[Review] Dragon Sinker - Nintendo Switch
Have you been needing a simple RPG with pixel-art to satisfy your itch for an old-school style adventure? Look no further than KEMCO and Exe Create Inc.'s latest offering, Dragon Sinker for Nintendo Switch. I've previously covered their previous RPG offerings for the Nintendo Switch, Antiquia Lost and Revenant Saga. Dragon Sinker has quickly become my favorite of these three.
When I play a role playing game, the thing that I love most about them is the sense of working my way through an engaging story while customizing my interesting, and hopefully, relatable characters. I will often overlook gameplay mechanics that I don't enjoy for the sake of completing the story. Thankfully, I enjoy the streamlined gameplay mechanics present in Dragon Sinker. They are incredibly simple, but warmly familiar. The most innovative aspect of the game is the ability to swap between different parties during battle. Each party will be led by a different hero, and this is the only person in each party that you are required to equip. Every other character that you can add to your party (generally recruited after successfully completing a side mission for them), is a stereotypical representative of whatever job they happen to have. Each job has its strengths and weaknesses, but as is the norm in old school jRPGs, they all have a leveling schedule where you don't decide their growth. While Pokemon at least offers the ability to choose different attack sets as you progress, this type of leveling up and skill building has always been the rule, rather than the exception.
This is another of the many ways that Dragon Sinker calls back to its obvious Final Fantasy influence. When I say Final Fantasy, I don't mean the series as a whole, I specifically mean the very first Final Fantasy game. The story is very basic, the characters are all pretty basic (even though they do have their charms), and the combat is very basic. The graphics, and music...are very basic. Let me be clear- being basic isn't a bad thing in this case. The developer was obviously trying to capture the flavor of 8-bit RPGs, and it takes that dish and adds a little touch of...mobile spice?
My only real complaint about the game itself is something that I actually glossed over in the previous reviews. KEMCO primarily releases games on mobile platforms, and as such, they have integrated microtransactions into the game itself. While this isn't as harsh or as necessary as those of some other mobile games, it isn't really put on display as much in the previous RPGs like I feel that it was for Dragon Sinker. You see, in Dragon Sinker, whenever you defeat an enemy, you are awarded DP. These DP act as a currency that you can use to purchase special items that will make your journey much easier to accomplish. So, while you never need to purchase these items, it is hard to resist the urge to use your DP to purchase a consumable item to beef up your stats. You can buy a relic that awards you an experience point for every step that you take, and relics that can be equipped (and stacked!!!) to award you more experience and job points than you would normally accumulate. While these types of items have existed in various games to some extent, they are usually a bit more limited in their scope or attainability, and are held off until the midway point (at least). Within 20 minutes of starting the game, you will most likely be able to purchase at least one item that will make the rest of the game that much easier. With all of the turbo leveling, your battles become super quick with the ability to auto battle by pressing Y. Actually, you can auto battle with Y until you hit a boss, if you want, as long as you keep an eye on your health to heal when necessary. Back on track- while Dragon Sinker does have these in- game currency micro-transactions that remove what little challenge the game may have actually presented, there is also the option to pay real money for more powerful "make life easy" micro-transactions. I just avoided these altogether.
So, now that I'm past the "this game is too easy because of a system built in to make the game more appealing to casuals playing on their phones" section, I do want to talk about what I love about the game. The simple story and it's well-paced presentation and reliance upon familiar tropes is a warm welcome home to yesteryear when you didn't need to take notes about who was from where, and why they had a deep political connection that hasn't played out as it should, or why a certain class of people with a hard to remember moniker that hail from a weirdly-named subworld are outcasts, and if you should be helping them or help fight against them. There is a terrible dragon named Wyrmvarg, and you, the Prince, have taken a trusted party to defeat him so that your father stops sacrificing villagers to sate his appetite and prevent his wrath. One of your party members is injured badly, and you are knocked unconscious. After you come to, you regroup and go on a journey to find the legendary weapon necessary for killing Wyrmvarg. Along the way, you will meet Elves and Dwarves to accompany you upon your journey. The Elves and Dwarves have exactly the types of personalities that you would expect, and this is completely fine. Stories don't always have to be convoluted and filled with depth. Sometimes, I just want to be told who I need to defeat, and where I need to go to get what I need to do it. That's basically the game's plot in a nutshell. This simple premise and execution, coupled with the auto battle, turns Dragon Sinker into a light romp down the lanes of RPG village.
As I mentioned before, the game does allow you to swap through your different parties during battle, and this is a pretty interesting idea, although it wasn't particularly well executed. I mean to say, that the mechanic works well- I just never had a compelling reason to stray away from my original starting party, other than the novelty of switching between them. All party members level up evenly after battle, so there is no reason to swap them in and out for the sake of leveling them up. None of the later parties that join are particularly more powerful than your Prince and his attendant plus whichever two party members that you picked up from side quests, and combat never really is so difficult that you need the extra people. However, I would love to see this idea revisited in the future, and improved upon.
Overall, Dragon Sinker for Nintendo Switch doesn't do too many exciting things. It plays it incredibly safe, but it is done in a way that is comfortable and still provided me with a bit of fun for the short run time. I almost wish that I had ignored the relics that gave me extra experience, but even so, it may have been for the better. Because I didn't need to micro-manage every aspect of my party to fine tune their performance in combat, it was nice to take a relaxing stroll through a world where my parties occasionally split up on screen to hash something out and move the plot along with some mindless "grinding" in between. If you love simple, old school jRPGs, and need to turn your brain off for a while, Dragon Sinker is a fun distraction. If you need a complex story and strategic combat that requires more attention than watching your HP bar...move along.