Dragon Fantasy Book I may not have been my favorite RPG ever but I could definitely appreciate what the developers were going for. Book II is hoping to move from a NES age inspired game to the times of SNES, while taking cues from best RPGs of the time, and it looks like they may have done just that.
The demo started with a sleeping Ogden dreaming of the best times. Not only was it set during his triumph over the dragon, but he had hair! The graphical improvements were obvious but soon the gameplay improvements from moving up a generation were clear as well. Monsters are now clearly on the map and avoidable, in similar fashion to Chrono Trigger (and with a battle system that's similar to that old gem as well). It's definitely turn based but positioning matters. If enemies are grouped up close enough you can use a spin attack, which is free and relatively weak, but which hits an area instead of just one monster. I also noticed that when Ogden came upon a weaker group of enemies he won instantaneously without a fight, just like in Earthbound, my personal favorite RPG of that era.
While trekking through the dream space I noticed new monsters as well, but they were all rock based. There were Magirocks (a rock with lipstick and a witch's hat), as well as Lycanthrocks (half wolf, half rock). I also noticed that during a battle it's possible for other monsters to come upon you and join in. After about 10 minutes I came upon a dragon that told me a bunch of prophecies about a flamebringer when I kicked his keister.
The crazy part is that this was probably one of the longer demos on the show floor, and there were about four more parts of the game I could have chosen from the start screen. It's easily the longest demo I've ever seen at E3 when you add up all five. Sadly, I didn't have nearly enough time to get through them all, but this bodes well for the full game's length, which is meant to be about 12-20 hours.
Before I tried out the demo I got a chance to talk to the creator of Dragon Fantasy and pick his brain a bit. He told me that although Book II won't be specifically split into three chapters like the first book, he does roughly split it into three acts in his head. Not only did he take cues from Earthbound and Chrono Trigger but in “Act 2” you'll get a choice between three different narratives.
He promised that basically everything from Book I was returning. Punchy and Casty come back, taming monsters is back, and even the crafting from the Minecraft mini-chapter comes back, although it's modified to not be Minecraft. The only thing he admitted he hadn't worked in yet was the ability to steal from NPCs like in Chapter 3 of book I.
Something totally new to the series will be ship to ship combat. You'll man the cannons yourself and when you run out of ammo you'll have to run below deck and defeat rock monsters to use them as cannonballs. Also bounty hunts have been added, though he didn't expand on this bit.
We talked a bit about the future and Book III and he confessed that he hoped to “make the N64 game we never had”. As someone who lived through the N64 as a JRPG fan I can only agree. I'm truly looking forward to Dragon Fantasy Book II and I hope it delivers when it releases on PS3 and PSVita in late summer 2013.