Dragon Spirit logo

DRAGON SPIRIT - the very name conjures up a cheap Chinese hellbrew, the kind of electric soup which is bought with multiples of "the price of a cup of tea". Nothing could be further from the truth.
It's about Dragons, and we're not talking about the only computer in the world with a processor so slow that you can hear every tick. No, we're talking napalm breath here.

The first thing you notice about Dragon Spirit is that it's in the standard Tengen Atrocious Plastic Box, the one that kills all known instructions dead. The second thing you notice is that the loader makes the drive sound like an elephant after a night on the beans.
Disc protection is a necessary evil, but when it tries to bend Amy's drive in the noisiest way possible, the evil surely is unnecessary.

Basically, some dumb princess has got kidnapped by some lowlife, and it's Nerdbrain's job to do the fetching. The local quack has you that you're a dragon. "Here," he says. "Eat these dubious mushrooms. Incidentally you're a dragon now".
So off you fly to kick some heads. Well, give them a thorough singeing at least. And while the subject of heads is still within its sell-by-date, you start off with three of them, each capable of blatting out air-to-air and air-to-ground destruction.

As you flap your dismal way along the narrow river valley - made all the narrower by the programmers - you realise that it's YABS - Yet Another Boring Scroller.
Where a scroll would be described as smooth on the other thing, in Amiga terms this one is found wanting in the rapidity department. It's way too slow. And it gets even slower as more things appear.
Everything that could cause a young dragon harm wobbles in a most alarming way, and indeed this is the only reliable method of determining hostile intent.

The automatic rapid fire is useful, considering the game would be impossible without it. Unfortunately it sounds exactly like a very slow marine diesel engine and soon begins to grate.
Later moments of the game include exploding phoenixes and the brilliant ruse of recolouring alligators used in the first level to look like fire salamanders.

In playability trials between Dragon Spirit and a dead crab, 9 out of 10 game players preferred the latter. The two clear advantages of dead crabs are that they're edible and they don't try to dismember the disc drive.

Dragon Spirit logo

Serpent demons are nasty pieces of work and the one called Zawell is the worst of the lot. Aside from other generally horrid things, he has kidnapped the Princess Alicia and is holding her hostage.

Enter your good self, magically transformed into a dragon complete with fiery breath, to rescue the poor maiden in this conversion of the Atari coin-op. There are eight stages to this vertically scrolling shoot-em-up and nine end-of-level guardians to fight.

The action is all viewed from directly above as you fly over the lands destroying all the flying, crawling and swimming creatures that Zawell sends against you. Fortunately, you are well stocked up on bombs so destroying the ground targets is not too mucn of a problem. The flying creatures are quite easily taken out too using your fiery breath, especially if you can collect the power ups which appear when you destroy the blue eggs which occasionally crop up on the ground. Collect a power up and your dragon sprouts another head - thus increasing the fire power - and you can have up to three heads at once, making things decidedly easier.

As well as blue eggs there are orange eggs which release power up symbols that tend to increase the strength of your shots. Sometimes there are the flying creatures that glow: shoot these and they also release power ups, including ones that shrink the size of the dragon making it easier to dodge between the enemy fire. Take a hit and the first things to go are the extra weapons, swiftly followed by one of your five lives: and starting again with the single head can be a real pain!

Make your way through the stages - the later ones being particularly mean as some of them only allow you to fly over certain parts of the scenery whilst still chucking wave after wave of nasties at you - then destroy the guardians and it is job done.


The sound effects are on the disappointing side, simple gun noises and the scream of the dragon as it gets blasted out of the air. The graphics are much better, ebing colourful, well drawn and well animated. Overall it looks as close to the coin-op as you could wish for, though the sound is not perfect.


Not just another shoot em up surely? Essentially, yes. It has a nice scenario and a few extra frills, but the speed and excitement of the coin-op do seem to have been lost somewhere in translation. It is still a good game and will most certainly keep blasting fans happy for a respectable amount of time, but it is not one of the best of its type and lacks just a touch of depth.

Dragon Spirit logo

Domarks Umsetzung des beliebten Tengen-Automaten gibt sich als kompromissloses Ballerspiel: Gerade ein kleines Sätzchen war den Herstellern die Vorgeschichte wert. Schwamm drüber - Action ist angesagt!

Wie war das doch gleich: Grisu, der kleine Drache wollte immer Feuerwehrmann sein. Hier ist es umgekehrt, der Spieler übernimmt die Rolle eines Drachen, Feuerwehrmann oder nicht. Acht Level warten darauf, im Vertikal-Flug leergeballert zu werden, gesteuert wird per Joystick.

Leider erweist sich unser Ungetüm in der Praxis als ziemlich flügellahm, das Scrolling ist ungemein langsam und zudem leicht ruckelig. Dafür ist die Grafik gelungen: Das Drachen-Sprite flatter munter dahin, und auch die zahlreichen Gegner (Saurier-Kollegen, Krokodille, etc.) sind oft recht nett animiert. Dazu gibt's prima Sound-FX, Musik-Fans müssen sich mit einer reichlich konfusen Titelmelodie zufrieden geben.

