We got hold of Draglade for the Nintendo DS recently but with so many other top games coming out this spring it was unfairly put on the back burner. However with this month’s pre E3 game drought we had a bit of time to see what it had to offer, so here just for you is our review of Draglade.
Developed by Dimps, the team behind Sonic Rush and co developers of Street Fighter IV, Draglade for DS (or Kasutamu Bito Batoru Doragureido as it’s known as in Japan) is a side scrolling fighting game that uses music beats along with button bash timing to form attacks. There are 4 main characters to choose from in the game, each with their own separate but similar storyline which overlap here and there but generally remain individual enough. Each characters quest revolves round them needing or wanting to become a Major Grapper. Grapping is a new form of combat that uses bracelet type jewellery called G-Cons which magically turn into weapons called Glades when mixed with one of the four matter elements (fire, earth, lightning and water); these weapons are extra special because upon impact with the opponent they produce a musical note, hereby bringing music beats into the violent scenario (it’s just no fun beating anyone up without putting it to a funky rhythm anymore). Let me use just one of the characters, Hibito (the Fire Hero) as an example for this review.
Hibito is a ginger haired young lad who has always wanted to be a Grapper; he lives with his grandpa and sister helping out in the family repair business. Grandpa doesn’t want Hibito to become a grapper and whenever the topic is brought up he quickly puts a stop to it. After one row too many, Hibito and grandpa fall out and naturally the young scallywag is going to defy the old codger and head off to become a major grapper anyway. Just to add to the tension some nasty dudes arrive and kidnap Hibito’s sister, what better way to go and prove your grapping skills to the world than by rescuing your sibling eh?
Draglade has fairly straightforward gameplay, your character of choice heads from town to town chatting to locals (who offer no real advice – and follow you everywhere), defeating baddies, completing challenges and special tests (at G-Centres) to improve your grapper standing. As you travel between towns you come across dangerous enemies called variants, these are wild animals driven to insanity by absorbing too many matter elements. In the same way an overdose of matter can affect animals – humans can get dosed up turn nasty too, combine this with the evil dark glade and you have trouble just waiting to fall into the wrong hands. Defeating these nasties requires not only use of your glade but also a device called the dragon sequencer, this interactive boom box contraption (which looks just like a Nintendo DS) shows you the short musical rhythm you need to follow to perform maximum damage to your foe, this is called the Beat Combo which is activated with L, you then get tapping the X button for small fast hits and Y for more powerful but slow whacks. You can block with R, jump around with B and use special weapons called Bullets with A. These bullets are really just special moves from any other beat em up but they can be pretty handy in battle, and with over 100 to find or buy at Bullet Shops, provide decent battle variation and strategy.
Graphically Draglade is nothing special, I don’t know if the developers deliberately tried make the game look like it was on the Super Nintendo in 1991 but they succeeded. This isn’t necessarily bad; graphics don’t make a good game all on their own of course, but buying a modern day game at modern day prices makes me expect something to push the Nintendo DS a little harder. However the manga-ish art style whilst not being my favourite, does suit this genre of game somewhat.
The game sounds fine through my ears but is nothing to write to Auntie Gladys about; don’t expect to be humming any tunes from Draglade an hour after playing, not unless you regularly recall ditty beepy tunes all day that is. However it is possible for you to create your own beat combos using the dragon sequencer and touch screen, it’s a bit limited and unnecessary because it’s possible to finish the game using the default beat combo (I should know, I did it), but it’s possible to have fun building your own beat combos (Blur’s Song 2 anyone?) up and testing them out against baddies.
Oh, I wonder if anyone knows why the theme song wasn’t translated to English instead keeping the Japanese vocals and providing no subtitles.
With four different characters and storylines this game will take you a good while to complete; there isn’t much incentive to complete the game four different times (with each character) if I’m honest but fans of side scrolling fighting games may disagree, you’ll have to be pretty dedicated – put it that way. If you’re feeling lonely you could play some multiplayer action either offline via wireless single/multicard action or online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection – I couldn’t find a friend willing to play offline and the game felt pretty boring online, well maybe that’s just because I was being beaten senseless all the time.
Whilst having some interesting new ideas for a side scroller, the generally repetitiveness and predictable dialogue make Draglade a bit of a trial to play (especially four times) so we have to give it an average 6 out of 10.