Okay, at this point we all know we’re not getting a remake of The Legend of Dragoon. Sorry, not sorry, it’s not happening. I’d like it, the rest of the fanbase would like it, but it’s not financially viable and Sony has been furtively exiting the back doors in blonde wigs for decades trying to avoid questions about it.
So we have the original. You can play it on everything through the PS3, with compatibility with the PSP and Vita. And in that original, where nothing is ever going to change, all the strategies have long been figured out and everyone knows exactly which characters are optimal.
But I’m not here to talk about that; I’m here to talk about the best uses for each character if that’s a character you want in your party. You can ultimately win the game with any party, so you may as well try new things if you’ve already done what everyone else has and played the optimal way.
I’ve decided to split this sort of content off from the Rant of the Moment category in a new one I’ve decided to call Guiding Writes (because it’s a clever pun off of my own Guiding Lights and because "Blue’s Clues" would be likely to end in Blues Sued).
But let’s just get to the guide.
Your primary protagonist and 100% lock in your party from the time you pop in Disc 1 until the end of the credits, whether you like it or not. Dart is a good all-around character as such a character should be, but if you want to get the best use out of him, a) be aware there is a TYPO in his final spell that makes it nigh-useless for the boss battles where Dragoons are most useful (it’s actually 75% rather than 175%) because bosses are almost always solo affairs and Final Burst does that much more cheaply against a single target and b) while he has the best magical stats of the menfolk, that’s still not his best usage. Dart can be a caster in a pinch if there’s no one better to do it, but he’s a guy with a sword and as a guy with a sword, he’s good at using it, with a wide array of Additions that make him a primary attacker.
His speed stat is more or less the metric by which all others are measured because his speed is equal to that of most enemies in the early stages of the game. Beyond that, almost everyone is faster than him and you’ll just have to deal with that.
Dart can do everything you need him to, but what you’ll be needing most out of him is making use of sharp objects. That’s just the way the game is designed and you want to keep Dart on the offensive.
There are actually some really good specific places where he shines either offensively or defensively and that’s at a premium for the cast in general, but as the main character, he’s more or less owed that benefit. The game goes so far as to spot you his elemental weapon in one of those places despite it being numerically weaker than what’s otherwise available because the number of Water enemies in the area make it optimal with the elemental bonus. The game really does go out of its way to make Dart’s life easier.
Otherwise, free-floating Fire and Water enemies are largely concentrated in the early game when Water is most likely to hurt him without any real recourse and Fire magic is going to be mixed about 1:2 with Thunder magic, essentially saving him from nothing. While Fire and Thunder magics are essentially the default of the game, and never completely go away due to being in the spellbooks of humanoid enemies and particularly spellcasting bosses, the benefits of his element as a defensive one are marginal at best.
Otherwise, the biggest item of note is that it’s trivially easy to get his ultimate weapon from an optional boss something like 65% of the way through the game and while it comes with the drawback of essentially keeping him perpetually poisoned (with actual poison stacking), that’s easy enough to mitigate with an accessory you’ve already had for ages by that point. Dart’s weaponry is otherwise nothing short of disappointing, with low numbers that always seem to trail everyone else’s, which kneecaps his utility for an unhealthy chunk of the game. This can be mitigated by Additions, of which he has the widest variety, and it has nothing to do with his base stats, so getting this ultimate weapon more or less is the only thing that’s going to immediately make him feel like a proper main character again. The saddest thing, though, is that even as an ultimate weapon, given its drawback, it’s not even the strongest one by a long shot, though it’s far from the weakest, either. His next strongest weapon after that, found in the endgame, is sadly already outclassed by the midgame in everyone else’s armories. I have no idea why anyone thought this was remotely approaching a satisfying balance, but it’s never quite so bad that he ever feels useless, either. You will absolutely be left wanting more, though.
Spoiler warning: these two are besties and essentially clones of each other for story reasons, and so can be addressed as a single section.
