Vanillaware is one of the more respected developers on the market, even if its name isn't familiar with the entire gaming community.  Chances are you've experienced one of its efforts over the years, whether it was Odin Sphere on the PlayStation 2 (which is available for download on PS3) or the breathtaking Muramasa on Wii, which will be revisited this June with a forthcoming Vita release.  Perhaps the most noteworthy title the game is making is the one working on right now: Dragon's Crown.  The game takes the classic beat-em-up action of old arcade games like Golden Axe and combines it with fresh new role-playing elements and an art style that lives up to the Vanillaware standard.

In the game, you'll have six characters that you can choose from, who are as follows…

Fighter – even though he moves slow, this character can definitely put the hurt on enemies with some vicious attacks

Amazon – quick in movement, the Amazon is also quite strong and sexy to boot (those who like curvacious women will get a kick out of her "barely there" get-up)

Elf – good with ranged fighting, this female can also strike up close but she's better from afar

Dwarf – small yet aggressive, this character can do a significant amount of damage despite his size

Wizard – instead of using physical attacks to do his damage, the Wizard calls upon area-of-effect techniques and special spells

Sorceress – is really handy when it comes to delivering status effects on others and can also do singular damage to targets with her special magic

As you can see, there's plenty of diversity with the character selection, but no matter who you go with you'll have your work cut out for you in Dragon's Crown.  Everyone from smaller demon soldiers to large brutes and enormous-sized dragons will be breathing down your neck as you seek to salvage the land from darkness and return the kingdom to its former glory.

Each character in Dragon's Crown has the ability to attack with multi-strike combos and can also defend against incoming attacks in order to save what remaining health bar they have left.  They can also call upon magic and special abilities that can strike multiple enemies at once, depending on range and the character you're using.

Where Dragon's Crown sets out to be different is in two different areas.  First, with each stage you come to, you have various paths you can take on approach.  If you prefer the up-front "take out all the enemies" style, that's present and accounted for.  However, you can also take an alternate path and try to sneak around from behind.  Sometimes it works, but other times you're in for a bigger fight than you could've expected for, thus adding to Dragon's Crown's replayability charm.  

The second area is with its level-up system.  Unlike the classic arcade games where you ventured forth and just picked up items on the go, Dragon's Crown permits you to gain experience and level up as you complete each stage.  You unlock new fighting moves for your character and custom them however you please with your found equipment as well as with additional stats and skill trees.  You'll see them making a difference over the course of the game, especially against larger enemies who won't hesitate to gobble you up.

Like previous beat-em-ups released for PlayStation 3 and Vita, Dragon's Crown will give you the option to play along with others either locally or online via the PlayStation Network.  It also has a neat little effect involving single player, as you can go off-line and still see notes from other characters through notifications ala Demon's Souls.  There are some situations where you will find pile of bones and you have the option to resurrect them as non-playable characters to help you on your journey.  They can also leave warning messages if a boss was just a little too much to handle.

Though it won't be Cross-Buy compatible, the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita versions of Dragon's Crown will support Cross-Play in online functionality and be able to transfer your progress between the two versions.  There's a lot of questing to be done here as well, as the final game is said to clock in at around 40 to 50 hours including all the side quests and paths.  Unlike Golden Axe, you won't have it beat in about a half hour's time, and that suits us just fine.

Like other gems we've seen from Atlus as of late, Dragon's Crown looks to be well worth the wait especially for those seeking out an adventure they can play on either their PS3 or Vita.  You'll have quite the ax to grind when the game releases on August 6th.