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The King of Dragons – SNES

The King of Dragons – SNES

cover artPlatform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System Snes9x Emulator

Developer: Capcom

Publisher (NA): Capcom

Release Date (NA): April 1994

Genre: Hack and Slash, RPG

Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Dovahkyle

Games like The King of Dragons is one of the reasons why I love retro gaming. Some classics will never die. If you have ever immersed yourself in Dungeons and Dragons, Champions of Norrath, or Knights of the Round, then you will love this co-op hack and slash, action RPG. Capcom rarely disappoints with their arcade games, with titles like the Street Fighter series, D&D: Tower of Doom, and 1942, all of which are a part of the greatest gaming memories of my childhood.

It’s rare I find a game that I can’t wait to finish so I can play it again. I was up way later than I should’ve been. I played all the way to the end and was tempted to start it over. I will definitely be replaying it when I get the opportunity to play the two player co-op. Yes, after a few “game overs” I looked up some Game Genie codes. I just had to finish the game, and it is extremely difficult. Like other arcade games that tend to be insanely hard, Contra and Aero Fighters for example, I find myself desperate to see it through. Luckily I didn’t need any coins for this one, or I would be broke by now. Addictive is a light way to put it.

Gameplay

“You mere human think that you can defeat the mighty Gildiss?”

The classic RPG character select screen

The classic RPG character select screen

The game starts with your standardized RPG race/class selection screen including: Elf, Wizard, Fighter, Cleric, and Dwarf. Once a character is selected, the player is thrown right into the action. Monsters have taken over the kingdom, and the heroes must dispatch them on the way to defeat their evil leader. I chose the fighter, as this is probably the safest way to go through any RPG for the first time. I am keen on rogue/assassin types once I’m comfortable with a game, but I usually start off with a safe bet. And right I was to choose the character with a fast attack, powerful magic attacks, and good defense. I made it pretty far (like level 3, if you could call that far) without needing to use codes. I am not one to jump on cheating, but I really enjoyed the gameplay. I couldn’t resist.

Sixteen stages of hordes of enemies and bosses that are consistently getting stronger and multiplying make this adventure a non-stop thrill ride. Minotaurs, Dragon Riders, Dragons, Cyclops’, Armored Monsters, and Royal Guards are just some of the bosses the player will encounter. And you can’t have a good RPG without lizard people, and let me just say, they are obnoxiously near invincible.

The original arcade version allowed 3 player

The original arcade version allowed 3 player

I accidentally stumbled across an Snes9x phenomenon. I have one gamepad for my laptop, and I have the button mapping for the first and second player identical. This makes it easy to play two player games like Super Mario World because we can just trade off controller possession. On co-op games like The King of Dragons, pressing start on the gamepad allows the second player to join. This caused quite a shock when I realized I was playing both characters at the same time. I could strategically position my fighters to attack the same enemy from opposite sides.

The layout of the levels is bright and colorful; the backgrounds are surprisingly detailed for being an SNES port. I sometimes let myself forget how impressive this console was for its time. Although most of the levels are on your typical dirt roads, there are some that venture into the castles and ships as well. Enemies can come out of anywhere. They will drop from the top of a castle window or climb up the side of a boat. They are seemingly endless. This title is definitely to be enjoyed by those who prefer non-stop action and lots of bloodshed.

Story

Who needs one? We have swords and monsters…

The story, although lacking in overall depth, is that of a typical baseline for any good RPG. The Kingdom of Malus has been overrun by monsters, and one (or two) of the five champions must fight their way through the kingdom to defeat the the red dragon, Gildiss. A formidable foe indeed, although with cheats on it was more of just a really long, button mashing fight. The lack of story didn’t seem to affect the overall gameplay, and with no cut scenes, the game moves along nice and quick.

The demon dragon Gildiss

The demon dragon Gildiss

Controls

By pressing the directional pad away from an enemy attack, the player can block

My recent experience with this game is only that of the emulated version on my laptop, so my opinion of the controls is strictly for the key-mapped PC gamepad. The Snes9x emulator is an outstanding way to play any SNES game right on the PC. The game itself only consists of  two action buttons and a directional pad. By pressing both action buttons simultaneously, the player can use a “special” or magic attack. Three of the five characters have a shield that can be used, if timed correctly, to block an enemy attack and take no damage at all. The controls overall are simplistic and easy to learn, which I’m sure was expected of most arcade-to-home ports.

Graphics/Sound

I’ve been having these weird thoughts lately, like is any of this real or not?

The King of Dragons was originally released to North American arcades in late 1991. The intense color schemes resemble those of other arcade games released around the same time. In fact, Capcom’s Street Fighter II, released just a few months before in arcades is a perfect example of a color palette that seems to have been adapted for this title. Unlike games released just a few years earlier, there is a great amount of clarity in the level design structure. There is never a question of who the player should be fighting, as there wouldn’t be enough time to make that decision, if the colors were darker or more pixilated. This game is fast-paced and not for the weak spirited.

One of the many dragon bosses

One of the many dragon bosses

The soundtrack is composed by Yoko Shimomura. You may recognize her eloquent and original style from such titles as Final Fight, Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts, and Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga. The music is high energy and full of life; it definitely adds a positive background ambiance for the game. The sound effects, such as the clanking of swords against armor and the growls and roars of the monsters, are believable and well produced for early ’90s recording technology. This was definitely a well done all-around title for the arcade, and the SNES port was just as satisfying.

Replayability

Please insert coin – I love how the SNES port leaves this in the game

At least I can honestly say you won’t run out of quarters trying to beat this one anymore. You’ll even have less frustration if you play it on an emulator that allows Game Genie codes. I believe the replayability of this title is left to the player’s inclination. Personally I would suggest this game to anyone who likes the Everquest games Champions of Norrath and Champions Return to Arms. Those two games were my real intro into the role-playing hack and slashers; The King of Dragons, although much shorter in length and way more difficult, is definitely right up there with the best of them. I will be playing this one again, and I can’t wait to try out the co-op.

321*FS Rating System*

Gameplay: 10

Story: 4

Controls: 10 (although only rated for the emulator and gamepad)

Graphics/Sound: 9

Replayability: 10

Overall: 8.5

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon

 
 

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