To get the major strategy out of the way, yes, their Blossom/Rose Storm is your first and only defensive spell and halves all damage to the party for 3 of their turns, which is good for you due to their low speed.
Other than that, you’re really looking at a tanky physical attacker, BUT, I must point this out, one who’s going to get wrecked by magic, and that’s going to hamstring them in certain ways, especially early on when your options are limited. Lavitz is the first additional party member you get and when you first get him, you’re going to have real trouble keeping him alive because you’re facing enemies that spam magic and his speed means you are going to simply get wrecked by these enemies unless you have him literally defend through entire battles. After you get another warm body to serve as a target, this burden gets significantly lighter and he can finally get room to breathe. Lavitz is best used in the early game as a simple attacker and pincushion for all the various sharp objects being thrown your way.
As a mage, he’s decidedly lacking, BUT, and this is very important, this is mitigated by the sheer number of Earth enemies in the game. If you need someone to put an end to them, you’re going to find a use for his services in nearly every area you visit. His first spell is effectively the largely inefficient typical second tier spell offloaded to the front, with an MP cost to match. On one hand, that means it’s only 25% for 20 MP, but on the other, at that point in the game, it’s your ONLY access to magic that targets all enemies or close to it, and by the time anything starts opening up more, you’ll have his second spell, which is by far the most efficient defensive ability in the game at only 20 MP. Many people consider it the best spell of any of them. His Gaspless is a fairly standard 75% Single spell, but represents his first real elemental damage output, and his final spell is similarly a standard 75% All.
This continues forward when he passes the torch to Albert. The biggest thing you need to know about the differences between them are that Lavitz fights with a slow, methodical timing, while Albert’s timing is much faster and more erratic. The same Additions between them even can have different names and their movements could not be less alike, with Albert being a much flashier, almost unhinged fighter. The best thing you can really do is use Lavitz to max out as many of their early Additions as you can, then make as clean a break as possible so you don’t have to re-learn them all with Albert and pick up where you left off. Some Additions are frankly easier with Albert just because the hits come that much faster and you’re not left faking yourself out waiting on the next one and going for the button too early. Albert’s pacing is just much more like everyone else’s, even if his timing has less rhythm than a drum set falling down the stairs. Out of any of the fighters, I will say his is one of only two final Additions that, unless an enemy counterattacks, I can do literally blind, because that’s exactly what I did based on sound alone when my mom came in to vacuum my room as a teen and she was entirely unconcerned with being in front of my TV to do it.
If you’re going to commit to these two, the best thing you can do is boost their speed to get the physical attacks going and switch all that out for as much magic defense as you can throw at them for bosses. And absolutely do not underestimate how useful halving boss damage is for 3 turns.
Another passing of the torch for story reasons, though this happens later in the game at roughly the 65% mark. Unlike Lavitz and Albert, there is literally no difference between these two. Not even just "effectively none," literally zero, though that in itself is to your benefit as the player considering how late it happens and how frankly insufferable Miranda already is as a character who nobody wants there, not least herself. Since Shana has it for longest, this section is going to just use her name and you can do the mental replacements yourself when Miranda joins up to replace her.
As an archer, Shana has no Additions, which is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because her accuracy has some real benefits depending on your weaponry and can become more or less the highest in the game, which has benefits against enemies where damage isn’t a factor, but a curse because her damage output is the lowest of the party and you’re just going to have to deal with that until the very end of the game when something incredibly interesting becomes available that I won’t spoil, but is certainly easy enough to look up if you’re so inclined. On the other hand, this accuracy and the fact she gains a fixed amount of SP based on her Dragoon Level means she’s by far the easiest to max out at D’Lv 5, and she’s never more than 4 attacks away from her max Dragoon bar, before equipment that raises SP gains. If all you’re doing is attacking, you can attack a few times, transform, attack slightly harder, and rinse and repeat. That’s far from her best usage, though.
What you really want to do with her is have her throw every magic attack item you have at pernicious enemies, because her magic attack is the highest in the game and if you’re good at button mashing, chances are she’s going to clean house basically no matter what you’re facing when combined with having close to the highest speed. This here is the section you’ve probably already heard everywhere, but there it is in case this is your first time.
