intro (view)