Crimson Dragon Review
Crimson Dragon Box Art
System: Xbox One
Dev: Groundhog Inc
Pub: Microsoft Studios
Release: November 22, 2013
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Violence, Blood
Dragons, Dragons Everywhere
by Angelo M. D’Argenio

Crimson Dragon is the spiritual sequel to Panzer Dragoon. Now, I’m aware that many of you out there haven’t played Panzer Dragoon, so instead of going on a rant about how you’ve missed one of the coolest classic rail shooters in existence, I’ll keep things simple and just say that Crimson Dragon is a game where you RIDE A FRICKIN DRAGON! If that doesn’t shout blockbuster potential, I don’t know what does. It’s another rail shooter with RPG elements and, for the most part, it’s fun. Just go into it expecting the normal amount of grinding you’d have to do in any given JRPG release, and you’ll enjoy Crimson Dragon a lot more than you would have otherwise.

If you can’t tell yet, Crimson Dragon’s main appeal is the ability to ride dragons, crimson or otherwise. Each dragon controls a little bit differently from the last, with different attacks and stats to choose from. Attacks are broken up by element, but dragons can learn off element attacks. These different attacks all operate differently, some being homing shots, some having larger areas of effect, and so forth.

A good portion of Crimson Dragon’s gameplay consists of raising your dragon. You have to feed your dragon, use the right items on your dragon, and if you are lucky, your dragon may even evolve Pokémon style. Dragon’s grow in strength independently of your rider, whose levels basically only serve to unlock more dragons. Still, you can lose yourself for hours just grinding out levels to see what cool new mythical beast you can strap a saddle to next.

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And grind you shall! In fact, grinding is kind of the main draw; it’s like Disgaea… but with dragons! Well, more dragons. Dragons’ stats raise very, very slowly, so you’ll have to play levels over and over again to see any progress. In fact, the game is designed to make you play levels over and over again. Some levels task you with finding items that you can totally miss on your first fly through. What else can you do other than dive into the level again?

Crimson Dragon Screenshot

After playing through level after level, you’ll find that you have amassed an impressive pile of money, which you can then use to buy items, new dragons, and even wingmen. Much in the tradition of Slippy Toad, wingmen aren’t all that useful. They fly around on screen and such, but they never attack enemies with any sort of effectiveness. You can literally fly through the same level with and without a wingman and basically nothing will change. You’ll have to fight the same enemies in the same locations. They will only target you, and they will only die if you manage to defeat them, which is a shame because the dragons you can recruit are supposed to be the dragons of other actual players. This would have been really cool if it actually did anything.

The most important stat in Crimson Dragon is your life. In fact, it’s kind of hard to tell what the rest of the stats even do. You can only tell you have gotten a bump in attack power when you fight against a boss and get to see his HP bar at the bottom of the screen. Random enemies are easy enough to kill with basically any attack.

Crimson Dragon Screenshot

This is actually the most fun part of Crimson Dragon: slaughtering the many enemies in each stage. The dual stick control system takes a page out of the book of Sin and Punishment, and it works to great effect. One stick controls where your dragon flies, while another stick controls where your dragon is aiming. There’s something incredibly cathartic about locking on to every enemy on the screen and letting loose with a huge barrage of fireballs.

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