Crimson Dragon Takes Flight / 9th of September 2014
Crimson Dragon is something of an underappreciated game, given that its Metacritic rating stands at around just 56%, with far too many critics finding themselves unfairly condemning the game for its inclusion of micro transactions, despite the economics of it being more than fair. The particularly hostile reaction that Grounding Inc.’s effort was met with undoubtedly put off many gamers from purchasing what was, for me, a key reason to own an Xbox One at launch, but having just found itself in its second month as one of Microsoft’s Games With Gold, there can be no doubt that the game will finally see an upsurge in downloads, and perhaps it may even now find the level of audience that it fully deserves.
Despite its flaws, Crimson Dragon was my most played launch game for the Xbox One, it was always something that I could go back to, and as it will be with many gamers out there, it also took me back to the series of games that it is in fact a spiritual successor to, Sega’s Panzer Dragoon. There can be no doubt that the extension of Crimson Dragon’s spell in the Games With Gold offer was done to capitalise on the launch of the console in the Japanese market on September 4th, it is one of the few Microsoft games that will have a genuine appeal to the Japanese gaming audience, and it is therefore a freebie worth using to entice the country’s gamers into picking up an Xbox One in the weeks after its launch. But, should Western gamers give it a chance? Or even a second chance? Absolutely.
Developer, Grounding Inc., promised to support the game after launch, and they have been true to their word, with several updates having trickled out to balance the difficulty level, and add in a multiplayer component, along with additional achievements. Having only returned to the game again myself, I have found that yet more content has since been added, including even more achievements, some worth point values, whilst others take the form of challenges that unlock new items, including different dragon types. For the majority of games, there is no enticement to work towards the zero point achievements that their developers included, but in Crimson Dragon, this is not, nor has it ever been the case. Originally, meeting such challenges would see pieces of concept artwork unlocked for the player to admire, but now, Grounding Inc. have raised the stakes, and set a benchmark that all others should attempt to follow.
I was always excited about the prospect of Crimson Dragon from the very moment when it was announced, and this reached fever pitch when its lead designer, Yukio Futatsugi, stated his desire to see it spun-out into a fully-fledged series, with his ultimate desire being to create an RPG based around it. For anyone lucky enough to have played Panzer Dragoon Saga, this was an announcement upon which dreams could very well have been based, and this is exactly how it was for me. When I reviewed the game for Low Fat Gaming, I stated that the saddest aspect of its poor reception was that it was unlikely that Futatsugi would ever be given the go ahead to create a successor, and that “we may very well have just missed out on something truly special” because of it, and that is a statement that I still stand by today.
Whilst Crimson Dragon was never going to appeal to more than a fairly niche market anyway, too many critics were quick to criticise the game unnecessarily (much like those who too lambasted Forza Motorsport 5 for its use of micro transactions), effectively clipping this dragon’s wings before it had even an opportunity to fly. Before even being released in either Europe or the United States, the chances that Crimson Dragon had of finding a core audience, of becoming a cult classic, were well and truly sunk. And now, for those of us who persevered through the game’s flaws, who dreamed of reliving our years playing Panzer Dragoon, our only hope now lies in the Asian market, one that Microsoft has traditionally struggled to gain a foothold in, and based on the rather lukewarm reception that the launch of the One was met with in Japan, this is something that is unlikely to change. Of course, it’s still early days though.
For me, Grounding Inc. showed more than enough to warrant the opportunity to release at least one more game in the Crimson Dragon series, this is unfortunately an industry driven more by sales, than by either artistic integrity or creative achievement. From Saori Kobayashi’s epic score (check out her work on the Panzer series too), to the wide variety of dragon types, various locales and the developer’s continued support and desire to respond to the criticism that they have received, Crimson Dragon has been a success story for reasons beyond mere sales figures. Whilst one can hope that the game captures the imagination of the Japanese, or perhaps even the Chinese market, regardless of its cost, the value of having such an exclusive extends beyond mere monetary gains, and instead gives legitimacy to the platform in the Far East, and with Microsoft steadily losing ground in its own back yard, there can be no doubt now, that they will have to put up a fight, and attempt to steal some back from Sony in their own neighbourhood. And the key to that, lies in tailor made titles such as this.
Sure, we may have seen Mistwalker's sublime efforts fall upon a gaming public blind to the magnificence of both Blue Dragon, and especially, Lost Odyssey, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that history will repeat itself. Besides, in this current climate of constant re-releases, there’s absolutely no reason (save for the amount of work needed, of course) why Microsoft themselves cannot return these two classic RPGs to the fore, which, along with such gaming delights as Crimson Dragon and its RPG sequel, may yet help to make the Xbox One a competitor to Sony’s PS4 across the Asian continent. So, please Microsoft, give Grounding Inc. the opportunity that they need to turn their on-rails shooter into the deep, RPG experience that they desire to create; do it for them, do it for yourselves, and most importantly, do it for me!