I’ve owned Dragon Force II for nearly twenty years, and after aeons of struggling on and off with various characters over the past decade or two, I finally finished Bozack’s campaign.
I should precursor this with a known fact: Dragon Force is the greatest SRPG ever made.
It was like nothing else for the Saturn, or any system of the era… or ever, for that matter. Massive armies of 200+ troops ducking it out in real time, with strategies that you can change on the fly, with a wide range of charismatic generals to use them with, all kinds of devastating magics and abilities, and best of all, eight totally unique campaigns with their own troop specializations, stories, and even strategies.
Fandaria Empire has the strongest batch in the entire game, but no faction will ever join you. Tradnor Kingdom has the weakest, but everyone will join you without complaint. Of course, this means Fandaria becomes one of the most battle hardened factions, while Tradnor becomes one of the weakest.
In short, the game has hundreds of hours of replay value, especially if you take on self-imposed challenges such as using only the core generals, not recruiting, using default troops, etc.
So… Dragon Force II was given a tough act to follow. Sadly, even when I first played it, I knew I was dealing with an inferior product.
Dragon Force II uses a drab color palette, lacking the bright Sega Blue Skies aesthetic of the original. It adds in a neat idea of using dual troops, so a general could command, say, a front line of archers with a back line of cavalry. Unfortunately, in execution, this still winds up being frustrating. In the original Dragon Force, when you told your troops to stand by, they stayed put. Not so in DFII. The moment enemies approach, they break formation and start attacking. This is devastating for any ranged troop, as archers and mages are known to be ripped apart in a melee.
Another noteworthy change is on the world map. In the original, whenever an attacking army wasn’t quite finished off or retreated(which was often), you could easily catch them with a swift dispatch of a pursuing army to put them down once and for all(or more likely, recruit them or toss them into the dungeon).
Not so in Dragon Force 2. No matter how quick you dispatch an army, a retreating force will always manage to escape. This means they have an opportunity to get back to a home castle, restock their troops, and maybe even their HP. While this might sound like a welcome challenge on paper(and even makes for a fun challenge route in the original), in practice, it drags out an invasion, and makes the game tedious.
What about the story? Surely that improves on the original in some way?
Nope. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Dragon Force II laughs at the legacy of the original. After all they struggled through, the original Dragon Force all succumbed to ignoble deaths, one after the other, creating a seal to hold back the “Dark Dragon Force”, leaving only the immortal Teiris alive, who comes back to help the modern Dragon Force finish off the forces of evil once and for all.
Well, except there no longer IS a Dragon Force… so they kind of just band together for reasons.
I might sound like I’m being overly harsh on the game, but there is some positives. There are some great new characters, like this goddess in my playthrough:
As shown in her literal towering over the competition, some of the new sprites and generals are great, and have a lot of personality in their design. While the overall aesthetics of DFII pale to the original, some of the sprite work still shines through.
They also do get some neat features, like having aerial specific attacks when enemy troops are attacking from the air, and even getting to take out multiple troops in one hit. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Standby tactic, where you could just have a Mage or Archer literally sit still and lay waste to an enemy general, is rendered useless thanks to their new melee AI mentality.
Another major flaw is the massive presence of Demon Castles, castles manned by the immortal Dark Dragon Force faction, aka the Dark Elves, usually staffed by generic demons with 100 strong demon forces, making a pain to take out at best, dangerous at worst.
One thing that is beyond reproach, though: the fan translation quality. All the generals and dialogue were given a loving amount of polish, most likely because each campaign had its own writer, and ensured that each was given a special amount of TLC. It really shines through, and the team deserve all the praise I can muster.
Purists may balk at some of the slang, but when a game has as much text as Dragon Force II, as Victor Ireland would surely agree, you need to make it fun to read.
So is it worth a playthrough? If you’ve played the original countless times and want a new challenge, sure.
If you’re new to the series? No. GOD NO. Play the original now, thank me later.
Just don’t play as Highland.
Tell them Junon sent you.