Friday, 2 August 2013

Dragon Buster (ドラゴンバスター) - Famicom

The Dragon Buster arcade machine was released in Japan by Namco in 1985 and shortly after, was ported to home consoles like the Nintendo Famicom, MSX and Sharp X68000.

This game was ground breaking in many ways, which makes it somewhat surprising that it isn't better known. It was the first game to include double jumping, and was one of the first to have a life bar.

It also has both side scrolling and vertical scrolling, and an overworld map, something most people attribute to better known games like The Legend Of Zelda, which was released over a year later. Having said that, the overworld in Dragon Buster is actually very limited and can't be explored. It is more of a glorified level select screen, much like Super Mario Bros 3, rather than an overworld in the more conventional styles that games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy have made us accustomed to.

Gotta love that toxic-puke-green!

The bulk of the gameplay  is spent in the dungeons which you travel to in the overworld. There are five types of dungeon, each with different types of enemies (or at least, more of a certain type of enemy) and a different typical layout. Some scroll right to left, others left to right. Some are very linear and others are maze-like. In each dungeon there are a few mini-bosses who drop power ups when killed. In each dungeon one mini-boss will reveal the door back to the overworld.

You can fight your way through Caves, Towers, Graveyards, Mountains and Ruins. One neat thing about this game is that on the overworld map, there are forks leading to different dungeons. This means that if you'd rather fight through a cave than a mountain, you have the choice to do so.

Once you have cleared a path to the castle by hacking your way through the dungeons you reach the end stage for that round, and fight a dragon. The dragons are large with heaps of hitpoints and attack damage. Fortunately, as you fight through the mini-bosses of that round, they often drop useful spells which you can activate by pressing down and A. These are a massive help. From blasting the opponent with fire to zapping them with lightning, these spells do a lot more damage than your puny sword and trying to defeat a dragon without them is a feat to say the least.

Flippin' 'eck!

Dragon Buster is a game you should play because of it's importance, but not necessarily because of it's greatness. The music is forgettable and if anything kind of annoying, the control (particularly the double jump) is fiddly and with only a handful of enemies the level design can get very repetitive. Not to mention that the game itself is hard as nails.

Perhaps this game isn't recognized because it didn't see the light of day outside of Japan until the late 2000's. Perhaps it's because it didn't age well or perhaps it just wasn't that much fun. I enjoy playing a few stages every now and again but trying to play through it was incredibly frustrating and after a few hours, boring (I didn't even get close to completion, and you only get one life).

On the plus side though, it's an early Famicom game which showed ambition, and for the time was very advanced. If you're after Adventure of Link or Faxanadu-esque side scrolling sword swinging, it might be worth your while. If you don't have a Famicom, Dragon Buster was included on Namco's 'Namco Museum Battle Collection' for the PSP,  and was also released on the Wii Virtual Console, so there's no excuse not to give it a go.

What's more, there's a dude that looks like C-3PO.

But where's R2?

Cheers for reading,
Dusty Old Games.

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