In this line of work, and especially during the busy holiday season, you sometimes find yourself playing games you would never buy for yourself. While Draglade was just barely on my radar, one glance at the packaging seemed to tell me everything I needed to know. This was a game aimed at the 8-10 year old Pokemon crowd, and most probably had some kind of anime and/or trading card game tie in, like Dragon Drive, Yu Gi Oh or a million others. It reeked of licensed shovelware from the package alone. "Oh well," I thought. "All in the line of duty."
But let it be known, should I ever be accused of prejudice, that I fully acknowledge how wrong I was. While Draglade is squarely aimed at preteen boys, and will resonate most with that audience, it's a clever, unique game that big brothers and parents might find themselves spending time with, too. RPG, fighting, and music elements come together to make something that actually stands out from the crowd.
A clever, unique game that big brothers and parents might find themselves spending time with, too.
The meat and potatoes of Draglade is its story mode. Players can select one of four different stories, each chronicling the tale of a boy looking to make a name for himself in the world of "grapping," a kind of martial art that involves ethereal weapons called "glades."
The world is comprised of side-scrolling environments full of shops, characters to talk to, and side quests. The artwork is detailed, and the characters large and nicely animated. Combat is likewise side-scrolling, and plays like a somewhat simple fighting game with combos and special moves. These fights can take the form of side scrolling beat-'em-up stages, or tournaments against other grappers.
A lot of the fun of Draglade comes from customizing your character. Special moves (called "bullets") can be found, bought, or earned and applied to any character. Each character can equip six moves that can be accessed in mid-fight. With a total of 100 moves available, players can spend plenty of time finding their favorites.
There's also a slight musical element to the combo system. Tapping the L-button can trigger a "beat combo" in which players can tap out a short melody, and deal greater damage for well-timed hits. This is complimented by a sequencer for creating custom beats. After playing with this for a few minutes I was able to recreate the beginning of the Super Mario Bros music, as well as the theme from The A-Team. I have to admit, for a child of the 80s like me, there was something richly satisfying about beating down an opponent to these jingles.
Draglade offers some fighting game modes as well, allowing players to battle locally or over Wi-Fi with their customized set of moves and combos. In head-to-head play, it becomes apparent that this is not a very deep game at all. While it's an entertaining button smasher, those looking for a more serious fighter would probably do better investing in Treasure's recent Bleach game.
Draglade is fundamentally a kids' game at its core. It's shallow, very easy, and tells a goofy story with all the sap of an after school special. That said, it's a very good kids' game, with some fresh ideas, and a unique blend of gameplay styles that make for a very appealing package. Dimps has done a fine job of crafting a new franchise, and it gets a hardy recommendation for anyone looking for something different to play on the DS.