Dragons, Dragons Everywhere
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.
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?
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.
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.
For most of the game, you will be flying around on rails, killing enemies, and trying to pick up items before you fly past them. There are points in the game where you are allowed to fly freely, a lot like the free-flying bosses or the vs. mode of Star Fox 64 . Unfortunately, you don’t have nearly as much control over your dragon as Fox had over his Arwing. While you can d-d-d-d-do a barrel roll, turning your dragon around and getting a lock on a boss’ weak point is really frustrating. These should be the coolest parts of the game, but you’ll wish for old school, on-rails gameplay after experiencing one or two free flying levels.
The biggest challenges you’ll face aren’t enemies at all but the stage itself. Pieces of the environment love to pop in unannounced when the camera swings around wildly. These rapidly changing camera angles are great for giving levels a sense of scale, but really bad for avoiding that wall that is COMING AT YOU RIGHT NOW! DODGE FOOL! DODGE! As a result, a lot of levels in Crimson Dragon take tons of trial and error to defeat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means that (once again) you’ll have to play these levels over and over again until you can finally proceed.
Crimson Dragon is almost as fun to watch as it is to play, if not more so. The environments that you fly through are breathtaking and make some of the best use of next-generation graphics technology that we have seen yet. Foliage bends and sways with the wind as other creatures fly through it. The sun casts a red haze over the horizon as you fly at high speeds toward your destination. There is an amount of detail in the levels that you just don’t see when you are actively playing the game. The action is too frantic to actually appreciate it.
I had fun with Crimson Dragon , but I’m not entirely sure everyone will. You have to have kind of an addictive personality to really get into it. A lot of the game is propelled forward by its grindy levels and progression system, and if this isn’t your thing, then you’ll likely get incredibly frustrated and just turn the game off to play more Killer Instinct . However, if you are the kind of person who could spend hours raising their perfect dragon, getting S ranks on every stage, and simply appreciating some fantastic graphics, then you will probably have a lot of fun with Crimson Dragon . It’s not the AAA blockbuster that we all thought it was going to be–heck, I won’t even go as far as to say that it’s better than Panzer Dragoon –but it is a solid title that you can pick up for a budget price. As far as Xbox One launch titles go, you can do far worse.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Crimson Dragon is one of the best looking next-generation games yet. 3.7 Control
The controls can be finicky, especially during free-flying segments. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s nothing all that interesting about the game’s sound design. The sound effects work, but the repetitive “plinks” of a lock-on can get grating. 3.5 Play Value
You have to like the JRPG grind to play this game, but if you do, the experience is second to none. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|