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Tagin' Dragon (NES) artwork

Tagin' Dragon (NES) review


Tagin' Dragon (NES) image

If you walked up to a ramshackle grocery store with a few broken windows, pealing and mismatched paint, and a sign outside that read, “OPIN FOR BIZNISS,” would you go inside and start shopping? Likewise, if you popped a game into your NES and the first screen you saw was that of a poorly designed, color-changing dragon that looked like it strayed from a low budget lollipop commercial and a title that read “Tagin' Dragon,” would you play? No, I didn't misspell that. The actual title screen says “tagin'” instead of “taggin'.” That title screen should serve as anyone's first warning to just shut the game off and never play it. Curiosity tends to get the better of some gamers, especially those who enjoy the esoteric and the unlicensed. Tagin' Dragon is an unlicensed NES game that tries to be a single-screen arcade-style game like Pac-Man or Dig Dug. It tries to replicate what those games have in simple, fast-paced and addictive gameplay, but comes up tragically short.

This game tries to be different and succeeds at that. There's little intuitive about the gameplay. You start out on a single-screen level with an overhead view and a rather dull color pallet. If you get a chance, you should at least look at the first level graphics. What an interesting mix of army and neon green along with magenta and indigo. Did someone spill split pea soup on a My Pet Monster doll? After starting, you will chased by what appear to be a trio of mutant puppies. That's quite apt, really. If you haven't read the instruction manual, then you'll just wind up running around the screen and mashing the A button until you understand what it is you're supposed to do, much like a puppy chasing its own tail. Eventually, you'll die and never figure out you're doing. The worst part is you won't know exactly how you died, but that it was caused by the other mutant puppies that run aimlessly about the screen chasing their own tails.

You might then Google the game to look for the rules, and it's then that you find out that the object of the game is to bite off the tails of the other mutant puppies. Excited that you now know the premise of the game, you can start actually playing and hopefully enjoying it. No such luck. It has been marred by stiff controls and questionable enemy AI. Both those elements essentially set the difficulty to random and the pace to moderate. Sometimes you'll be able to pick off the enemy puppies with no problem, even clearing a level in under a minute. All you have to do is lie in wait around a corner, let them pass you, and then devour their tails as you trail them. Yeah, the AI is that stupid.

This strategy can also backfire on you. Sometimes the puppies will run straight and gladly allow you to munch their tails until they're nothing but bones, but other times they'll spin around, get behind you, and munch your tail off. Should that happen, you will lose a life. Lose three lives and it's game over. There are no continues, nor are there any passwords. You're expected to go through this entire game in not only one sitting, but in one play. Given that there are only about 20 levels and that the difficulty is random, it's really not that hard.

What's especially irritating about the AI is when the enemies begin freaking out in the middle of the level. They'll start running around in circles in the more open areas of the level. There doesn't seem to be any pattern or even a sense of aggro to the enemies motions. They don't gravitate toward you like the ghosts in Pac-Man do. They just go about their own business. That would mean these things aren't inherently aggressive towards you, yet you must kill them. I believe they call that murder.

Eluding the enemies is not as simple as it seems. The controls are a bit stiff, especially when going around corners. It's not simply a response issue, but the fact that the game is very picky about how you're situated when going around a corner. Your character's sprite is very long and can only go around corners when most of the sprite is past the corner. Not only is positioning key when turning, but also when attacking. It's very hard to tell what part of the enemies you're supposed to hit the A button on exactly in order to munch off a piece of their tail. Because of this you wind up mashing the A button when engaging combat. Sometimes you come out without even having munched a tail despite being just about on the enemy's rear end.

It all amounts to you chasing the enemies and running around in circles while mashing the A button and hoping that you hit it at just the right time. You also hope that the game doesn't pull a random fast one on you and eat a piece of your own tail. It's enough that it makes the levels, which look like they were planned out, feel more like they were slapped together. The levels do nothing to accentuate the gameplay. They don't make the game more challenging, nor do they add any extra level of strategy or planning or depth. They simply become a collection of organized obstacles. You still spend the game just running around, mashing the A button. Really, it's a dull game.

Pop quiz: what was key to a good arcade-style game such as this? Fast, simple, and addictive gameplay. The stiff controls stomp out the quickness of the game, the lack of intuitive gameplay mars the simple part, and the dull gameplay nixes any chance of addiction. True, the game is a tad original, and the gameplay is still technically simple, but the game lacks heavily in those major elements. Having nauseating graphics doesn't help its cause, and furthers the cheesy feel of the game.

Tagin' Dragon feels like a rundown game. The title screen tells you to heed your instincts on poorly made games. A misspelled title could be attributed to localization, but really it's like a sign the developers didn't care. Being as it unlicensed, one can easily make that argument. Tagin' Dragon will remain near the bottom of the NES barrel, overcoming games like Action 52 and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but overshadowed by anything at least mediocre.

Rating: 3/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (September 28, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Leroux posted September 29, 2010:

Good review. I remember playing this years ago after SnowDragon ripped it. If only for a couple minutes.

On the subject of the name, I think we have an error in the database, since "Tagin' Dragon" is more common around the web and on the box art too, and I'm betting SD submitted the listing in the Games to be Added to the DB topic years ago (since he spells it the same way). Not even the only issue with the listing I caught -- Thin Chen Enterprises is better known as Sachen, and we should probably merge the two separate company listings.

Heads up I'm about to do that and you might want to edit the name throughout the review (or you can just be lazy and ask me to do it :P). I read over the intro and it still works with changing the proper title.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 29, 2010:

I always wondered about the Thin Chen/Sachen thing. I've only played a handful of Sachen games. None of them have been pleasant.

And I will change the name in the review. Thank you for the feedback Leroux!

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