Was das Gameplay betrifft, so ist es für meinen Geschmack etwas zu geradlinig: Außer Ausweichen und Feuern ist nichts geboten, einmal von der reichen Auswahl an Extrawaffen abgesehen. Zudem versteckt die Score-Leiste einen Teil des (ohnehin kleinen Aktion-schirms, was oftmals einem unvorhergesehenen Verlust eines der fünf Leben führt.

Wenn ich jetzt noch den merkwürdigen Umstand, dass nur der erste Drache (Leben) mit drei Köpfen und entsprechender Feuerpower ausgestattet ist, ins Kalkül ziehe, so bleibt an diesem Game wenig, das wirklich zu begeistern weiß. Hübsch anzusehen ist es allemal... (ml)

Dragon Spirit logo

Price: £19.95

Dragon Spirit is one of those little known arcade games which came and went without too much fuss, although it went down well with almost everyone who played it. Dragon Spirit then resurfaced in Japan as a very successful PC Engine game, and now it is over here on the Amiga.

At first glance, the coin-op does not appear as anything more than your standard vertically scrolling shoot em up - kill the bad guys and collect the weapons. It is not until you sit down to some serious gaming that you really find out how good it is, but it has to be said that the Amiga version does lose out in translation. The original's strength was its fast graphics and quantity of weapons. The armaments are here but the speed has disappeared. Each level contains a variety of mythical dragons, phoenix's, to name but a few. Once again, there is the standard end-of-level foe to defeat.

You power up by collecting pods. These cause you to weirdly mutate. You can get three heads, breathe fire, gain electric shields. Wow! Unfortunately, some of this does you more harm than good - one thing in particular reduces your dragon to a pigmy sized with homing missiles which wears out leaving you unarmed.

The graphic conversion of Dragon Spirit is near to arcade perfect, but it is not until thing actually start happening that you realise how sluggish the gameplay is. The graphics are neither complicated or overly large, so why does it play so slowly?

Apart from the lack of speed Dragon Spirit is still a good game and a good shoot em up, though there are slack periods when you wonder is something is missing. It also seems like a good opportunity to make a contribution to the Amiga/PC Engine debate: having now played both versions of the game I can conclusively reveal that the PC Engine version is head, shoulders and ankles above the Amiga's graphics, speed, colour and sound. So there you go - a good game which falters in the conversion.

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Tengen, C64 £9.99 cassette, £12.99 disk; Amiga £19.99

The princess Alicia has been kidnapped by the evil serpent demon Zawell (Extremely Original Plots Inc). In a massive coincidence, you just happen to be transformed into a fire-breathing dragon so you can rescue her!

Spewing fireballs from your three heads, you fly through eight vertically scrolling levels. As you fire you simultaneously drop bombs, killing enemies on the ground and breaking open magic eggs which hatch bonus firepower icons (including extras head, shields, and longer range fireballs and bombs). This all seems easy enough but colliding with airborne enemies or bullets soon causes you to lose your head, or at least one of them! Two hits and you'll be quickly falling to earth - you'll also lose all extra weapons and heads.

Each of the multiloaded eight levels is infested with many hostile creatures, some airborne (mainly formation-flying birds) and some on the ground which can't be hit but fire loads of bullets. There are also wombat squirrel thingies with beaks which start off on the ground, then launch themselves into the air. Plus, of course, the inevitable huge end-of-level nasties which include an even bigger fire-breathing dragon, giant spider, and huge, carnivorous pot plant - obviously a remnant from Day Of The Triffids!

Phil King Oh no, it's yet another vertically scrolling shoot-'em-up. Okay, so instead of a spaceship, you control a dragon, but essentially the gameplay is much like dozens of other games with very little originality. Worse still, the C64 graphics are some of the tackiest I've ever seen; mostly monochromatic, badly defined, with almost invisible enemy bullets to try and avoid. You can be flying along thinking you're getting somewhere at last when suddenly the picture freezes - this symbolises your death by an invisible bullet, the dragon isn't even shown dying! Although this problem is rectified on the Amiga, the large end-of-level creatures die in a similar way - no satisfying explosions whatsoever. Still, despite being a bit slow, at least the Amiga game is fairly playable and a decent conversion of the mediocre coin-op.
Stuart Wynne The basic idea of a fire-breathing dragon as a shoot-'em-up hero seems novel enough, but on level one at least any other imaginative touches are sadly absent. Levels two and three are more interesting graphically, but playability is still rather repetitive. Yet while fans of the coin-op should be happy with the Amiga game, it's hard to imagine anyone splashing out a tenner on the C64 game. Not only is this version lousy to look at, but it's awful to play. The dragon takes up half of the screen, vertically, while the enemies are numerous, and spit out lots of hard-to-see bullets.