Her abilities otherwise lend themselves to being the party healer and she’s going to be your first easy access to revival or an emergency full heal. As a healer, she remains useful throughout the entire game and if you manage to somehow keep her up while everyone else dies, she can instantly revive them with both her penultimate AND ultimate spells despite nothing telling you this. Her ultimate spell is by far one of the most useful in the game and is also easily the most MP efficient for a final spell effect, being at the very least on the edge of broken and arguably sailing balletically past that line. She does have a pure damage spell against all enemies, but, well, it pretty well sucks and you’re going to have to deal with that if you’re clawing for extra damage.
Shana is ultimately a mage through and through and treating her as such is key to the most broken strategies. Treating her accuracy and speed as your best friends against special enemies that only take 1 damage no matter what is a close second and your ability to farm them becomes much greater as soon as you get the special Speed Up item. Deck her out with every speed enhancement you can find and you can quickly break the game with a bit of grinding.
It also doesn’t hurt that she gets a couple of status-inflicting weapons that can help you soften up enemies for absolutely free. In fact, every single weapon for her except for her default Short Bow has some special effect or unique stat enhancement. Given the aggressively limited inventory for items and the effectively unlimited one for equipment for normal play, there’s no real way hanging onto every weapon for her is going to cause you a problem unless you specifically go out of your way to cause yourself one through aggressive purchases and more grinding than any reasonable person would do for the money to do it. You can literally reach the final boss without ever filling up your equipment inventory, so you may as well keep basically every one of her weapons for whatever niche use it might offer in the right circumstance.
I will say there are a few areas populated heavily by Dark enemies where she might shine offensively if not for the fact that her MP is a far more valuable resource than that and defensively, there are vanishingly few Light enemies to worry about, while there are far more Dark enemies that need to be taken out before they take her out. Thankfully, her magical defenses are good, which markedly improves her survival rate against magically inclined enemies.
Rose is going to be your best friend in the early game and your weakest link by the end. That said, if you’re committed to her, here’s how to do it.
Astral Drain kicks butt in the early game as a cheap spell that damages enemies and heals the party. While it doesn’t revive, it does split that healing, so if anyone is already down, that just makes it easier to keep the survivors up. Not only that, but theres (*sigh*) another typo and it actually does 50% magic damage, not 25% while I’m at it. Hat tip to Tantacles on YouTube for that bit of wisdom, but that’s ultimately good for you because she starts as a pretty darn good mage and the bonus of it is that it doesn’t waste points in overheal, either, so literally it wastes nothing the way it mathematically divvies up the drained points, which makes it one of the most useful spells in the first quarter to third of the game.
Her other spells are a mixed bag. Death Dimension can cause Fear, which is going to halve the damage dealt by and increase by half again that taken by any enemies it sticks to. As a damaging spell, tossing one of the most useful status on top makes it useful for normal battles, as it does it to all enemies, though there are other strong contenders for which is ultimately the best of the level and its damage being nothing to write home about and the fact that status won’t stick to bosses where it would be most useful puts a dent in its own place in the runnings. Demon’s Gate is an instant kill spell that really isn’t worth much and of course doesn’t affect bosses, and her ultimate spell is good enough to justify its use in the late game, but for anything you don’t want to be burning MP on, Rose is best treated as a physical attacker. Rose’s magic being so unhelpful in boss battles overall is sort of the flip side of Shana, but, like, in entirely the wrong way. You can easily see why they’re like that, because the effects are very much opposite of each other thematically, but it does render them a low-power combination against bosses.
As a physical attacker, Rose is on the stronger side of that early on and while she gets the fewest Additions of anyone but Shana, physical attacking is going to remain viable for her throughout the game if only because Demon’s Dance as her final Addition is available so early and tops out so high, as will magical items with her abilities ending up in the same place as Dart’s. Demon’s Dance is the OTHER final Addition I can do blind, proof courtesy of Mom and her vacuum. It is also just as erratic, but well-paced as Flower Storm.
