Dragon Booster Review

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Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami
Release Date: December 8, 2005 Also On: None

For all of the talk of innovation in gaming and its importance, there are some styles of innovation that are too far from the traditional to be accepted. For the most part, the touch-screen capabilities of the DS have proven to be a new and interesting method of controlling the action in many games, but the day was bound to come when a use of the touch-screen that was so counterintuitive as to virtually destroy the gameplay of a game would assert itself. Sadly, Dragon Booster from Konami is just such a game. It succeeds on many levels, but fails on two: the difficulty of the touch-screen controls and the proximity of its release date to that of Mario Kart DS.

Indeed, the graphics in this game are very good for a DS title. Not perfect, mind you, but very good. One can easily tell that work was put into them. Everything looks very good and I presume there are few graphical discrepancies if any between this game and the cartoon/anime off of which it was licensed. These graphics, while not awe-inspiring perhaps, do serve to get the job done well. I have no major complaints.

So far as sound is concerned, the first thing that should be pointed out is that this game contains voice, if only for one emphatic “Release the dragon” at the title screen. That’s more than I’ve seen in many DS games that I’ve played, but is nothing particularly noteworthy since I know of GBA games that have more voice than that (the Super Mario Advance series comes to mind). Still, it’s more than many third party games that I’ve played have bothered to include. The sound effects are okay. They get the job done, but they are not particularly impressive. The music likewise is okay but unimpressive, although it is a bit subdued for the most part, so its unimpressiveness isn’t that big of a deal.

The main problem in this game lies in the gameplay. Imagine a racing game where forward momentum is automatic, where your left hand controls left to right movement with the D-pad and your right hand controls many things on the screen with the stylus as well as gear unleashes using the four buttons. This is exactly how Dragon Booster works. What then are the problems with such an approach? The main problem is that there’s too much stuff to try to do at once.

For example, let’s consider the touch-screen controls for a minute. With one stylus, you have to do all of the following. Your dragon has a laser beam that he can shoot out of his head at other objects. If you touch an opponent, you can attack him with this beam. If you touch an object in the path, it will be removed from the path so it doesn’t damage you when you go through it and also slow you down. If you touch a power-up, you can grab that power-up. Also, there’s an endurance bar in the lower right of the screen where you can control your speed so your dragon doesn’t get tired, and, on top of that, there are points in the level where you have to jump, which is done by touching your own dragon. These are just the touch-screen controls. See the problem yet?

On top of this, you have to control left to right movement with the D-pad to avoid objects. You can also control up or down movement to bring your dragon closer or farther from the screen. As if this weren’t enough, you have gear that you can equip to your dragon that is activated by hitting the button that corresponds to it, which requires you to bring the stylus away from the touch-screen if you’re using it with your right hand (as most of you, being right-handed, probably will). All of this leaves you with, in my opinion, way more things to try to keep track of than one human mind can possibly comprehend.

On the off chance that you’re more multitalented than I am, this game boasts a reasonable quantity of courses and three difficulty levels. Don’t take this to mean that the first difficulty level is easy by any means though. The game will take you a while to beat completely, in any case. There is quite a bit of gear to buy, as well as new characters and dragons to unlock. Between the mini-challenges, the story mode, and the free run mode (which is where you just pick a track and race on it), there is a bit to do in this game as well, but it won’t last forever, even if you do enjoy it. It also contains a two player wireless mode, but no Wi-Fi capability.

This game’s biggest mistake was coming out in the wake of Mario Kart DS. If it had come out before Mario Kart, that would have made it easier to recommend trying this game, but, as it is, Mario Kart DS blows this game out of the water easily with what have to be easier controls as well as more courses and a wider array of multiplayer options. If you’re looking for a racing game for your DS, I’d sooner recommend that game, but someday, when you tire of that game, maybe you should consider trying this one. It isn’t a bad game, but it’s just too involved and has too complex a control scheme for many people.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 6.5
Written by Martin Review Guide

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