BADGP Reviews: Crimson Dragon
Crimson Dragon (Grounding Inc., Microsoft)
Released: November 22, 2013
January 22, 2014
Review: Gameplay is King, Especially When on a Dragon
Panzer Dragoon is a series that began on the SEGA Saturn in 1995. After a couple of sequels and skipping the 7th generation of consoles, a spiritual successor to the rail shooting franchise emerged in the form of Crimson Dragon as a day one downloadable for the Xbox One. The game was originally planned to be a Kinect game for the Xbox 360 that would make it remarkably similar to Ubisoft’s Child of Eden or Twisted Pixel’s The Gunstringer. That skeleton remains, but the game handles nicely with a controller. The creator of the first three Panzer Dragoon games, Yukio Futatsugi, and composer of Saga and Orta, Saori Kobayashi returned for Crimson Dragon. The pedigree raised expectations, and the game has received mixed reviews. After a couple of patches that affect the handling and in-game economy have made it better overall experience.
What is Crimson Dragon?
Crimson Dragon is an on-rails shooter where the player takes flight on a dragon that may be equipped with up to two customizable weapon types. Dragons may be upgraded through RPG-like experience and by being fed different types of “meat” that can award additional experience or moves. Dragons level up, can change types, and possess the ability to evolve into stronger dragons.
The story begins with a flyer that has a special connection with dragons, and is recruited to a resistance movement who is fighting against an infection called “crimson scale.” Crimson scale is making formerly docile creatures and dragons feral, aggressive, and dangerous. The player is tasked with uncovering the disease’s origins and the mystery surrounding it. To avoid spoilers, I’ll only say that the resolution is nothing short of ridiculous. If the game did a better job of getting the player invested in the story, this would have proved more frustrating. This could be attributed to the game’s long and boring introductory sequence, and the game’s poor presentation and menus. It is also necessary to mention the microtransactions that are within the game that are tied to unlocking items faster. In my opinion, the pricing is insane, but due to the rebalancing of the in-game economy after several patches made me never need or want to spend additional money while playing Crimson Dragon.
Crimson Dragon looks like a high end Xbox 360 game. The game’s use of color in the jungle levels and interesting enemy designs more than make up for the lack of technical bravado present within the game. The main theme of the game is good and memorable, but the rest of the music did not leave much of an impact.
How Does it Play?
Crimson Dragon does not take many risks with its on-rail natured gameplay. This could be a remnant of its Kinect-only past. There is a dodge mechanic, the player can alternate between two different weapons, there is the wingman system, and there are some elemental enemies to keep track of while playing. There are four elemental types of attacks that have strengths and weaknesses. The player may only equip two different types at once, but the player may also recruit a wingman that may cover the remaining two types if necessary. Wingmen are controlled by simply pressing forward and backward on the directional pad and will attack ahead of or behind the player.
Moves, revives, and upgrades are unlocked through a lottery chest system that is identical to that of Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer. The player may buy varying levels of chests that contain different types of randomized items. The best packs are unlockable only by the spending of gems. Gems are earned by completing at least one of the three challenges in every level or buy purchasing them with real money.
The starting dragon is cumbersome and feels as though it handles poorly, but other dragons that may be unlocked have differing stats and strengths. I was only able to max one dragon with a full playthrough of the game’s levels. This leads to Crimson Dragon’s greatest strength, its replayability. With many dragons to train up and evolve, there is a lot to do in Crimson Dragon even if it means playing the levels over and over; leaderboard chasing is always fun.
Crimson Dragon is a fun game and far better than some other Xbox One launch titles. It may not be as good as the magnificent Panzer Dragoon Orta, but it has been so long since an excellent dragon-based rail-shooter has hit the market, and Crimson Dragon certainly scratches that itch. Crimson Dragon lives up to legacy, but does not surpass it. The core gameplay is sound and entertaining, chasing the high scores of friends and using their dragons as wing mates is satisfying, and the replayability is off the charts. All this combines to make a great rail-shooting experience. If one enjoyed Child of Eden, The Gunstringer, or even Star Fox 64, Crimson Dragon is worth checking out.
7.9 out of 10