Friday, June 17, 2011

Of Import: Dragon-Wang (1985)

Hey, gang!  It's time for a little change-up this week... instead of playing yet another PC Engine title, we have a game for Sega's Japanese SG-1000 console, known in the States as the Sega Master System.  The game, which I had never heard of before finding myself with a copy of my own, is called Dragon-Wang.

Yep, that's the title.  I have this game because one of my favorite import dealers, Game of Japan, sent it along with a recent order as a free gift (see?):

The Sega Master System was a bit more sophisticated than Nintendo's NES, with more colorful graphics, and it supported two different media formats -- a larger-capacity cartridge, and a small credit-card sized format similar to Hudson's PC Engine card.  (See?  I still have to mention the PC Engine a couple of times every Friday.)  This is a card-format game that would not have seemed out of place on the American Colecovision a few years earlier -- let's see what we can do with our newly acquired Dragon-Wang!

The game plays much like Irem's coin-op Kung Fu Master, released on the NES by Nintendo as Kung Fu.  Our hero, using his onscreen hiphop name D-Wang, must fight off a variety of enemies using only his kicks, punches, and...

Just kidding... in the screenshot above, the knife-throwing enemy on the right has whipped a dagger at Dragon-Wang's waistline, and my capture timing was comically fortuitous.  No, we must duck or jump over the thrown daggers until we get close enough to take him out, just like in Kung Fu Master.  Then we can leap up through gaps in the ceiling -- the multi-level layout is a new feature here -- and jump over the trap doors revealed when we walk on them the first time to reach the level boss.  The first level is controlled by Nunchan, who, appropriately, wields nunchaku:

And he's just a mini-boss -- when Dragon-Wang defeats him, he turns into (or drops, more credibly) a key, and attacks from the regular cast of enemies resume.  We have to fight three of these bosses, apparently, before we can finish the Round.  Fortunately, our hero's energy bar gets refilled when he grabs the key, leading to a classic risk/reward video game scenario in cases like this:

We can explore the level and pick up the three keys in any order... as we climb higher, the enemies seem to get tougher, so it makes more sense to start with Bosoh, a stick-wielding assassin, on the bottom floor.  Or, um, maybe not:

Dragon-Wang is a derivative but simple and fun action game -- there's some strategic depth to it when dealing with the tougher enemies and plotting a course to victory, and the colorful cartoon graphics and jaunty music plant it squarely in the 8-bit tradition.  I'm glad to have had this chance to play it; it's another one of those Japanese games that inexplicably never made it to market in the US, where I'm sure it would have found an audience.

Plus, I would have loved to see American department-store Santas puzzling over Christmas wish lists containing the mysterious item: Dragon-Wang.

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