Friday, May 8, 2009

Dragon Knight and Graffiti

Elf / NEC Avenue
Super CD-ROM

Anyone who knows me knows how fond I am of Dragon Knight II, which I'd already played through by the time I acquired Dragon Knight & Graffiti. Whether it was fair of me or not, I had very high expectations for this first DK chapter (which was actually the last episode of the series to be released for the PCE) based on the enjoyment I'd garnered from DK2. Nonetheless, DK&G proved itself to be a great first-person dungeon crawler in its own right, one with some extremely impressive visual elements.

Random-battle monsters are animated and look great as they perform their attacks.

There are cool dragon bosses to deal with, and you'll have to fight your way through a gauntlet of them before you can face...

...this guy, the final boss.

In-town shots are extremely bright and polished, making them much more impressive than the raw images in DK2.

The dungeon itself, on the other hand, is quite bland.

As cool as the enemies look, they're still the usual demons, orcs, and goblins that we're all used to seeing in RPGs, while DK2 has us face awesome girl-fiends (portraits of whom are huge and impressive, making encounters with new monstrosities events to look forward to). Also, the battles in 2 are quick and painless, while combat in this one can be a drag when you have to deal with five or six bums in one fight. If I could have things my way, I'd implement a mix of what works in each game. Random battles with traditional foes that animate well are cool, and dragon bosses are definitely cool, but adding in girl-fiends and employing a system conducive to quick combat rounds would improve things considerably. In fact, the mixture of elements ultimately utilized in DK3's battles is pretty much perfect.

Rather than have you fight the girls like DK2 does, DK&G asks that you save them from various monsters and miscreants.

You'll gain some interesting allies during your rescue missions.

Most of the girls are very relieved and appreciative when you come to their aid...

...but some are kind of... elusive.

Encounters with rescued girls are a lot more entertaining in DK2, which has a sense of humor that's present in spots in this episode but is rarely as overt. At the same time, thanks to a superior soundtrack and odder characters, 2 really makes me feel like I'm in an extremely strange and mysterious realm when I play it, a feeling this chapter never truly gives me. DK2 effortlessly goes from ludicrous to atmospheric and back again, and whether it's trying to be amusing or ominous, it always succeeds with its attempts, and that's why it's a special game to me. DK&G feels like a high-quality but fairly traditional dungeon crawler with a "girls showing skin" element.

Yep, there are plenty of anime chicks in "compromising" positions.

Humorous material here includes monster mealtime and orc befuddlement.

Also, there's nothing in this episode's story that compares with the surprising plot twist at the end of 2. But all of this is just me comparing a very good game to one I personally hold in the highest regard, so don't be fooled by the negativity. DK&G is a must if you're a fan of the genre.

I must include one final note: the "Graffiti" in the game's title refers to a special mode that allows you to check out images straight from episodes 2 and 3...

...and if you purchase DK&G before acquiring those episodes, you might want to hold off on viewing said images, as they contain lots of spoilers.

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