Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘Freeform Shooter’ Category

First Impressions: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: DragonStrike

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 13, 2008

DragonStrike is a fantasy shoot-em-up set in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Universe, developed by Westwood Associates and published in July 1992 by Pony Canyon.

When the game opens, you select the type of dragon to play (Bronze, Silver, or Gold), each of which has different attributes (speed and armor) and attacks (each dragon has two). Having selected the type of dragon to play, you are presented with a map, with icons for each mission you undertake.

As far as I can tell, the missions must be completed in order, so the map only serves as a progress indicator. Despite there being only twelve icons, the description on MobyGames indicates that there are more than twelve missions, though I didn’t advance far enough to see if this was true.

On to the main event, then. For the first mission, we are instructed:

You first mission is to engage three white dragon scouts.

May your ambition propel you to victory.

The first thing to note about this game is that the controls are rather different from shooters like Abadox or 1943; it rather reminds me of Zone 66, a later freeform shooter for DOS. Rather than the d-pad moving your dragon, left and right turn you, and you always fly forward and a constant rate. Up and down cause you to rise or lower in the air, which is necessary for attacking some enemies. Note, though, that when you are low in the air, obstacles on the ground (like the trees in the above screencap) will harm you, while you can fly right over them when you’re higher up.

The white dragon scouts shown above are not the only enemies, although in the first level the other enemies (catapults and archers) are land-based. Once you defeat the enemy dragons, the mission is complete, and you are free to fly off the top of the map to continue to the next mission.

The next mission is to destroy a fleet of ships and a kraken. The first part proceeds basically the same way the first mission did: destroy the boats and either destroy the other enemies or avoid their attacks. After this first part is complete, though, we see the first boss, the kraken.

It is only vulnerable from below, but a few well-placed attacks will take care of it. I found that it was possible to get into the right position, then just hold left to fly in circles, which was enough to avoid its attacks, and fire off a shot every time I came around.

The next level is a swamp, and we’re instructed to slay the black dragon which lies therein. I didn’t bother to go beyond this point, since the game seems to be pretty much the same thing with different graphics for each mission.

I have only one major issue with this game. My dragon initially fires two attacks, side by side, which will miss smaller enemies if you’re attacking straight on. Since the dragon moves constantly and you must avoid enemy fire, that can make it a little difficult to aim–it can be necessary to come around several times before you get the aiming right, though that might be mitigated by a bit of practice.

Despite the issue with aiming, I think the game is fairly well done. It might get boring after a while, but for the few minutes I played, it seemed pretty enjoyable. The fantasy setting was a nice change from the usual sci-fi settings of shooters. The graphics weren’t too bad for an NES game, though the music leaves much to be desired.

Overall, I’d say the game is worth a shot. There are some better shooters, but if you’re looking for a change, DragonStrike won’t disappoint you.

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