There is no shortage of fantastic retro-RPGs in the App Store at the moment, but Muteki Corporation's Dragon Fantasy [$2.99] hopes to set itself apart from the rest with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and an authentic 8-bit look and feel.

The game sticks to its roots in more than just its look, the world is populated with things you've seen before like trees, mountains, plenty of grassland and monsters. But where most retro-RPGs are content to ape not only their context, but also their story and heroic mannerisms, Dragon Fantasy sidesteps the hero-journey slightly by offering a different take on the hero and his enemies.

You take on the roll of Ogden, an ageing bald man with a beard who ends up resigning his post as the captain of the royal guard. Does that sound familiar? Well, before you do that, you first get transported to an old man's house after an evil knight comes and makes the queen sick. Once there, you wake up in a confused state and need to make your way back to the queen as quickly as possible.

A few quests here and there and you get back to her, get her healed up and decide to take on the task of becoming a true hero by finding the hero's armor spread out across the land. Eventually, after six or seven hours, you get to use that armor against the dark knight.

The majority of your time with Dragon Fantasy is going to be spent grinding against a variety of silly enemies. The core of its humor lies in its usage of goofy language to describe fights, and while you'll run into equally outrageous dialogue in each of the towns, you'll find the enemies are where the real charm is. There's a good variety in them as well and it helps make each of the random, turn-based battles less tedious than other RPGs of this ilk.

Of course, if you've played an 8-bit RPG you'll know mostly what to expect, for better or worse. As mentioned above, battles are random and turn-based, and the look and sound is dedicated to keeping within the limits of the 8-bit era. The premise here is to keep things as streamlined and simple as possible at all times. For the most part, the screen is bare, showing you just the world and your character, with a disappearing movement stick and menu screen that only appear when you need them.

The streamlining is welcome here, but it comes with a few serious faults. Equipment, for instance, have no visible stats, so you don't really know how much better a weapon or piece of armor is. You can certainly assume that based on the price, one sword is better than another, but its difficult to decide if you should spend your time grinding to get enough money to buy it or not. Instead, you'll just get a little one-line joke description of the item.

Money is an issue too, but it's mostly due to a very simple and very odd concession Muteki seems to have made in bringing this game to a modern audience. When you die, you get kicked back to the last save spot, but you lose half your money and keep the items and XP you've earned. That alone isn't a big deal, but the fact you can't choose whether you'd like to do that, or just revert back to the last save state makes saving up gold a tedious process. You can force quit and reload, but there is no simple way to do it in-game.

The rest of the game does a fantastic job of retaining its roots and keeping things goofy and interesting. It's not going to send you rolling on the floor in fits of laughter, but it'll make you chuckle now and again, which is more than most RPGs could ever even hope to do. It's always nice to see a story that doesn't take itself too seriously and in that way, Dragon Fantasy gets a lot of things right. It even features a few witty winks and nods to other games and inspirations. If you pay close enough attention, you'll catch some solid jokes strewn about.

The simplicity isn't a bad thing, but the over-simplified death and reload is incredibly aggravating. And while the joke-descriptions on all the items are fun, they don't really help you understand what they do or how well they do it. Despite these shortcomings, and the fact that retro RPGs have been done to death, Dragon Fantasy offers a lighthearted and enjoyable take on the genre that practically everyone can enjoy.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Anonymous

    thats my game the queen isn't sick..she just took the son that was about to be crowned king.

  • Lj Arcticcatman

    I think you use the phrase "There is no shortage" far too often. Evidence:

    1950 times!

    • Bobby

      Clearly there is no shortage of "there is no shortage" on TouchArcade. 

  • Macaroon

    I thought old school RPG's often didn't give away stat info for equipment? I know I play Dark Spire on my DS (admittedly a homage to Westen RPG's) and there you're also only given a small description of the item to give you a hint at its strength/usefulness etc. I like it that way. It keeps it real. Often what puts me off of RPG's are all the numbers...

    Anyway, if I DID have a complaint, it would be of the jerky performance in general. Could be a lot smoother. Otherwise, I love it: )  

  • Bryan @ Muteki Corp

    Thanks for the review and comments so far!
    We're actually putting in an update to Apple today with a number of fixes including:

    1) Stat comparison on the items. So you can see more easily what's an  upgrade. (You can currently see how the item compares by checking your stats, equipping a new item, and checking again, but that's hardly friendly).

    2) Quick-save

    3) Quit Game option to quickly get you out of a game so you can choose to reload from your last save.

    and a lot more...
    We're committed to making this the best retro RPG experience available, and we have a LOT of updates planned!

    • q j

      And I thought it couldn't get any better 

    • Anonymous

      Sounds good, I love old school RPGs and I really love universal apps 🙂

  • Taylor Calderone

    The death mechanic isn't a modern concession, it's the same mechanic used in Dragon Quest games since the series began in 1986.

  • ERunyon

    I'm a long-standing DQ fan and I love what you're doing with this game, but I'm having a very difficult time adapting to the movement controls. Have you considered an option for touching a spot and having the character move to that location?

  • Bryan @ Muteki Corp

    Just chiming back in with a follow up from earlier... 1.0.2 is already in Apple's hands!
    Performance improvements, stat comparison in the weapon/armor shops, quick save, and the ability to exit back out to the main menu to re-load from a save slot are all included, as well as some other bug fixes and improved tilesets in some of the caves/dungeons!

  • Tcossair

    Your quick response and dedication to addressing these issues has convinced me to buy 🙂

  • Adam Setzler

    I am totally lost. Where do I find the final key? No mention of it in the story line and then boom, I need it.

    • Michael Chamberlain

      Same here. I've got no clue where to find this final key that I need. 8(

  • LOL

    Looks like Thorin has never played an 8-bit RPG. Especially not Dragon Warrior/Quest.

  • Dude

    I love this game, but one of the problems I ran into a few times was when scrolling through the list of spells, it would select a spell instead of scrolling down.  I'm not entirely sure how best to fix this (aside from being extremely slow and careful when scrolling), but it would make battles where you are constantly healing or using other spells a lot easier.  Also, less frustrating moments when you accidentally exit out of a cave/castle instead of healing yourself post fight.

  • &e

    This is a great game and I hope you make this a series with lots of installments.

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Dragon Fantasy Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 3.5