The Messed Up Sequel That’s a Messed Up Prequel

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Long ago, before Caim and Angelus defeated the Grotesquerie Queen over the skies of Shinjuku, dooming our world to White Chlorination Syndrome and paving the way for Project Gestalt and YoRHa, the world of Drakengard was engulfed in eternal conflict. From the heavens came the Intoners, five sisters gifted with the power of Song, who finally ended all war and brought peace to the whole world. For two years, tranquility finally reigned throughout the lands as everyone venerated and loved the celestial sisters. This all comes to a crashing halt when the eldest sister, Zero, embarks on a bloody murdering spree with the sole intent of putting an end to the Intoners. Aided by the dragon known as Michael, Zero is ready to kill her sisters and every single person that stands between her and them in the most brutal and bloody fashion imaginable. Our protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.

Developed by Access Games and released in May of 2014, Drakengard 3 is the third installment of the Drakengard series and the third game directed by series creator and known crazy person Taro Yoko. Taking place long before the events of the first game, Drakengard 3 follows the Intoner called Zero as she kills everything in her path in order to get to her other sisters. Featuring a dark atmosphere much like Nier and the first Drakengard, the game does lighten the mood through more comedic scenes and sexual innuendos literally everywhere. Like Taro’s other works, there is MUCH more to the story than at first glance, taking multiple routes and progressively darker endings before the final route can be accessed to earn the true ending. The characters are also like the story in that it takes all of the routes to get the full picture as to who they truly are.

Zero draws a few parallels with NieR‘s Kainé in that they are both violent, foul-mouthed, bloodthirsty powerhouses with relatively sparse attire and a penchant for white. However, whereas Kainé does have a gentler side to her and is not afraid to show this to innocent people like Emil and Yonah, Zero has very little care for anyone and usually belittles those that annoys her. In a sense, she does care as later routes reveal her true intentions, but she is still a harsh person overall. The target of most of her ire is Mikhail, Michael’s reincarnation after the events of the prologue, who does not carry Michael’s confidence and arrogance an instead acts just like a naive child. He always wants to try and make Zero proud despite her apathy, but heaven help anyone that DARES to harm him while she is around. As she hunts down her sisters, she also takes their Disciples as trophies to assist her in combat and to satisfy her. The Disciples act as the Intoner’s bodyguards, consorts, and conduits for their magic, to which the only exceptions are Zero and One, who possess none. Including the likes of the sadistic and sardonic Dito, the perverted but knowledgeable Octa, the masochistic but polite Decadus, and the narcissistic and overconfident Cent, they round out a bizarre and easily memorable cast. The merchant that goes by Accord, who runs the shop that Zero can purchase weapons and other items from, also has a much bigger role than it seems at first.

The other five Intoners are Zero’s primary targets. Commanding armies filled with undying love and loyalty, they claim that they want what is best for humanity, but as the story and routes go on, we see that that Zero has good reason to kill all of them. Five is the youngest of the Intoners and is perhaps the most lustful and greedy of them all, taking everything she can and enjoying every moment of it; Four seems like the purest and most innocent of the sisters, but her sweet and gentle personality is nothing but a facade to hide a pretentious, holier-than-thou brat with an inferiority complex and a touch of racism; Three hardly holds any aspiration for anything other than tinkering away at her dolls, a hobby that really shows how demented she is when people get involved as her experiments; Two is genuinely the kindest out of all of them and truly loves both Cent and the people she protects, but a tragic incident has left her mind completely shattered beyond repair, leaving the once sweet girl a hollow shell; and One, as the oldest of the of the five Intoners, acts as their leader and is the most determined to slay Zero, though her reasons are eerily similar to Zero’s own goals. There is something worse in this world, however, that threatens to destroy everything if it is not stopped in time. Something connected to the Watchers and the Grotesqueries that is VERY close to Zero herself…

The gameplay is very standard and nothing new to action-adventure games and RPGs. Having access to many weapons of several types (Swords, Spears, Combat Bracers, and Chakrams), Zero can initiate combos through a flurry of Light and Heavy Attacks. Before each mission, the player can outfit Zero with one of each weapon and two of the four Disciples at a time, as well as browse through Accord’s store and stock up on items or new weapons, upgrading acquired ones when enough materials have been gathered. The levels are very linear, with numerous objectives to complete before reaching the end. Overall, it is basic in terms of video game design. Once Zero faces off with her Intoner sisters and other bosses, however, the fights provide an exciting challenge. To fans of Taro’s other games, mediocre gameplay is almost a given and instead focus on the games’ strongest points: the story and the music.

Taro’s unique and regularly demented brand of storytelling returns at full force in this game. While NieR was much more somber and emotional in its execution, Drakengard 3 returns to the horror and macabre seen in the original game, something further amplified by series composer Keiichi Okabe’s score, creating a dark, foreboding, sometimes apocalyptic atmosphere. By the end of the story, everyone’s motives and true characters have been revealed, shifting the audience’s view on the cast and really making them question their actions, reasons, and morals. The incredibly morbid weapon stories also make a return, with each section unlocking as the weapon is upgraded. Poor Iron Will just cannot catch a break.

Drakengard 3 is far, FAR from a perfect game. The graphics are very rough for a PS3 game and looks like it belongs in the previous generation, the frame rate can slow to a crawl when there is too much activity going on, the gameplay is nothing exciting, the level design recycles a lot of areas, and some parts of the game can get really frustrating quickly. The true final boss in particular is notable for not only for its complete gameplay change to a rhythm game, but featuring a sharp difficulty spike that makes completing the game a struggle, harkening back to the true final boss of Drakengard, except escalated in challenge and insanity. At least the music is gorgeous.

It is hard to recommend this game to anyone outside of fans of the series and Taro Yoko. While the gameplay and level design can leave a bit to be desired, the music, story, art design, and characters continue to be top-notch. The first Drakengard itself is a pretty bad game overall, but Drakengard 3 is comparatively better. At best, Drakengard 3 is one to buy at discount or to rent out. The gameplay will probably not enrapture you, but if the story, music, and everything else manages to keep your attention, you will find yourself a flawed, yet unique title.

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