"Do you remember that Bruce Lee game for the Atari 8-bit computers? That was a great game, man! Hey, do you like 2D streetfighter-style games? Yeah? Well, imagine if you made a videogame about a real-life fighter. How about if that fighter was one of the greatest martial arts masters in modern times? And how about if he was Bruce freaking Lee? Man, you'd think that have to be a pretty damn good game. Oh, but wait, this is for the Atari Jaguar... "
Do you remember that Bruce Lee game for the Atari 8-bit computers? That was a great game, man! Hey, do you like 2D streetfighter-style games? Yeah? Well, imagine if you made a videogame about a real-life fighter. How about if that fighter was one of the greatest martial arts masters in modern times? And how about if he was Bruce freaking Lee? Man, you'd think that have to be a pretty damn good game. Oh, but wait, this is for the Atari Jaguar...
The Jaguar was ahead of its time in the mid-90s, but those bunglers at Atari Headquarters pushed developers to get games finished as quickly as possible. This meant that for every decent game that showed off the power of the Jaguar, there was a poor game (or two, or three) that was often a mediocre conversion of a game that already existed on a 16-bit platform such as the Genesis, Super Nintendo, or Amiga.
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story starts with some simple, cleanly-designed menus. Although basic, the still artwork looks very good. Over the speakers you can hear some generic 'Oriental'-style music, the sort of tune that you might hear playing in a cheap Chinese-food joint. Mmm, chop suey.
The game begins, and - hey, this looks promising. The background is very colourful and attractive, and there's some nice parallax-scrolling for the foreground. The fighter characters, although flat 2D sprites, are huge and colourful, and look reasonably good. When they move, there are a respectable number of animation frames; the game may not rival modern consoles, but for a mid-90s machine these characters actually look pretty decent!
The two fighter characters jump onto the screen and the action begins. Ah, let's see: 'C' for kicks, 'B' for punches, and 'A' is for... oh, both hard punches AND hard kicks, but you have to use the 'Option' button to toggle between the two. Er, that's awkward. Maybe I better get out a 6-button Pro Controller. Oh wait, this game was released before the Pro Controller, so doesn't take advantage of those extra buttons. Bummer.
Oh well. Fight time! Kick, punch, kick, punch, kick, maybe toggle that hard punch - oh wait, I'm dead. What the hell? That bad guy whipped out a chain and choked the crap out of Bruce freaking Lee! Oh, the manual says that these Yin-Yang symbols that keep appearing in mid-air give me extra moves. If I jump and grab my Wang, er, Yang, while avoiding Mr. Crap-Choker's swinging chain, I'll build up this chi stuff. When I get enough chi, I can hit one of the keys on the number pad to go into a new "fighter mode" with more powerful moves, but weaker defence. Hmm, I don't recall seeing Bruce Lee jumping in the air and grabbing his Yang in any of those kung-fu movies.
I try several times, but find that in the "Story" game mode, the battles are slanted strongly in the bad guy's favour. This mode is very difficult I find, and eventually I give up in frustration. Going back to the menu, I find that there's also a "Battle" mode where you can choose to fight an identical Bruce Lee controlled by the computer. Well, not identical: his trousers are a different colour! Ah, much better. Now that I'm fighting myself, so to speak, I find it's a lot easier to win.
And that's about it. The short-term Battle mode games are much easier and more satisfying (ie. you can actually win them!) but are really only practice games. The long-term Story mode offers more variety and "boss fights" but is so overkill-difficult that they aren't much fun.
I've read many, many negative reviews of Dragon and so I've avoided it for a long time. Now that I've actually played Dragon, I don't think it's nearly so bad as some people make it out to be. The difficulty should be more closely matched between the Battle and Story modes, but the biggest problem is more a problem with the Jaguar than the game: 3-button controllers simply don't well for fighting games. If you've never tried Dragon and can pick it up cheap, give it a try. Overall, I'd call Dragon a pretty average gaming experience, and rate it a pretty average 5 out of 10.
Community review by LS650 (May 24, 2007)
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