Today’s Way Back Wednesday is one that I never saw in the arcades, but I’m of a fan of old school side-scrollers so I thought I would give it a go. Released in 1991 in Japan and then United States, The King of Dragons is a side-scrolling hack and slash game with role playing game elements. You are given the option to pick your player, as there are different ones to choose from. The usual band of rag tag stereotypical characters are present and I went with what I always go with, the mage.
What I didn’t know about this game is that it was 16 levels long, but each level is about 5 minutes long and that’s including the boss battle. The story is that you are on your way to defeat a dragon and on the way there you get mandatory side quests, which is the reason there are so many levels. Most enemies are two hit kills and you do gain experience and levels, but you do so at the end of the level so the next levels enemies are just as strong as you. I never understood why you leveled up at the end of a level only to be on the same power level or a little below for the next levels enemies, I found that it was more to make the player feel good than really do any good in the game. The one thing that does happen is your attack changes from a fireball to an eventual flame, but the range is the same so you can’t really tell if your attack is doing anymore damage than it would normally would do. You also have the ability to jump, but I never found any platforming areas, it was more used as way to do damage while avoiding an attack.
As I mentioned the levels are all pretty short and even though there’s a time limit you seem to finish the level with plenty of time left. Throughout the level there are treasure chests and vases to break, some contain jewels that give experience, fruit for health, enemies or floating balls that if hit can cause damage to everyone on the screen. I learned that you could just keep pushing that ball from screen to screen until you hit an area with a lot of enemies and then do damage to all of them.
The enemies are pretty easy to kill and I do like the fact that you can shoot projectiles that are launched at you. You’ll notice that there are the same characters but given different skin color, which is a tactic still used in current games. Regardless of the name you don’t get to ride a dragon, but you do fight a few and then the eventual last boss which is essentially Smaug from Lord of the Rings.
The game seemed long, but it was fun. I would have liked it to be less than 16 levels, but this was sent to arcades first and the point was to get as much money as possible. I recently found out that later it was ported to the Super Nintendo and later on Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 2 on the Playstation 2 and Xbox in 2006. If you get a chance and have someone to play with, I would say give this game a try.