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Developer:
Amaze Entertainment
Publisher: Vivendi Games
Platform: DS
Release Date: November 14, 2006

by Josh Ferguson




With the theatrical release of Eragon, based on Christopher Paoliniís novel by the same name, being only weeks away, Vivendi Games has released a handful of titles for the consoles and handhelds based on the fantasy film. Will Eragon please fans of the movie and book? Or will this one see some of those same flaws that have killed so many potentially great movie-based games? Read on to check out our review of Eragon for the Nintendo DS.


Eragon is available on pretty much every platform around, with the console versions differing significantly from the unique handheld versions. The storyline throughout the game follows a young boy named Eragon who, while out hunting, comes across what he believes to be a large blue stone. After taking the stone to hide in his uncle's barn, Eragon is shocked to see that the ďstoneĒ starts hatching, revealing a baby dragon. After the egg hatches, Eragon decides to take the baby dragon into the nearby woods to hide it from his uncle and everyone else. When Eragon returns to the town, he is frightened to find some mysterious individuals speaking to the town butcher about the dragon's egg. After telling the men that he doesnít know where Eragon took the egg, the two kill him as Eragon peeks through the window. As Eragon runs back to tell his uncle, the dragon, which has grown quite large since he had last seen it, comes down and picks him up. When the two finally reach Eragonís uncle's home, the entire place has been burned to the ground and his uncle murdered. Along with one of the townsmen, Brom, Eragon and his new dragon head for the Beor Mountains to take refuge along with the Varden, the few brave enough to resist the evil King.


Eragon for the Nintendo DS is an action-RPG that takes advantage of the handheld's dual screens. On the top screen of the DS is where all of the game's action takes place, while the touch screen is primarily used to draw objects, which Iíll get into later. In order to defeat his enemies, Eragon has two basic physical attacks, the X button that is used to perform strong attacks and the Y button that is used to perform your weak attacks. As you use your sword to defeat enemies, Eragon will acquire experience points that will lead to gaining new attack moves. The problem here is that each of Eragonís attack moves consist of repeatedly mashing the X or Y button. For example, at one level Eragon might obtain the attack move X, X, X, and at the next level he might acquire X, X, X, X. Basically that is how each of Eragonís attack moves work, and there really isnít any variety such as an X, Y, X, Y or something like that. All of the attacks consist of repeatedly mashing the exact same button, and each are basically the exact same with one extra attack, which is a bit disappointing. Plus, there are only six X and Y attacks, so after a while combat becomes a bit repetitive and dull.


In Eragon, the DSís touch screen is also widely used throughout the adventure, almost too often. Similar to most RPGs, Eragon uses the touch screen to draw symbols that represent each of your character's magic spells. When the player casts one of the spells, the spell will then acquire a certain amount of experience. Once the spell has been used enough, that spell will then upgrade and become even more powerful. After you draw the shape, an image will appear on the screen that represents that current spell. Using the stylus, the player must flick the image toward the object that you would like to use that specific spell against. Players will also be using the touch screen to use items such as healing herbs and gems to replenish Eragonís magic points. While the spell drawing and item drawing work well for the most part and take good advantage of the DS's capabilities, they also cause some problems with combat. For example, when an enemy is coming at your character, it takes some time for the player to successfully draw the correct spell. However, in order to aid in this, the game allows you to slow down time for a moment, which gives you an extra edge and a chance to properly draw the symbol. This manages to help quite a bit, but doesn't totally fix the problem. However, easily the biggest flaw with the touch screen is the fact that players will have to use it to rotate the camera. Rather than going the easy way and using the shoulder buttons to rotate the camera, Eragon uses a small circle located on the touch screen that rotates the camera around. This type of camera rotation can be extremely frustrating and difficult to actually determine how far you should move the stylus in order to rotate the camera to a certain position. Combat is also troublesome with the camera, because the attack buttons are on the right side of the DS, and since the object to rotate the camera is also on the right side, being able to perform both motions at the same time is difficult.


Aside from combat, Eragon also features moments when you will take flight aboard his dragon's back. Players will run into these moments occasionally throughout the game, which consist of controlling the dragon while flying through several small rings. You can control your dragon using the D pad, the four face buttons, or, the easiest way in my opinion, the touch screen. Personally, I found that using the D-Pad and the face buttons can be extremely difficult to properly navigate the dragon, but the touch screen made things a little easier. Riding the dragon isn't exactly the most exciting event in the game, but it helps mix things up a bit and add variety to the gameplay.


One of the nice things about Eragon is that aside from the story, the game also features a little multiplayer action. For example, once you have successfully gone through a certain amount of the rings with your dragon, the game will unlock a little mini-game where you and your friends can play as a dragon and shoot fireballs at one another with the individual dishing out the most damage winning the match. For those individuals who donít have any friends, you can also play against the computer. Even though this isnít the most in-depth mini-game out there, it does add a little multiplayer action that can add some replay value.


Graphically, Eragon isnít one of the most impressive-looking games to be found on the DS. While some of the environments are decent looking, there are also some objects, such as fish and trees, that look rather bland when you get a close look at them. The character models look good in combat, but during some of the game's short conversation scenes, they look a little odd. For the most part, the magic spells in the game provide some nice effects when performed, but there really isnít much to most of them. There are also some noticeable problems with slowdown during combat. While this doesnít always happen, at times when two or three enemies are on screen it can be somewhat of a problem. As far as the sound, Eragon doesnít really have a whole lot going for it either. The soundtrack, while not exactly bad, really doesnít feature anything impressive or memorable. There are some decent sound effects in the game from some of the magic spells and the attacks, but thatís about it. The game also has a bit of a problem with some of the NPCs located in some of the towns saying the exact same thing as one another. While it wouldnít be that bad to hear a couple of characters mention something similar to one another, when you arrive in a town and literally the entire town mentions the exact same thing word for word, then that can be a little bit of a problem.


All in all, it is easy to see that the Nintendo DS version of Eragon has its share of flaws. If you are a hardcore fan of the book or the movie, then you might be able to find some enjoyment out of the game, but anyone else may want to steer clear of this one or perhaps try one of the other versions.


Final Grade: 59%




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