Review by kirbyparufo
"Sadly, there are few postives to be found in this absolute mess of a game."
Drake of the 99 Dragons is certainly unique. Idol FX (an obscure Swedish game development company) was assigned the task of producing this game by Majesco. They produced a comic book to go alongside the game (which was clearly modeled to look like it came out of a comic book), a demo (which played quite well), and more trailers and promotional materials than were included in the releases of many big games. However, things did not go as planned. The reviews of Drake of the 99 Dragons by gaming critics were almost universally negative. Drake of the 99 Dragons plays, looks, and simply feels like it was rushed through development and not tested (which is certainly a realistic possibility, despite the lengthy tester credit section), as evidenced by the abundance of glitches and game crashes. The game itself is a combination of glitches, horrific controls, and frustration. It takes a dedicated gamer to play through Drake of the 99 Dragons and a thoughtful one to appreciate what it could have been with almost any other development company.
When playing Drake of the 99 Dragons, it is apparent from the first level that things are not quite right. When the player tries to have Drake fire either of his weapons, he won't shoot where he is facing. Instead, he will seemingly randomly shoot in any direction but forward. His arms constantly flail around as well. The camera never seems to be quite where the player wants it either. Many of the common complaints by players and critics alike are similar to these. Two aspects of the game can be blamed for almost all of the aforementioned criticism: the targeting system and the camera. Together, they work to destroy almost all of the playability of Drake of the 99 Dragons. Having played through the game multiple times myself, I can safely say that the complaints for these aspects of the game are completely justified. As early as the third level in the game, surviving is very tough due to the nearly broken targeting system. Drake often will not aim at enemies unless they are directly in front of him (taking heavy damage in the meantime). In order to fix this, the player must do one of two things. They can either run around and face the enemy (taking more heavy damage), or they can manually adjust the camera to face the enemy. This presents another problem: the targeting system and the camera are both mapping to the same control stick. In other words, the played must babysit the camera throughout the game in order to give themselves a chance at survival.
Even if the player faithfully manipulates the camera to enable themselves to see and target every enemy, more problems await them. The enemies themselves are horrifically overpowered. They only required several shots (sometimes as low as two) from their weapons to "kill" Drake (leading to an annoying ten second sequence where Drake is mocked by his gods). Enemies also take a ridiculous amount of damage before they finally die (fortunately, Drake carries unlimited ammo on himself at all times). Bosses are obviously even more broken. However, not all enemies are this dangerous. For some, they are the ones with a severe disadvantage in battle due to glitches. There are multiple enemies in the game that will try to slash, shoot, or otherwise "kill" Drake, but their attacks register with the game and damage Drake so infrequently that it is safe to walk right up and dispose of them easily with a few shotgun blasts. Some bosses who like like they could easily dispose of Drake are made almost as harmless as puppies. All of this is quite sad, and undoubtedly will leave many gamers shaking their heads.
The only things in Drake of the 99 Dragons which seem to work correctly are the picture and sound. Looking at a single screenshot from this game, the game may look appealing, and taking a look at the game while Drake is using his slow- or freeze- motion powers is amazing. It seems to be impossible to take a unappealing picture of Drake of the 99 Dragons (thanks to the comic book style graphics). The graphical style as a whole looks quite cool, and I have grown fond of it. However, watching the game in motion is a far different story. Clipping through objects is a fairly common occurrence, as is choppy animation, a buggy framerate, and enemies randomly falling to the floor or stopping dead midstride when killed. The cutscenes are equally awful. I know the game was made in 2003, but they're almost disgustingly bad in quality.
In a game as incomplete as Drake of the 99 Dragons, it is a miracle that the audio isn't a complete mess. The music seems appropriate at most times (though I still cannot get a particular disco theme from the game out of my head), and in some cases is actually quite fitting (the Iku Triad slaughterhouse music for example). There isn't too much music which is out of place, but few memorable songs.
The sound and voicing of Drake of the 99 Dragons, on the other hand, is simply horrendous. Accompanying the awful-looking cutscenes is equally awful voice acting. Almost everybody who speaks in Drake of the 99 Dragons should have voiced another character or not been involved in the project at all. The sound effects are either generic or awful. The infamous door opening sound was taken from an AOL service. The walking sound continues on after Drake stops moving. The guns sound far from realistic, as do the sounds that the various enemies make upon their deaths. The non-musical portions of the audio are simply disastrous.
With all of the complaints I've made about the cutscenes which portray the story, it should come as no surprise that the story is one of the most hated aspects of Drake of the 99 Dragons, both by critics and fans alike. While the presentation of the story makes in looks like complete nonsense, further research (by visiting the game's now defunct official site, reading the official comic, and repeated viewings of the cutscenes) suggests that Idol FX wasn't crazy while creating the story. The story is deeper than it first appears, and you can get the sense it would be interesting if the cutscenes didn't jumble everything up.
If by some means one were to beat the mess of a game Drake of the 99 Dragons is, it is highly unlikely that they would return. The reasons for this are obvious. Idol FX decided not to include several features important for inducing players to return to playing their game upon completion. There is no multiplayer (though it would have, in all likelihood, been terrible). There are no unlockables. There is no downloadable content. I cannot see any sane gamer going back to play this upon completion.
All of these unfinished game elements combine to form an experience which is almost unplayable. Sadly, the game was never correctly finished. It is easy to envision what this title would have looked and played like had an experienced development studio taken the reigns of this doomed project. They game could have easily (in this reviewer's opinion) risen to the status of an elite game and create a new beloved series. However, all off this speculation cannot occur while playing the game itself, which is nothing short of infuriating.
STORY (Not factored into average): 2/10
FINAL SCORE: 2/10
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 02/09/07, Updated 01/13/10
Game Release: Drake of the 99 Dragons (US, 11/03/03)
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