DragonHeart: Fire and Steel
This past summer, Dragonhearl wowed audiences with its fantastic effects and story line. The movie's plot was also perfect for a video game. From Acclaim and Fun Com comes Dragonheart: Fire & Steel.
Very loosely following the movie's action, this game can best be described as Golden Axe with digitized characters and computer-rendered Bosses.
The human characters in the game have been digitized; including Bowen, your character. This can be somewhat of a mixed blessing. Digitized graphics give the game realism, but if the animation isn't convincing enough, it could come out looking like it was rushed. The version that EGM played wasn't finished and Bowen's jumping animation still needs work. With a little smoother character animation, this could be a totally realistic quest.
The rendered animation in the game is smooth and looks great. Draco shows up after the second level, and he animates beautifully. What's even better is after you beat him, he becomes your friend (like In the movie), and you take a ride on his back (controlling him a la Dragon's Lair). The directions you need to press are displayed on-screen.
The game's locales and backgrounds look fantastic. Most of the game's 18 levels have three or so layers of parallax scrolling.
At this time, there is not a lot of voice in the game, other than the groans blurted out as you hit or get hit.
Your quest leads up to a final showdown with Eigen. If you have completed more than 90 percent of the game, you get to fight 13 human opponents and the dragon Lot in celebration of your triumph.
Dragonheart's music is superbly done, composed specifically for the game by Thomas Egeskov Peterson. Each level has fitting tunes and the music flows well throughout the game.
The game's control is similar to that of a fighting game, with a few complex combinations of buttons that need to be pressed to pull off special sword attacks. In the first few levels, just the regular slash is enough to get by.
Weapons that Bowen will pick up on his quest include many special swords and a bow. These will aid in your quest to defeat Einen.
Another new feature is the Endurance meter, which goes down each time you attack. If it is drained all the way, Bowen will have to rest for a while. Accompanying the draining of the endurance meter is the sound of a beating heart, which gets faster as the meter is drained.
Dragonheart shows a lot of promise. There's still work that needs to be done in some areas, such as tighter control and cleaning up the character animation. but by its final release these should all be fixed. Fans of the movie and who enjoy a good medieval quest should watch for it!
- MANUFACTURER - Acclaim
- DIFFICULTY - Moderate
- THEME - Action
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1
Download DragonHeart: Fire and Steel
DragonHeart reprises the characters and costumes from last summer's movie starring Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery for epic sword-wielding, dragon-slaying action/adventure gameplay. As Sir Bowen, you must master over 120 moves in third- and first-person gameplay. Seven original computer-generated dragons not in the movie are in the game, including one super dragon who inhabits a secret Battle Arena.
I am a little suspicious of any game fashioned after a popular movie. It seems that, more often than not, these games turn out to be nothing more than an attempt at quick financial gain in the guise of a game. However, Acclaim has surprisingly bucked the trend with DragonHeart: Fire and Steel -- motivations notwithstanding.
If you have not seen the movie, here's a quick rundown on the story. You are Sir Bowen, honorable knight and mentor to Einon, the future king. Einon is severely wounded in a battle, and the Queen takes him to the old dragon Draco, who gives him half his dragon's heart so the boy can live. Side effects of this "gift" turn Einon to evil, and you leave his service, vowing to return and save the villagers from his persecution. Along your journey, you will befriend Draco, and together you will fight Einon's tyranny.
DragonHeart is a side-scrolling, role-playing fighting game -- something like Time Commando. But this is not just a Mortal Kombat-style game, where all you do is fight. You will have a little more interaction with the landscape here -- pushing rocks to open passageways, exploring rooms in trees, gathering or purchasing items (with the gold you win by killing), and using power-ups to gain health or improve your weaponry. You will also be able to call on Draco to help you in certain spots. The biggest downside to the gameplay was the lack of multiplayer support. I guess Acclaim figured that this wasn't a true fighting game, and that the side-scrolling format didn't leave enough room for a friend.
The fighting is modeled after the popular arcade and console games; here you learn keyboard combinations of sword-swinging, punching, and defensive measures to use on your opponents. (Once you get deeper into the game, you'll get a bow that can make things a little easier for you.) Along your journey, you will need to look everywhere for stuff to grab, especially inside barrels. Keep your eyes out for those "1 up" icons that give you an extra life; believe me, you'll need them, because at the end of each level, you'll have to kill a dragon or similar beastie in order to move on. The game has about ten levels, and I'd say that each one will take the average player at least an hour to complete. So that's a pretty decent bang for your buck.
To give you a better idea of how DragonHeart plays, here's a brief look at one tricky sequence: You start out in a tree. In the trees on either side are dragon mages, who are shooting lightning balls at you. On the ground below is another mage, along with a few barrels. The longer you sit, the more likely you are to die. You have a few options: You may jump to a neighboring tree and take out its mage with your sword; you may fight the mage on the ground first and worry about the others later; or you can run away. Well, running away is for the lame, so don't do that. Fighting in the trees will cost you dearly, because there is little room to maneuver and little health there. So drop to the ground and kill the mage there, then open the barrels to get health. Once you are strong, fighting the mages in the trees will be much easier. Anyway, you see how it works ...
Some nice animation work here. When Bowen's running, it really looks that way. The dragons are pretty convincing too (as much as dragons can be). I also like the immolation sequence, when your enemies are flamed and their charred skeletons do a pitiful swoon as they crumble to ashes. Some of the death animations were a little too cheesy, though, with gushers of pixelated blood bursting forth from slain foes. (I half expected the dying villains to also kick their feet out dramatically for effect, as might a twelve-year-old in a school Shakespeare production.) But cheese in this game is no major crime. There's a little room for cheese.
So many fighting games skimp on the music, figuring that it's not important or won't be noticed. Au contraire. Here, the music was fantastic. No tinny, Casio-sounding accompaniment; instead, you get a fully orchestrated score, in a believably medieval style. You won't hear any electric guitars, but you will hear strings, drums, flutes and a good variation of period styles and timbres. The sound effects were no better or worse than those in the average RPG. I was half expecting, though, to hear voice-overs by Sean Connery or Dennis Quaid ... damn, missed opportunity there.
The only documentation you need with this type of game is a setup guide, a chart of fighting combinations, and a description of items in the game. And that's exactly what Acclaim furnishes in its CD-cover booklet.
Windows: 486DX2-66, 8 MB RAM, 1 MB SVGA video card @ 640x480, 15 MB hard drive space, DirectSound 2.0 compatible sound card, 2X CD-ROM drive, Windows 95
Recommended: P-75, PCI video w/ 2 MB, 16-bit sound card, gamepad
Reviewed on: P-120, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Diamond Stealth 64 video
For once, a pretty bad movie turned into a pretty good game ... now that's a turnaround! True, there is no revolution here, but a few hours of fun and diversion from your favorite game might be enough. Lack of multiplayer support and the often corny animations keep this one from flying really high, but DragonHeart: Fire and Steel receives a 76 for not being just another half-baked marketing scheme.