Rose ends the game with the most powerful weapon in it by far, bringing her immediately up to speed for the final battle, but like Dart otherwise has lower numbers for her armory and relies on Additions to shore it up. The difference here is that all of her numbers come earlier than Dart’s and her equipment flow stops at about the 75% mark of the game rather than sucking straight until the end, so while she’s left without anything new for a while, what she has is entirely appropriate until it runs out. Roughly half of her weapons can inflict useful status to make her a viable attacker despite any perceived shortcomings, perhaps more so than Dart. Rose also has decent enough speed and defenses on par with Dart’s, so she’s not going to take much more damage than he is given equal equipment.
The biggest problem with Rose is less her damage output and more her HP pool. You can largely mitigate this by pairing her with someone sturdier to take more of the heat off keeping her up or throwing good equipment on her, which is frankly easy enough.
In the end, if you’re happy with Dart, you’ll probably be happy with Rose, even though she doesn’t scale from the powerful ally she starts as. She’s never actually unusable, but you will find her falling behind as the game wears on and ultimately her ability as an attacker is really only restored for the final battle. If you consider her ability to inflict useful status compensation, you’re in luck, because inflicting Fear is honestly your best bet for making enemies more squishy and less harmful, and she has 2 natural ways of doing it between her spells and weaponry. Rose is nearly essential for low-level runs because all of her growth is front-loaded and in a way, that’s really representative of the existing experience of her character as a seasoned warrior who ultimately finds less and less to give as everyone catches up to her along the journey.
Haschel is the fastest of the menfolk by far, even a bit faster than Rose, and that means he can ultimately pile on the most damage of any of them. When it comes to increasing this speed, male characters have fewer opportunities because the Bandit’s Shoes are totally unique in the game short of hacking. If you want him to pile on the damage, it’s a worthy cause to give them to him.
Haschel is actually unique in that he’s actually less powerful as a Dragoon than he is as a normal person, at least at the end of the game. His maximum attack as a Dragoon is less than his maximum attack with his Omni Sweep as his final Addition. This can be shored up with a Dragoon Special, but that probably isn’t going to be efficient for the whole party.
In terms of his weaponry, he has a couple weapons with a special effect, but he also has an elemental weapon that can only hurt him should he encounter a Thunder element enemy. Thunder is strong against nothing and resists itself, so while it’s not otherwise a bad weapon, you may want to save his attacks for enemies that don’t share his element. Not many actually do.
Thunder otherwise is incredibly common in humanoid enemies’ spell-like abilities and his resistance to them, while much less important by the time you get him, means he’s going to resist like 50% of all the spells cast in the game in the 0.00003% of it where that’s going to be an issue, but there’s nothing that gets an advantage on him, either. His Dragoon magics ultimately hit fairly hard against a single enemy, but are not much more than adequate given his mediocrity as a caster. They’re fine for bosses, but other than graphics, there’s a real sense with the similarity in their names that he really just has one attack with four dresses and two of those could honestly have been combined without losing a thing. Thunder Kid in particular just feels very strange and tacked on with a 65% Single and while that’s a whole 15% jump over Atomic Mind, it’s only another 10% jump to a more standard 75% Single for Thunder God for 30 MP. It’s not that Thunder Kid is MP-inefficient; it’s easily the most efficient second spell of anyone’s repertoire that does damage. It just doesn’t feel like it has a reason to exist.
In terms of his equipment, his body armor is totally unique to him and you’ll want to make sure you always have the best of it, which may involve getting some of it early from grinding enemy drops. Much of it boosts his SP gain in some way, helping him grow his Dragoon levels for the mid-game before its usefulness trails off. He also has an exclusive helmet that has an SP gain ability. His weapons have a couple instances of special abilities that surprisingly overlap with Rose’s. As such, at various points in the game, it might even make sense to pair them up to let their higher speed make quick work of the enemy with Stun to incapacitate them or instant death to simply wipe them out, assuming they’re not undead enemies the likes of which often resist it, as do many late-game enemies.
