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Developer:
Land Ho!
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Platform: Wii
Release Date: September 25, 2007

by Jason Ferguson




On paper, Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire looks pretty cool. It features a story by acclaimed author Richard A. Knaak, and allows Wii fans to live out their fantasies by controlling the remote as a variety of mystical weapons. Unfortunately, it will only be a few minutes into the game before you realize how poorly these two promising features were implemented.


Long ago, the world of man was fraught with violence and war. Seeing this chaos, six mighty dragons, led by their great Lord Valthorian, left their homeland in hopes of saving mankind. Following the teachings of Valthorian and his fellow dragons, mankind was united in peace, love, and respect. Unfortunately, Vormanax, Valthorianís brother, grew jealous of his older brother and sought to overthrow him. Afraid to confront him face to face, Vormanax instead warped the minds of six powerful human kings, who turned their forces against the Dragon Lord. The humans defeated Valthorian, but his spirit lived in the sword that was used to slay him. Jandral, a noble human friend of Valthorian, managed to escape with the sword. After many failed attempts to revive the Dragon Lord, Jandral lived out a totally normal life as a farmer, keeping the Dragon Blade a secret.


The basic idea sounds interesting enough, but itís relayed quickly through some mediocre cut scenes that donít really explain whatís going on. Once the game starts, youíll be introduced to Dal, a descendent of Jandralís who wields the awakened Dragon Blade when evil forces invade his village. With the essence of Valthorian to guide him, Dal begins an adventure to defeat Vormanax and gather the remaining Dragon weapons.


The story is sparsely told in the game, and even when it is shown through tidbits of cut scenes, it doesnít make much sense due to the fact that many of the scenes arenít really explained. The gameís manual is extremely thin and features no history for the game world, character information, or storyline details at all. The game jumps right into the action, with the plot being sort of an afterthought. The fact that the story was written by a respected author like Richard A. Knaak makes it even more disappointing. There really isnít much direction in the gameplay either, but fortunately itís all straightforward enough that you should be able to figure it out on your own.


Before you even think about getting Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire, make sure you have the nunchuck attachment for your Wii. The game requires it since youíll use it to move your character while you use the remote as a sword.


Unfortunately, Dragon Blade features no voice acting. Sure, itís not required for a game to have this feature, but itís certainly expected from a game on the current generation of consoles. Not to mention, the few noises that the gameís characters do make include giggles and grunts that sound absolutely ridiculous.


Another problem is with the subtitles shown when a character speaks. As I mentioned before, there is no voice acting, and unfortunately there are also no character portraits shown along with dialogue. This makes it fairly difficult to determine who is speaking during conversations and makes the story even more difficult to follow.


Along with the sound, the graphics in Dragon Blade are extremely disappointing for a next generation title. Of course, graphics donít make the game, so if you can overlook some mediocre Gamecube-quality graphics, then it wonít really matter to you. The camera is also very problematic and canít be rotated at all, so youíll never be able to see whatís up ahead of you. On a positive note, some of the character designs, such as the dragons and various other enemies, are well done and deserve props. These enemies often result in fairly epic and impressive boss battles that gamers will probably enjoy a lot. Thereís nothing quite like hacking away at a massive Dragon, and using the Wii remote as a sword brings gamers even closer into the action!


Players will use the Wii remote as a sword and use the nunchuck to move about. Moving the Wii remote in certain directions will cause you to attack with the sword in that direction. For example, moving left or right will cause you to slash side to side. Moving up will be an upward strike and down will be a downward strike. Lastly, moving forward will be a forward thrust. Unfortunately, the controller isnít very precise at all and rarely will you actually perform the attack that you intend to. More often than not youíll find yourself better off to randomly flail the controller around, hacking away at enemies rather than making a pointless attempt to perform a specific attack. Of course, this is nice because it makes the game a little bit easier since you can fling the controller around without having to know what youíre doing, but it totally defeats the point of using the remote as a sword. For the most part, youíll probably do a left or right slash regardless of what direction you swing the remote. In theory, the idea of using the remote as a sword is great, but itís so imprecise that it detracts HEAVILY from the gameplay.


Not to mention, itís pretty difficult to swing the Wii remote around like a sword and still successfully use the trigger to target, the directional pad to switch weapons, or press ĎAí to block at the same time. Itíll definitely take some getting used to and will probably hurt your hands.


