Music and fighting games both sit within genres that have firm, sometimes obsessive, fans, and yet they are at opposite ends of the gaming spectrum in some respects. Music fans love a bit of experimentation - one reason why the quirky Rhythm Tengoku is considered one of the best of its ilk by many, ourselves included - whereas it could be said that fighting fans are not the biggest supporters of change. The two, then, would make an odd and interesting combination, don't you think? Dimps seemed to think so too...
Well, that's what they'd like you to believe. Sadly, for all Draglade's reference to rhythm the musical side of things amounts to very little, only really being used as a special move known as the Beat Combo. Nope, Draglade moves more toward being a simplistic fighting game instead, complete with some RPG-lite sections. With a warrior of your choosing you traipse through linear stories in order to become a Master Grapper, grapping being the name for what the little chaps and chapattis are doing when they're fighting; named because they have funny little devices (G-Cons) that give them the strength to fight and also materialise their weapons, Glades, y'see. No, we're not sure how it manages to come to the name 'grapping', either. Don't let threats of linearity put you off straight away, however, as as everybody should know by now, there is still pleasure to be found in the simple things.
Basically, Draglade boils down to wandering about numerous 2D-scrolling towns, talking to random people who generally babble unnecessary/boring things and, most importantly, finding places to test your skills, while story sequences will pop in frequently. Really, though, it's all a bit of a flimsy outfit for the meat of the game: what else but the scrapping itself? Again, this is nothing overcomplicated and quite a basic affair. You've got your standard weak and strong attacks that are modified by holding directions, your jump and block buttons, and A playing the role of the special attack button. This is where things get a bit more interesting...
Special moves come in the form of 'bullets', little crystals that are slotted into the cheesily named Dragon Sequencer (DS, ho ho...) which sends data for these moves to your G-Con. With each of these bullets comes a new technique that can be used in battle, be it a quick and easy fireball, a devastating tornado or the ability to temporarily borrow a trick from the Invisible Man. There are one hundred of these to gather by winning battles or purchasing them with money earned by...winning battles, and they each belong to an element such as water or fire. As you fight, your equipped bullets are displayed on the touch screen in two columns: active moves and stock moves. Your active moves are used with a push of A, A and up or A and down, but you can switch out one of your active moves for a stock one at any time with a quick jab of the desired stock move on the touch screen. You can do this as much as you like, effectively giving you six special moves available for each match. You can only use them when there is enough juice in your special meter, though, which is constantly recharging and charges rapidly if you combine your special moves with smatterings of physical assaults. Each of the specials has a different amount of energy required, so you can't expect to pull off multiple massive moves in a row without giving a little recovery time between them. It's a fun way to deal with specials, meaning you don't have to mess with fiddly button combos to unleash the fury, and also offers a massive amount of customisation as you strive to find your perfect set of moves. Do you opt for a selection of quick, easy and energy-cheap moves to allow you to smother your foe with a constant barrage, go for big moves that will consume power like nothing else but also eat chunks of health with rapid abandon, or do you play the strategist and fill the slots with healing moves and rely on your fists? Are you a short range fighter or a projectile fanatic? It is this approach to special moves (as well as Beat Combos) that gives Draglade its appeal.
Beat Combos are the sole part of Draglade that could be considered musical and, while good, we feel that the talk of the game has been far too focused on them, which led us to believe we'd be getting a more eclectic game than this. Pushing that gripe to the side, these Combos are also special moves in battle but activated differently, and you can only have one available for use per match (which can be used limitlessly, but takes up your entire specials meter in one fell swoop). Hit L and a tiny row of icons will appear at the bottom of the screen, which you must tap out in time with their scrolling with the weak attack button. As you do this a note plays out with every hit to create a little tune and pours out some nasty damage to your victim. You can buy extra ones as with bullets, but the best bit? You can compose your own. With some work we reckon you could be finishing off your enemies to a few recognisable notes of just about any tune you could think of. Sadly no music guides have popped up on the Internet yet, contrary to what we thought would happen, so our dream of finishing a bad guy off with a flourish of U Can't Touch This or anything else from our cheesy music folder will have to wait for another day. Maybe one of you can make a guide. Go on. Please.
Draglade is not the musical fighting carnival we expected, and so we're disappointed with it in that regard. It is, however, a decent attempt at a simple but solid fighting title, and the masses of customisation means it could last a while. It's all online as well, so if you hop on there you're doing to bump into some interesting fighters; nobody's move sets are likely to be exactly the same, so everything has a nice unpredictable edge that makes it well worth a play online. We'll cross our fingers for a sequel that builds on the battles and adds more musical elements to proceedings.
Solid but simplistic. A nice entry point for fighting games, but we'd have liked more rhythm content and less linear RPG.
Some lovely animation, and the characters' sprites are great. Backgrounds aren't, though, and some of the character close-ups are dreadful.
Not very memorable. The best bit of sound is when you make your own Beat Combos.
Stories are short, but there are four characters' worth with some extra characters to unlock. Loads of customisation and online play give longevity.
Draglade screams of missed potential. As it is, it's decent enough and worth a go to mess with the plethora of options, especially if you're after an uncomplicated fighter, but we wish it had lived up to the overly-advertised musical side more.
You don't ave a DS?
This game looks cool!
(Soz about my grammar, using Opera Mini.)