Title : Dragon Spirit: The New Legend
Publisher : Bandai
Developer : Namco
Genre : Vertical Shooter
Players : 1 / 2 Players
Release Date : 1990
Estimated Value (as of today's date): $4-$6
If you ever need me to convince me to play a vertical shooter, all you have to do is say "Hey, Tom. You get to be a dragon in this one." I'll just drop whatever I'm doing, whip that controller right out of your hand and play to my heart's content. Pray tell, what game is it I speak of? Why, it is DRAGON SPIRIT: THE NEW LEGEND of course for the NES. Quite possibly one of the most overplayed games of my youth. I am proud to say I even still have my original copy from back in the day, although the pins are probably absolutely destroyed at this point for the amount of times I've slammed this bad boy into the system.
Point of advice, banging the cart and slamming it up and down in the NES to get it to work probably isn't the best idea. Should go back in time and tell that to my young self. Recently, I've made a point of playing this game again, but not the NES version, rather the original Arcade. I've managed to find one over at the Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and hell it's probably one of the hardest vertical shooters to date and it certainly is a quarter eater. The arcade, compared to the NES one, is a no contest. The NES one is a breeze in comparison. The arcade is downright monstrous, but still utterly enjoyable.
The NES version is actually a "semi-port" sequel from the arcade, hence the additional title "THE NEW LEGEND" because it takes place after the original. Same premise though, you're a bad ass knight with the capability of turning into a fire breathing dragon. All to rescue the damn princess. Screw the princess, I want to fly around and blow stuff up!
Enough chit chat (even though this is a blog so there is a lot of chit chat...) let's shape-shift into a dragon and burn these moth....sorry child friendly blog...bad guys up
Back in the original Dragon Spirit, the evil demon Zawel was killed and the princess Alicia was rescued by the brave knight, Amul. But - of course, peace never reigns for that long. After Alicia and Amul have children, some crazy old sorcerer named Gawda...or Gurda..Gawrda? Dammit, I forgot and I can't start up the game now, but you know what I'm talking about. Some evil dude. Well this evil dude wants to resurrect Zawel, so it's up to you to stop him from using your sister as a sacrifice.
(And my friend just told me AS I AM WRITING THIS..its Galda)
The game actually starts by taking control of a blue dragon in what is supposed to be the ending of the first game. Technically, you're fighting a last boss as your first boss, but here's the twist. This battle will actually determine whether you play through the game on easy mode (the gold dragon) or hard mode (blue dragon). If you die while battling Zawel, you wake up from a nightmare and you have to rescue your sister as the Gold dragon. Beat Zawel though, and you'll have the power to overcome your nightmares and take him head on!
What a great way to decide difficulty settings, don't you think?
As a vertical shooter, you're going to encounter the standard formula in this game. You'll have the ability to move your dragon in all 8 directions, and you of course will be swarmed by monsters at every turn. You'll be encountering both monsters in the air and monsters on the ground so you'll have to utilize both air attacks and ground attacks. Ground attacks I always imagined as your dragon regurgitating on your enemies below. Of course air attacks are typically fire balls of various shapes and sizes depending on how strong your flames are.
There are always power ups floating about ( as well as negative power ups that remove certain boosts ). Anything from speed increases, to flame enhancements, to extra dragon heads, use everything and anything to your advantage. Just don't pick up the skull and crossbones, it's obviously bad.
Depending on what mode you're in, you're going to be facing different levels. Easy mode ends up skipping levels so you'll reach the end sooner (but you'll also get a worse ending), but normal mode (which is a damn hard mode if you ask me), you'll face each level and every boss.
And let me tell you, the boss fights are some of the hardest you'll encounter. Be prepared to swoop in and out in every direction on the screen while you dodge their attacks because they are relentless. And awesome.
Time for final judgement - visually, it's one of the best looking vertical shooters out there for the NES, and the fact that it to a whole new level outside the generic space shooter or military shooter and moving it over to a fantasy world, well, that's bonus points in my book. The fact that you are flying around as a damn dragon!? I mean come on! Who doesn't want to be a dragon! Landscapes are awesome, and each level provides a new and awesome feel to it, from swamplands to volcanic cores to the interiors of a castle. Not to mention the creative monster designs to accompany each one.
Soundtrack? Easily in my top 5 best soundtracks for the NES. The mix of "techno" styled music with a fantasy twist makes it some of the most creative and well rounded music from any game. Seriously do yourself a favor and just check out a youtube video of this game (or wait for me to play a twitch session of it) and just check out the music. Addictive is an understatement.
What else can be said about Dragon Spirit? Dragons? Gigantic bosses? Epic fantasy story? AND ITS A VERTICAL SHOOTER!? How did they do it? Oy.....I gotta play it again.
Final Score (out of 5) :
Until Next time - Keep on Gaming!