Drakengard, known as Drag-On Dragoon (Japanese: ドラッグ オン ドラグーン commonly abbreviated as DOD) in Japan, is a series of action role playing video games published by Square Enix. The eponymous first game in the series was released in 2003 on the PlayStation 2, and has since been followed by a sequel and a prequel. It was conceived by Takamasa Shiba and Takuya Iwasaki as a gameplay hybrid between Ace Combat and Dynasty Warriors 2, with the ability to switch between on-foot hack-and-slash gameplay and riding a dragon for flight-sim fighting action. The story was created by Shiba, Iwasaki, Taro Yoko, and Sawako Natori, who were influenced by European folklore and popular anime series and movies of the day. Shiba, Yoko, and Sawako have had involvement in an entry of the series since its debut.
A Spin-Off series was created in 2010 named NieR, set in an alternative reality and followed by a sequel called NieR: Automata developed by PlatinumGames with Taro Yoko as director, same as the original series (not counting Drakengard 2).
- Drakengard (2003, PS2). A young man named Caim sets out to destroy The Empire and protect his sister, who acts as a Barrier Maiden to a horrific threat. Caim isn't a great guy.
- Drakengard 2 (2005, PS2). note A conventionally heroic young man named Nowe fights to save the world from both his own corrupt knighthood and Caim himself.
- Drakengard 3 (2013, PS3). A prequel. Zero, a bloodthirsty young woman, sets out to kill her sisters, the godlike Intoners, to prevent them from destroying the world.
- NieR (2010, PS3/Xbox 360). note Nier, a somewhat downtrodden older brother (or father, depending on the version) looks for a cure to save his sister (or daughter) from a mysterious disease.
- NieR: Automata (2017, PS4/PC) note . A race of androids fight a civilization of invading extraterrestrial machines After the End.
- Drakengard Judgement, a canceled prequel manga that had two installments. Contradicted by later canon.
- Grimoire Nier, a Universe Compendium to NieR as well as containing several short novellas.
- NieR Replicant Drama CD: The Sealed Verses and the Red Sky, a collection of Drama CD's that mostly focus on characters and events surrounding Project Gestalt. It also contains the story The Space War that delves into what happened after the aliens arrived after the end of NieR.
- Drag-On Dragoon Shi ni Itaru Aka (Drakengard Fatal Crimson), a manga following Ending A to Drakengard 3 which leads to Drag-On Dragoon 1.3 below; it could be considered canon to Drakengard as well in Broad Strokes.
- Drag-On Dragoon Utahime Five, a Lighter and Softer (Well sort of at first...) prequel manga to Drakengard 3 focusing on the Intoners.
- Drag-On Dragoon 3 Story Side, a novel that acts as a sort of Ending E for Drakengard 3, the events of which are canon to the first game.
- Drag-On Dragoon 1.3, a series of novels that are an alternate retelling of the first game that follows from Ending A of Drakengard 3.
- World Inside, a guidebook with 3 novellas inside as well.
- The Garden of Light, a novella set after ending A of Drakengard 2.
- The Song of Fourteen Years, a novella set before the first Drakengard but separate from Drakengard 3.
- The Fire of Prometheus, a novella set roughly two thousand years after the end of Nier.
- YoRHa, a stage play series set thousands of years after NieR, setting up the premise of Nier: Automata.
- SINoALICE, a free-to-play fairytale-based mobile game also created by Yoko Taro whose collaborations with the Nier series and Drakengard 3 imply a connection.
The setting of the main series is a North European-style dark fantasy world where humans and creatures from myth and legends live side by side, while the spin-off game is set in an alternate reality leading from one of the first game's possible endings. The stories generally focus on the fortunes and personalities of a small group of protagonists either directly or indirectly connected to and affected by the events of the story. Dark or mature plot and character themes and multiple endings have become a staple of the series. Their popularity in Japan has resulted in multiple adaptions and additional media in the form of novelizations and mangas.
The series is considered highly popular in Japan, having sold well and gaining a cult following, though it appears to be a niche series in western countries. The main games have become noted for their dark storylines and mixture of ground-based and aerial combat, while Nier stood out because of its mixture of gameplay styles. The series has received mixed to positive reception in both Japan and western countries: the majority of praise has been given to its story and characters, while the gameplay has been criticised for repetitiveness. NieR: Automata seems to have finally broken this trend, releasing to excellent reviews and being showered with praise in both the gameplay and story departments.
Tropes that appear in the series as a whole:
- 100% Completion: Traditionally, each game in the series requires you to get all weapons, which usually requires the completion of most sidequests, before you can view the final two endings. Most are easier said than done.
- After the End: In 856 AD there happened something known only as The Cataclysm when a huge earthquake struck in the Iberian Peninsula and the Cathedral City suddenly appearing overnight. This released all kinds of mysterious creatures on the world and led to the current state of the setting of Drakengard. It also led to the appearance of "Singularities", unique conditions that can cause the timeline to split.
- All There in the Manual: See that big list of side materials? That's where you'll find most of the world building and and backstory of the Drakengard world.
- Alternate Timeline: Each game has multiple endings that work this way. The spin-off series NieR's storyline follows directly from Ending E of the first Drakengard, while Drakengard 2 follows Ending A or one close to it.
- Anyone Can Die: No character is safe. Not even the main characters.
- Arc Words: Two of them.
- The first is "I hear a sound" or some variation of it. Most often it appears when the gods start to influence the world.
- The second is less a word and more of a chain of letters. They are hidden in the various magical incantations spread throughout the series written in the celestial script and spell out ACGT. Or in other words, Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Thymine. The bases that make up part of the DNA molecule.
- Crapsack World: Pretty much. Sometimes less so than others, but still pretty crappy regardless.
- Dark Fantasy: Occasionally delves into some Cosmic Horror Story tropes as well.
- Deconstruction: One of the core themes of the series can be summed up with, "Why do you kill?" This in turn often lead to deconstructions of the One-Man Army and Heroism tropes as well as the exploration to why a human being would kill hundreds if not thousands of people.
- From Bad to Worse: One thing one always can be certain of in this series is that no matter how grim things get, it can always get worse. A lot.
- Jerkass Gods: In the Drakengard world there is one or several gods that created everything in it. Unfortunately they view humanity as a failure and a plight that needs to be purged, leading to the creation of creatures such as the dragons and the Watchers.
- Kill 'Em All: A number of endings of the games will feature the entire cast being killed off.
- Kudzu Plot/Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: While it did start somewhat confusingly, it was still relatively straightforward. Then numerous extra materials and installments added even more depth to the Drakengard world, and with the inclusion of numerous alternate timelines things start to get hard to keep track of.
- Multiple Endings: Three-to-five endings in each game. In the first, most are filed under Downer Ending and progressively get worse. In order, it's: one for completing the game regularly, another for New Game+, two more for getting all weapons, and an optional Joke Ending/Gainax Ending. Very rare to have an Earn Your Happy Ending. All endings are canon due to branching timelines (a concept explored most thoroughly in Drakengard 3), and Drakengard 2 and NieR stem from different endings of Drakengard.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons are among the most powerful of magical creatures, often cynical and proud, they were originally created by the gods to guard the world and purge humanity. They also possess Evolutionary Levels, allowing them to adapt as needed.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: In this series, red eyes are never a good sign since it signals the Watchers' influence, be it the Red Eye disease, the Legion, or the Logic Virus.
- Science Fantasy: The series combines gods, magic and dragons with androids, aliens and robots.
- Ultimate Evil: The Gods. They tend to serve as the central unseen antagonists for the whole series.