Dragon Spirit
Box Shot
Dragon Spirit
Platform: NES
Publisher: Bandai
Designer: Bandai
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1990
Reviewed by: Matt Hull

With so many shooters for the NES, this is one that has probably been passed up by many people. However, it's one whale of a game! Bandai converted this arcade hit to the NES and the game maintains pretty much everything that was in the arcade version. As many of you know, Bandai also made the great game Monster Party.

The game engine is the same as other shooters except that you scroll vertically throughout the whole game. (it resembles Gun*Nac in this way) However, you control a dragon instead of a spaceship which is pretty intuitive! You must blast your way through 9 stages and rescue your sister and her maids from the evil Zawel (a demon with a bad attitude.) At first, you start with a standard single shot fire blast but can build up to a three-headed flame breathing monster! There are pods spread on the ground and flashing enemies that will yield you powerups when hit. You can bomb the ground with the A button and blast with the B button. The weapon system is super in Dragon Spirit. You can get items that will increase firepower, add another head to your dragon, (which allows you to have 2 or 3 blasts of fire) make you faster, etc... One item causes there to be an earthquake and all the enemies on the ground are defeated automatically! There is also an item that causes two "ghost" dragons to come by your side (like the Options in Gradius and Life Force) and blast away. However, there is the Skull item that you want to avoid like the plague (it takes your power away.)

The difficulty system is one of the most innovative I've ever seen. You control a King of the past (who is in dragon form) and fight the evil demon Zawel. If you beat him, you go on to play the game in the Blue Dragon mode which is the normal mode. If you lose, you play the Gold Dragon mode which is an easier, shorter mode. I believe that the ending in the Blue Dragon mode is better (I haven't beat the Gold Dragon mode yet.)

Yet another innovative feature of Dragon Spirit is when you rescue the maids at the end of each stage. If you have "fulfilled" certain things, the maid will be visible (a maid is grey and hasn't materialized is you haven't fulfilled certain standards) and can help you out. As far as what you must fulfill, I presume that it's something like not dying in a stage or beating a boss quickly.

One great thing about Dragon Spirit is that it has codes for both a Sound Test and Stage Select. Every shooter should have this features. The graphics in the game are very well done. They are colorful, detailed, and add atmosphere to the game. The animation is great also as it seems to be "smooth." The dragons and enemies look very good with detailed features.

The music is where the game really shines. I was VERY impressed when I first heard the music of that first stage. It was relaxing yet had a good beat to it. Throughout the game, you'll hear some GREAT music. The first, third, and sixth stage themes are my favorites. The musicial score in Dragon Spirit earns a high mark from me. Controlwise, I really don't have any complaints. You start out rather slow but the speed up item takes care of that. Certain items give you automatic fire which is a big plus for any shooter.

The game is challenging yet it doesn't really frustrate game players. (a good thing) There are many obstacles such as the walls of stage 5 and the ice structures in that fast part of stage 6. Some of the enemies are tough to avoid too and the bosses are rather difficult! Although challenging, the game is very fun with a good storyline. I like the innovative features of selecting difficulty and the secret Sound Test and Stage Select codes. This is a shooter than no NES fan should miss.