As you progress, youíll defeat bosses and unlock new dragon weapons. These new weapons are accessed by the directional pad on the controller and all have slightly different fighting styles. The major difference between these weapons and your trusty olí sword is that theyíll consume your Fire Power so they can be used a limited number of times. The first new weapon you will gain is the Dragon Arm. For the most part, this controls similar to your sword, allowing you to slash left and right or up and down, but you can also perform a punch attack by thrusting forward. Youíll later gain a Tail which allows you to toss enemies into the air by moving up, swing your tail around by moving left or right, and whip your tail forward by thrusting forward. The basic controls for the weapons are the same, making Dragon Blade an easy game to catch on to. Despite the similar controls, each weapon in your arsenal provides a slightly different fighting style. The differences arenít tremendous, but each weapon is distinct enough that itíll be more useful in some situations than others. The Dragon Arm, for example, seems to deal more damage and sweeps over a much wider area than your sword. For example, a single swipe with the Dragon Arm may clear an entire room of enemies! Unfortunately, the game never really comes out and tells you the differences between each of the weapons, so youíll pretty much have to decide whatís best to use based on your own judgment. Youíll also gain a Dragon Head form and a Double Arm form as you progress.


Enemies that youíve slain will drop shards that refill your HP and Fire Power. Youíll also occasionally come cross Dragon Statues that can be destroyed to refill HP and Fire Power. Your screen displays a blue Health meter and a red Fire Power meter. Fire Power refills automatically if you wait and is used up whenever you use a special weapon. If your Fire runs out, you canít use your special weapons and will often be unable to defeat tough bossesÖ so be sure to conserve! By hacking away at enemies, youíll begin a chain of attacks. After the seventh hit in a chain, you will gain a brief speed and Fire Power bonus, which can be a really handy little boost if you use it at the right time.


If you take the time to seek them out, youíll also gain Armor Shards that increase Dalís Armor. Every six of these shards grants you a new piece of armor, and there are a total of 4 pieces of armor to collect. The first item you will gain is some nifty dragon boots. There are also Monuments in the game that increase your Max HP and attack when you hack at them. Like the Armor shards, you will have to seek them out, so be sure not to miss them. These features add a little bit of RPG-upgrading to the game, so itís not all just the tiring swinging of the remote, but itís not nearly enough depth to satisfy fans of the genre. On the positive side, you can always go back and replay levels to try and get the Armor Shards or Monuments if you miss themÖ the question is, do you really want to?


Aside from swinging your Wii remote around like crazy, you can also lock on to enemies, jump, switch targets, dodge roll, and block attacks. Honestly, thereís not a lot of depth here. Essentially, youíll basically swing the Wii remote around aimlessly and slay hordes of enemies. The only real strategy is choosing which weapon to use, but your limited Fire Power will often force you to stick with your plain old Blade.


The game features a variety of enemies for you to do battle with, including bats, spiders, wolves, minotaur, lizard men, and an array of fantasy beasts. As I mentioned earlier, youíll also be doing battle with some rather large and epic dragons, which are by far the coolest of the gameís baddies. Youíll often find yourself swarmed by mass amounts of enemies that youíll have to fight your way through. Itís always satisfying to beat down a crowd of foes, but itís even more satisfying when youíre involved in the action with the Wii remote. Unfortunately, itís very easy to get pinned in a corner by enemies, who will beat you down every time you try to get upÖ resulting in your imminent demise.


As you progress in the game, you will reach checkpoints that allow you to continue from that location if you die. Unfortunately, you have a limited number of continues, so use them wisely. Otherwise youíll find yourself starting back at the beginning of a stage. Worst of all, youíll often find yourself having to repeat entire stages from the start after you run into the tough boss at the end. I was really frustrated to see that there is no saving in levels during gameplay. Instead, you must complete an entire level in order to save. Itís not a big deal because most levels are short, but if youíre struggling with a level, itís always annoying when you canít save your progress. The frustrating controls and camera will probably result in you dying and having to replay entire levels many more times than youíd like. In reality, Dragon Blade is a fairly difficult game... but for all the wrong reasons. It's not a game that requires a lot of skill or strategy, and instead is difficult only because of the crappy controls and high level of patience you'll need in order to finish the game.


Thereís actually some enjoyment to be had here. I mean, dragons are cool, right? And who hasnít yearned for a Wii game where you can wield the remote as a mystical sword? Unfortunately, the fun is mauled by extraordinarily frustrating controls. If you're a Wii fan desperate for a fantasy adventure, it might be worth a rental.


Final Grade: 55%




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