Space ships? Thing of the past! A new breed of shoot-em-up has risen and at the arcade forefront is Dragon Breed. Coming from IREM Corporation -those nice people who bought us R-Types I and II - it has a massively violent pedigree featuring more power-ups than you can eat and huge, flying-lizard graphics.
The game stars an everyday prince and his pet dragon. The creature is impressive, well animated and smooth moving. They are the last of the Dragon Breed, fighting for survival in a horizontally-scrolling battle over six levels. The dragon is invulnerable to all attacks and only the rider can be killed. Careful positioning of the dragon means that the tail can be used to either destroy enemies or protect the rider. As an extra complication the prince can leap-off his mount and climb the scenery collecting power-ups for his scaly friend.
How Green is my Dragon?
The dragon at the start is your average, ho-hum, run-of-the-mill, green dragon that spits fire while the rider shoots single shots. All along the way, though, are magic potions, which change the dragon's colour and give him greater powers. Collecting the right power-ups to defeat the right aliens becomes a task crucial to the success of any Dragon Breeding venture.
Each level features a different graphic theme and sports its own peculiar hazards. The aliens come at you in reasonably vicious waves and threaten to overwhelm you on every level, even though they are easily killed. It's positioning and timing that will see you through rather than firepower. Like R-Type, this is a shoot-em-up that can be progressively learnt and beaten.
The above factors all bode well for this dragon bash. There are, however, enough demerits to keep Dragon Breed relegated to the shoot-out second division. The levels are too short, a factor that is only offset on three of the six levels by reasonably tough guardians. The other three - especially the final boss - are wimps. The game design too, appears flawed in certain areas with blatantly obvious safe spots. As for design faults, the blame for them lies with IREM.
Deadly, but Safe
The safe spots problem is highlighted by the occasional detection hiccup. Particularly on the second level, creatures have been specifically placed to make an apparent safe-spot deadly, but then it turns out they don't do you any damage.
Dragon Breed is a good conversion, duplicating the feel of the arcade original. Certain levels are prettier and harder than others. The guardians vary, resulting in the game switching from heart-stopping action to mind-numbing boredom.
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