Vanillaware's latest game, Dragon's Crown, is a completely over the top side scrolling beat 'em up that falls somewhere between homage and caricature on the spectrum of classic fantasy fanboyism. Its vividly exaggerated art style, an extreme version of your favorite Dungeons & Dragons book cover, grabs you and draws you in, promising grandiose adventures with burly, bare-chested dwarves and sultry sorceresses. This emphasis on appearance can at times leave the game feeling more decorative than functional, lacking in appreciable depth, but the fun you'll have pummeling untold legions of hand-drawn enemy sprites will go a long way towards making up for that.
Your journey begins with one of six character classes: Sorceress, Wizard, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter or Amazon. For the most part their abilities follow the traditional offensive models, offering ranged, melee, magical, and physical damage in varying proportions. The Amazon does heavy melee damage with her massive pole-arm but is weak defensively, which can likely be attributed to her itty bitty chainmail bikini. Alternatively, the Fighter's plate mail affords him substantial physical protection, but at the cost of some speed. These differences mean that some characters are more difficult to wield than others, and the game will helpfully tell you as much while you're deliberating about your selection. While the characters all appear very diverse, for the most part the melee classes play pretty similarly, though the spellcasters do offer some novelty with flashy moves like blizzard and lightning storm.
Once you've chosen your class you're ready to begin your adventure, a task that starts in town at the less than imaginatively named Adventurer's Guild. The guild is where your character will train up, acquiring new, more powerful skills. These skills are divided into the general and class specific, and range from simple fighting moves to being able to convert gold into health. The guild also prescribes quests that direct you through the game, though the information is provided in character and somewhat cryptically, at times telling you what to do but not where or in what manner. The overwhelming majority of quests will simply involve the clearing of a stage and the monsters therein, however sometimes you'll need to meet an unknown criterion as well, which can become frustrating if it causes you to repeat the same area until stumbling upon the answer. For example, as it turns out assisted dragon suicide isn't quite as laudable as actually doing the deed yourself.
Equipped with a predictably convoluted royal plot and tenuous reasons for venturing out of town, you'll set out on your search for the Dragon's Crown: The crown, a relic said to control dragons, is missing along with the king, leaving the political kingdom in a state of turmoil and you, random joe-shmoe from the street, to help figure things out. Frankly the story is extremely forgettable, feeling like the flimsy excuse for violence that it is. It isn't bad enough to ruin the experience of gameplay, but it will be disorienting when you try to recall what you're supposed to be doing and why.