Dragoneer's Aria manages to deliver a classic Japanese role playing game for the PSP complete with girlie-man lead characters, scantily clad heroines, and all the trimmings we've come to expect from our usual RPG fix (heavy plot, crafting system, shiny items, etc.) What the game fails to deliver is anything out of the ordinary - the graphics are nothing we haven't seen before, the epic plot goes nowhere (slowly), and the combat is mind-numbingly repetitive.
The sad thing is, Dragoneer's Aria had all the makings for an awesome RPG, but it never manages to make use of any of them. Juno Jeong of Lineage II fame headed up character design, and the plot consists of dragons, magic, and a "collect the dragon orbs" subplot that sounds interesting. Alas, the characters are uninteresting and all the well-mapped pixels in the world don't make up for the bad voice acting. That, coupled with a boring plot that leaves no room for exploration, killed any interest we had in the game's scenario after about the third twenty-minute-put-down-the-PSP-and-go-get-a-snack cutscene. All we really took away from the game was 1) "epic" does not mean "good" and 2) dragons were born to be pwned.
The biggest problem with Dragoneer's Aria is focus - there's not enough of it on the combat and crafting systems, and there's way too much of it on the still-bland plot and graphics. The game awkwardly straddles action-oriented and turn-based combat systems, making every enemy encounter (even boss fights) a tedious exercise in menu-scrolling and button mashing (seriously, what gives with the Guard action roulette wheel?). The magic system, which includes "lusces," rush attacks, innate talents, and dragon orb abilities is sloppy; mostly because the attacks look the same, do the same thing, and eat up ridiculous amounts of mana. And there's barely anything to crafting besides: get recipe, get item, press X, repeat.
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