Monday, 13 July 2015

Dragon Wang (SG-1000)

Pre-Final Fight beat em ups are interesting, in the same way that pre-Street Fighter II fighting games are, in that Final Fight kind of standardised the genre (I know Nekketsu Kouha Kunio-kun was also very influential, but FF was definitely a watershed moment). There were a few standard tropes before the afore-mentioned games, though: enemies that appeared at random rather than at planned intervals, standard enemies being one hit kills and generic chinese-style martial arts settings were more popular than the crime-ridden urban hells popularised by FF and NKK. Dragon Wang mostly follows this formula to a tee: each stage is some kind of multistory palace, with one-hit enemies running in from the sides of the screen at random.

The player has two attacks: kicks and flying kicks. Though the flying kicks never ever connect so they might as well not be there. Also though the SG-1000 controller has two buttons, they're both assigned to kick, forcing the player to press up to jump. Such a stupid, annoying little problem that's there for no reason at all. There's two kinds of regular enemies: guys who come right up to the player to kick, and guys who stand back and throw knives. Because of the random generation, though, the knife guys can sometimes show up at the worst times, surrounding the player from both sides, protected by walls of kicking guys.

The one unique gimmick the game has, though, is that rather than just go from left to right until reaching a boss at the end, they explore the floors of the palace seeking out bosses to fight to get keys and rescue the girl. The bosses all have their own health bars, and each has a gimmick, whether it's a weapon or the ability to teleport or being a robot. There's three bosses on the first stage, and each subsequent stage adds one. What's horrible about fighting the bosses is that there's no pattern or strategy to learn: they move and attack at random, so you just have to hope you're lucky enough to get enough attacks in to kill them before they do it to you. You health does get replenished after you beat them, though.

I wanted to like this game, it does have some charm and it looks really nice, as most SG-1000 games do, thanks to the system's idiosyncratic colour palette. Unfortunately, the more time spent playing it, the more obvious its flaws become,  and the more painful it gets to play.

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