Haschel is one you want to keep attacking and as an attacker, he’s going to clean house. He’s sturdy enough you don’t have to worry about keeping him up and while there’s never a specific situation where you absolutely need him, there’s rarely any situation where he’s a bad idea to have around, either.
Kongol is widely regarded as the worst character in the game because of having one of the lowest speed stats of anything in the game. The thing is, most strategies focus on him as a damage dealer and not a damage sponge, and the most you can really get out of him for that comes from getting his speed up to where Meru’s is by default at maximum, or else only sparing one of the two pieces of equipment needed to get him up to Dart’s speed, which is to say average for the early game and slower as the game goes on.
To talk about him being a damage sponge, though, there’s a special item called the Pandemonium that makes enemies attack only one of your allies for 3 of that party member’s turns. This can be an easy strategy with Kongol because if you let everyone else do the attacking, it’s trivially easy to keep him defending to halve the paltry damage he’s already taking, make him shrug off status, and top off his HP for essentially a whole normal encounter. This is an essentially foolproof strategy that can allow for intense grinding sessions for everyone else’s Additions and only gets complicated if an enemy manages to get Poison to stick to him.
Kongol, like Haschel, has exclusive armor, which likewise does things for his SP gain.
Kongol is otherwise a physical powerhouse, with stats that brush the size limits of the variables that hold them for both his attack and defense, and while none of his Additions top out where anyone else’s do, his natural stats and ridiculous equipment mean he naturally will just do more physical damage for most of the game regardless. Given he only has a few Additions, getting him his best one isn’t even particularly hard. You can probably knock it off fairly quickly and once it’s maxed out, he’s going to easily out-damage everyone else provided you get to it quickly.
There are also absolutely ways of shoring up his magical defenses with equipment. The same for his speed. You really ultimately can do lots of good things to compensate his weaknesses if you want to.
The one spot he’s never going to be particularly strong no matter what you do is as a caster. This isn’t the problem it could be, since ultimately no matter what you do, Dart is there to be perfectly adequate if not amazing.
As a Dragoon, his spells all hit all enemies, and while he only gets 3 of them, there’s not really a reason that you need to worry much about it other than the frustration of working your way to D’Lv 3 and seeing nothing for it only to be hurt again when you realize that nothing is coming at D’Lv 4, either, and that you’re stuck with a reasonably efficient, but weak first spell complemented by a reasonably strong, but expensive second one. Ultimately, he’s not the only one to be a somewhat underwhelming Dragoon, but unlike Haschel, his Dragoon Addition ends up being a better damage dealer than any of his standard ones and adds Earth elemental damage on a Perfect, which is going to absolutely wreck any Wind enemies you encounter, and unlike most of the cast, his only takes 4 successful hits to trigger.
Kongol ultimately joins late and gets very few pieces of equipment relative to the rest of the party and he’s one of only two who does not get an elemental weapon, which is rather bizarre given even Haschel gets one when it would only ever hurt him. His weapons otherwise have a steady, almost linear progression unlike most of the others’ and start where half the cast’s effectively end in terms of power and you’ll have a bit of time to enjoy the Stun effect of his penultimate one, with his ultimate weapon only coming at the end of the game and possessing a Death effect that’s probably at its least useful by that point, but that’s less of a tragedy than it could be because it’s already the second most powerful weapon in the game. Not that any of this is actually necessary; Stun is a plenty decent effect and ultimately both effects are available at various points to both Haschel and Rose. Ultimately, not having an Earth weapon is itself not the issue it could be given his Bone Crush gives him 100 SP per full combo and he can then Dragoon to do Earth damage from a Perfect on his Dragoon combo, which is just plain going to out-damage anything he could otherwise do regardless. He is not a difficult attacker to use.
