|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Dimps Corporation||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 4, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Awesome, adrenaline-pumping music generally tends to spice up a fast-paced video game brawling match, but what if success in battle depended heavily on your ability to hammer away at your opponent in-time to the music? It sounds rather silly, yet that's exactly the strange scenario players will encounter in Draglade on the DS. Atlus certainly doesn't shy away from cranking out slightly unusual niche titles, and Draglade is no exception.
It turns out mixing rhythm gameplay, a special ability collection and trading system, and simple-but-entertaining 2D fighting wasn't a bad idea after all. It's an addictive combination despite the game's otherwise generic anime presentation.
Everything in Draglade revolves around the wild and wonderful world of grapping. In the game, it's introduced as a unique new fighting style that combines a range of standard and elemental attack techniques with music and rhythm. By wearing an electronic wrist device called a G-Con, grappers can summon a special weapon out of the matter in the air around them. These weapons - called glades - take on a unique form to suit the personality and elemental affinity of their user. Grapping has become quite the spectator sport, and all the young grappers in the land have ambitious plans of "going major" by proving their worth in the arena. Before they can make it pro, the fledgling grappers have to pass a series of difficult arena battle tests that pit them against their peers.
For one reason or another, each of the four starting main characters players can choose from will set out on a quest to work their way up the totem pole in order to join the ranks of the grapping elite. Many of the important key encounters in the single player campaign are basically the same regardless of which you choose although each character has their own particular sub-story that plays out as they progress through the game. Additionally, each has an elemental affinity and a unique fighting style to match. In general, the overarching theme of striving to be the best will be a familiar one for many players who've dabbled in Pokémon or other similar anime titles. It's nothing new to be sure. Along the path to glory you'll tussle with more than a fair share of fellow grappers, but the game's story also brings you into melee with more exotic foes. Non-human enemies generally consist of beasts called variants: normal animals that have absorbed an abnormally high level of dark matter. This turns them into large violent creatures, and they can only be saved by being roughed-up remove the excess matter.
Draglade is a fast-paced fighting title, so it should come as no surprise the battle system is the strongest area of the game. The wise decision to keep things simple by sticking with a relatively basic control scheme makes it very easy for players to quickly grasp the range of possible maneuvers without having to input overly complicated button mashing combos. Hitting the Y and X buttons deliver light and hard attacks respectively. Using the d-pad in conjunction with an attack will let you land high blows which can send opponents skyward and low blows which can knock them off their feet. The other face buttons are used to jump and fire off special elemental attacks using "bullets" that can be manually set in your Dragon Sequencer before battle. You can have up to six bullets equipped at one time - three active and three back-ups which can be switched manually in mid-battle - on the touch screen. Bullets allow you to unleash massive fireballs, twisters, laser beams, robotic explosives, and tons of other cool offensive and defensive techniques. Players have a designated health meter, but a separate meter tracks how much energy you have available to power special moves. Using bullet attacks quickly depletes this meter. Fortunately, it will gradually recharge over time, and you can speed up the process by landing a few quick jabs to your adversary. Players will also gain experience from combat and level up frequently which expands their health meter and their special attack meter.
When your special meter is full, you'll be able to let loose with a devastating beat combo. This is where the limited musical rhythm component of the game kicks in. Hitting the L trigger will temporarily activate a small rhythm bar on screen, and the background music will change to a simple steady beat. If you hit a short sequence of attacks in time with the beat and in the proper rhythm, you'll build up a powerful hit combo to wipe out a good chunk of your opponent's health. These attacks also create a musical flourish which spurs the crowd to cheer wildly.