Dragon View (SNES) review
"Part of the reason I found so many of the monsters to be easy to kill was because I'd wind up blundering through so many one-way doors and had to fight the same groups of enemies repeatedly that, for a good portion of the game, Alex was over-leveled for just about everything he faced."
A young warrior-in-training, Alex lives in the isolated village of Rysis with his girlfriend, Katarina. Life for the young man is pretty ideal until one fateful day when a mysterious wizard shows up, promptly overpowers anyone daring to stand in his way and teleports away -- with sweet Kat in tow. Vowing to rescue his beloved from the forces of evil, Alex grabs his sword and embarks on an epic quest that will take him around the world; a journey that not only will result in him saving his girl, but also the entire world; a mission that is.....
.....pretty generic. Let's face it -- Dragon View doesn't exactly rewrite the template on how to craft an epic adventure. There's a young man living in obscurity who is destined for greatness, a lovely damsel-in-distress, a gloating villain who always seems to be one step ahead and, of course, diabolical forces of nightmarish evil attempting to turn the world into a really, really bad place. Still, it's hard not to give Kemco credit. They were able to take a generic premise and make it come alive thanks to some of the best use of dialogue I can recall seeing on any SNES game.
When encountering another character, whether it be someone important like Argos (the girl-abducting wizard) or just a random townsperson, Dragon View makes a valiant effort to allow players to feel personally involved in the story. Instead of having Argos simply say, "You are powerless to stop me, foolish boy!", that comment will be prefaced with a description of his expression and/or body language, such as, "The wizard sneers at you with contempt." Little narrative touches like this do a lot to make a game seem more interesting and played a large role in keeping my interest as I meandered through one labyrinthine dungeon after the next.
Not to say going through the game's assorted caverns, temples and other assorted dungeons wasn't fun in its own right. After my first session with Dragon View, it was pretty apparent to me that Kemco was somewhat influenced by Nintendo's Adventure of Link. While the overworld is designed in an attempt to create a three-dimensional land, every other location is shown from a side-scrolling view much like that NES classic. In some ways, this game improves on the formula; in others, it's a pale imitation.
Most notable among those positives is the depth in the foreground. Instead of simply being on a level plain with his adversaries, Alex is able to maneuver around them and attack them from the back or move up and down on the screen to dodge their various attacks. Obviously, the ability to do this is quite useful -- especially when going against powerful foes like the fire cavern boss, who is fond of deluging Alex with waves of fire before launching himself across the screen like a battering ram. Stand in his path and get burned; dodge him and it's simplicity itself to deliver a quick sword slash.
With there not being a huge collection of monsters in Dragon View, it didn't take me a great deal of time to learn the appropriate tactics to defeat the vast majority without putting myself at risk of taking too much (if any) damage. Fortunately, Kemco seemed to realize this might happen and put more of a focus on simply finding the right path through many dungeons, rather than on outlasting hordes of brutal opponents. It might eventually become child's play to slaughter hordes of slimes, giants and mages, especially when a good number of foes drop life-restoring hearts, but it still will be pretty tricky to navigate large mazes loaded with one-way doors and the occasional simple puzzle.
Still, while I liked having those intricate mazes to challenge me, I couldn't help but feel they were somewhat of a double-edged sword. Part of the reason I found so many of the monsters to be easy to kill was because I'd wind up blundering through so many one-way doors and had to fight the same groups of enemies repeatedly that, for a good portion of the game, Alex was over-leveled for just about everything he faced.
The overworld definitely didn't help in that regard. The simple truth is that the SNES wasn't a powerful enough system to display a three-dimensional world with any true proficiency. The combination of jagged edges and graphical glitches provides a truly ugly land to trudge through, while the small sprites used to designate towns, caves and other places of interest can make it difficult to find any of the game's points of interest. Sure, Alex does receive a number of regional maps as he progresses through the game, but parts of the overworld never will be covered by them, they don't display every point of interest in each region and I find it extremely annoying to have to constantly refer to a subscreen map to find places that should be right in front of my eyes. I found myself getting into a fair number of fights with wandering monsters (signified by small mist formations on the ground) solely because I struggled to find my way around the world.
And this problem gets magnified by the large number of places Alex is expected to visit if he wants to find all the hidden goodies Dragon View has to offer. An isolated tree stump or boulder in the middle of nowhere might lead to a powerful magical item or a heart container. On the ground, glittering triangles can lead to treasure-packed caves and warp stars can whisk him halfway across the world. Of course, he has to be nearly on top of these things to see them and, oftentimes, has to maneuver around a bit to stand on the right spot to activate their powers. And since he's as awkward in the overworld as he is nimble in dungeons, this can be a real pain. It takes an eternity to turn around and it's way too easy for him to get hung up on cliff walls and bodies of water, forcing him to blunder around in an attempt to meander past them.
Dragon View seems to be the perfect example of a good idea marred by questionable execution. The storytelling in this game was extraordinary and I found the dungeons to be fairly fun. However, it also was very easy to make my hero too powerful for much of the action to challenge me and I found it extremely annoying to have to constantly run across an ugly overworld to visit hard-to-see locations. While some aspects of this game were enjoyable, the overall experience wound up being fairly forgettable.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 25, 2007)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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