Kongol is a character who you ultimately need to choose how to compensate and he can be compensated for either speed to make his damage output that much higher, even if it’s ultimately not the highest potential in the game, or his defenses to make him essentially invincible while you paste a "KICK ME" sign on his back for the remainder of battle. The latter is the most viable strategy no one seems to talk about in most analyses, but is obvious enough that it’s straight at the top of his wiki entry.
As a final note, his magical squishiness is going to put him at a disadvantage against the various Wind enemies that are fairly common for the next few areas after you get him. This ultimately trails off until the final boss, who absolutely goes to town with powerful Wind spells, which makes him an incredibly poor choice for it unless you throw the Jade Stone accessory at him from an optional boss battle and/or shore up his magical defenses in general, which isn’t even hard in this game. Pairing him with Albert for overall half damage might also mitigate some or all of that, but absolutely leaves you at a turn disadvantage in a battle where you might not be able to afford it. That said, his HP pool is so high that he’s ultimately able to take it like a champ better than Lavitz/Albert for magic generally. Which is to say he’s viable. He may not be optimal, but he is viable.
Meru is the last party member you get and easily the most powerful attacker if you break the game with her incredible speed, which is more or less the upper limit of anything in the game before enhancement. By abusing those enhancements, she’ll be taking multiple turns in a row against probably any enemy in the game, allowing her to ultimately out-damage Kongol just by sheer force of opportunity in the endgame.
Meru is a top-tier character overall and is no slouch of a mage or Dragoon, with spells that hit hard and the Rainbow Breath spell that 50% heals the party and cures all of their status, though it can’t revive as a trade-off.
Seeing as these strategies are part of the most common optimization, there’s not much more to say that anyone else hasn’t. Her sheer ability to act faster than anyone or frankly anyTHING else in the game means you can rain her down on your enemies very easily. If you absolutely need to do that with physical attacks rather than magic, the prevailing strategy is to choose her over Shana and Miranda. She’s a perfectly capable caster in her own right, too, so which one you choose outside of the very specific circumstance of special enemies is really just up to your own preference and inventory priorities.
The biggest item of note is that she, like Kongol, does not get an elemental weapon, though she actually gets more weapons than he does. However, by the time you get her, you’ve literally almost completely run out of Fire enemies, meaning unless you actively backtrack, there are only 4 Fire enemies left in the game, one before she gets her Dragoon power, one shortly after, and two in the final dungeon. This makes her elemental Dragoon magic some of the least advantageous in the entire game. You simply do not get to properly enjoy it from the time you get it until the very end of the game 2 discs and several hours later, which is frankly just bizarre given the sheer number of Fire enemies piled into the early game.
Defensively, there’s still plenty of opportunity to enjoy her Water element, and in that respect she’s pretty much fine, but for a character who otherwise might have so much more offensive potential, the enemies and tools simply are not there for her to go on a gleeful wrecking spree. In spite of this, because Fire magic never really goes away when one encounters humanoid enemies, she’s most often only ever at a disadvantage to her opposing element, since elemental magic is not strictly limited to only enemies with that innate. Thankfully, you’ll get the Red-Eye Stone accessory before you even get Meru and it’s easy enough to equip her with it at basically any time you might think it will matter, as rare as that ultimately will be. Otherwise, like the rest of the women, she’s pretty fragile, provided anything actually survives long enough to touch her.
Her weaponry is otherwise nothing to write home about in terms of power. It’s not so much that she hits like a truck as she’s just able to slap enemies over and over before they can react. Kicking your opponent in the shins enough times will eventually make them unable to stand just as effectively as kicking them where it counts (and I don’t mean the wallet). Meru is very much the "in the shins" type and does it with the speed if not power of a jackhammer.
I will offer one final warning that she has by far the fastest and most erratic Additions in the game, so if you thought Albert was a bit much, you’re going to have a bad time with Meru. Though, surprisingly, I personally find her Dragoon Addition the easiest to get a Perfect on for some reason. I personally can’t reliably crack any of them off despite being able to do Albert and Rose’s final standard Additions literally blind, but something about the speed of the timing of hers makes it slightly easier to accidentally nail it for me. Your mileage may vary.