Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dragon's Crown Vs. Dragon's Crown.

I'm still playing Dragon's Crown

You should be playing Dragon's Crown - of this, there is no doubt - but which Dragon's Crown?  It's on Vita and PS3 - separate purchases, as it's not a cross-buy game - and while common sense suggests the PS3 would be the obvious choice what with all the horsepower under the hood, that's not entirely accurate.

The game enjoys general parity across both platforms, but the versions aren't identical - each offers its own strengths and weaknesses, when compared to the other.  There is no clear winner - so let's take a moment to consider what each platform brings to the title's gorgeous table.

The title's gorgeous table.

First off, let's talk straight graphics.  Dragon's Crown employs gigantic, minutely detailed sprites that will fill half the screen.  On the PS3 version, you'll almost never suffer slowdown of any degree (the odd exception seems to be a sequence in which you're loading and firing cannons to clear Kraken tentacles from a ship's deck, which creates a framerate hit on both systems).

The Vita version, on the other hand, sees regular slowdown - not when the screen is filled with enemies per say, but when it's stuffed to the gills with pyrotechnics or other effect sprites, as it often is when you're tooling around with a caster class.

It doesn't really affect gameplay to any degree on the Vita.  I've never found myself distressed or wiffing an attack because of it - and so, I'd suggest its impact is negligible at best.  That said,

Framerate : +PS3

One's also free to suggest that such a gloriously beautiful game is best viewed on a big, fifty-inch HDTV - and that's an excellent point.  Dragon's Crown is so stuffed with beautiful minutae and details that one can really soak it all in on the big screen - but it's also a divinely colorful game - beautifully artistic, and I'd suggest that the way the colors seem to bleed warm heat, chilling blues and deep greens on the Vita's OLED is a sight to behold.

If you think the screenshots here are good-looking, believe me when I say this is nothing compared to how the game looks in motion on the Vita's screen.

Colors that pop : +Vita

That being said, the Vita's screen - crazy-sharp though it may be - can't achieve the sweet detail of a full-HD flatscreen.  If you really want to see the gorgeous details of the game (and trust me, you really do), you want to do it on a big screen.  The game is gorgeous, and it does look best on a nice big plasma.

Sharper details, prettier sprites : +PS3

The Vita enjoys one major boon over the PS3 version - the game cannot be paused or suspended on PS3.  If you're trucking through the game - in the middle of a twenty-dungeon run on your highest-level character - and suddenly, you've got to go or your significant other wants to watch a bluray, you're obliged to cut your dungeon run short, return to town and save your game.

It's the only way to maintain your progress.

On the Vita, however, you can be mid-combo and tap the power button.  The screen goes dark and you can slip the handheld into a pocket and go on about your day.  You can pull out the Vita and browse the internet or watch some YouTube videos, and then swipe back in to Dragon's Crown and continue right where you left off.  It's super convenient.

Built-in suspend function : +Vita

Let's talk controls.

Rannie levels up by picking locks - I don't think he can get higher than 50.

Dragon's Crown employs an unusual pointer system for getting details on NPCs and enemies, discovering hidden (score/XP) spoils in the background, directing Rannie to pick locks and in casting its cool system of Rune magic.

On the PS3, this is done with the right analog stick to direct the pointer, and L1 to click.  This takes a lot of getting used to, and for your first few hours with the game you'll pull the pointer up to a door and cycle through the face buttons, trying to remember which one is your click.  It can occasionally get rather frustrating when it comes to the Rune magic - when a character moves onscreen, thus moving the screen, thus moving where the runes onscreen are, thus causing you to click on the wrong rune and calling in Tri Elemental Blast instead of Double Score Bonus - thus losing the ability to use that Rune again to call in the correct spell.

Rune magic is performed by clicking on runes carved into the game world, and combining them with one or two of the four runes in your inventory.

It takes a while to get used to - and even when you are, it's never as quick and intuitive as the Vita.

On the Vita, the entire thing is handled via touchscreen.  Zipping your finger across the screen to discover hidden gems is near-instantaneous, and casting Rune magic is an absolute snap - or, more accurately, a tap. The pointer's quickness and ease-of-use is definitely better on Vita.

Pointer controls : +Vita

It's worth noting that while the Vita employs a control scheme near-identical to the PS3, most of us have had a Dualshock in our hands for the past eighteen years - it just feels natural in the hands - but the game plays just as beautifully on the Vita as it does on the PS3.  The Dualshock feels slightly more comfortable, but I wouldn't say it makes enough of a difference to proclaim it a win in large, bold text.

Actually, no, let's throw it in.

Comfier combat controls : +PS3

* * *

There is no clear winner between the PS3 and Vita, when it comes to Dragon's Crown.  Unlike, say, Guacamelee in which both versions were completely identical or Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time which was much, much better on the PS3, Dragon's Crown has benefits and drawbacks on each platform.

I'd say buy it for the platform you're comfortable spending the most time with (though, let's be honest, the Vita's portability really gives it an edge).  I'm fast approaching 120 hours with the game, and have no intention of quitting any time soon.

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