The Day 3 is the second game of the pentalogy in four parts. No, this is not the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but the first game was never released due to its poor quality, and instead of just sweeping it under the rug by renaming the second one, Mirinae played it straight and released For the Day 2 for the MSX in 1990. After three years, the MSX died even in Korea, and so players could enjoy playing the first entry in the series on PC. Like all four parts, Dragon Force is a fast-paced, side-scrolling shmup.
The Day 3 is the second game of a Pentalogy in four parts. No, this is not the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, rather the first game never got released due to quality concerns, and instead of just sweeping it under the rug by renaming the second one, Mirinae played it straight and released "For the Day 2" for the MSX in 1990. Fast forward three years, the MSX is dead even in Korea, and so PC players can enjoy their first entry in the series. Like all four parts, Dragon Force is a fast-paced, side-scrolling shmup.
In the fully voiced (in Korean) intro, we learn that earth has been shattered by twenty years of war, that had finally been ended by the invention of the "Arcadia" bomb. But the same bomb has caught the attention of the warrior race of Lelia, who attack the slowly recovering humanity. The player takes the role of one of three human pilots: Jeong Kihyeop in the balanced fighter Taemiru, Jennifer Lee in the stable but slow Black Cat, and Siegfried Reutz in the fierce but vulnerable Gladiator.
In addition to chosing a pilot, there's also two settings for the "Option", a small satellite powerup that enhances firepower. It can either constantly circle the spaceship or follow it's trail. Other than three different types of these Options, each ship has the same four weapon systems, with a standard mode and two upgraded versions. The weapons can be switched through at any time, similar to the Thunder Force games on Sega's Mega Drive. However, the weapons aren't perfectly balanced, and while the aimed shot and heat seeking ray in the second slot can still be useful in the right situation, the third weapon stays a completely useless bomb most of the time. The fourth weapon isn't found before stage four (of six), but then it renders all the other systems useless.
The controls are very responsive and even the speed of the fighter can be adjusted with the space button. In addition to the various enemy types, which attack from every side, there's also supply ships that drop weapon upgrades and shield recharges when shot at. The action can get very intense with the right combination of enemies on screen, but there are also some dull parts where you just wait for fodder enemies to run into your laser. The stages are a bit too long overall, and it can get quite tiring to the trigger finger. The bosses might seem overwhealming at first, but once you learn the right tactics, most of them are actually surprisingly easy. The biggest problem is the limited supply of extra lives - you start with only five credits. These can be stacked up by getting a high enough score, but their supply is nonetheless very limited.
For all the 2D fanatics, Dragon Force burns down some plainly awesome sprite fireworks. In each stage, scrolling takes part in multiple planes, and some stages are even higher than the screen and thus scroll vertically. The ground is made up by a pseudo-3d scrolling layer, and enemies often approach from out of the back- or foreground. There's plenty of explosions and rays and bullets, maybe a bit too much, because it is not always easy to make out all the enemy fire. Only a few of the bosses don't look quite as awesome as in some comparable games. The soundtrack is as equally awesome as the spriteworks, and the impulsive rhythms and catch melodies are nothing short of the great genre classics. It can also be enjoyed in a seperate music test, which is controlled with the mouse, other than the rest of the game.
In the end, The Day 3 - Dragon Force is a quite good side scroller, with only the rather long-winded level design holding it back from being called a classic. Fans of the genre should definitely give it a try.
Dragon Force, Icarus, and Assault Dragon are three competent 2D side-scrolling shooters from Korea, based on the same mundane sci-fi plot about defending the Earth from alien invaders. All three games offer no-nonsense shooter gameplay, with elaborate background graphics, nice enemy ship designs that recall Macross and similar Japanese manga series, and a rocking soundtrack. The games are not very difficult, but the nice variety of levels and enemy ships make for a few hours of relaxing fun. Well worth a look as some of the best games from Korea, even if they are by no means classics of the genre.
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