Ah, Capcom. One of the giants of the arcade gaming scene of old. And one of the heavyweights in the belt scroller beat ‘em up genre too. They cemented themselves as such with classic games such as Final Fight, Aliens vs. Predator, Warriors of Fate, and even a couple Dungeons and Dragons inspired games.
Prior to D&D, Capcom put out The King of Dragons in 1991, which can be thought of as a sort of proto-D&D game. The premise and story are simple: an evil red dragon, Gildiss, has awakened and is now causing havoc in the land of Malus. You and up to three friends take the role of a party of fantasy heroes in a quest to gather treasure, powers, and defeat Gildiss.
The Adventure Begins
Game play wise, King of Dragons is pretty simple. The game uses your typical 8 Way Joystick and two buttons: attack and jump. Pressing the two buttons shoots out a special magic attack that drains your HP. You can also block with shield characters by moving the joystick right before you get hit.
What’s interesting is that each of the five characters has their own classes, complete with stats, advantages, and disadvantages:
- Ravel the Elf is the fastest and has the longest range given he uses a bow and arrows. But he has a slow jump, never gets more armor, and has low attack and defense. But getting better bows and arrows increases his attack power and speed of his arrows.
- Leger the Wizard has the lowest HP and a slow attack speed that never increases. He does get some defense upgrades, but he has the strongest magic attack and his normal magic attacks slowly get more powerful. By the end of the game, Leger is one of the heaviest hitters.
- Derek the Fighter has the most HP and second-best attack power. He’s got the best speed and power out of the other shield characters (Cleric & Dwarf), and has a fast and high jump. But he has the weakest magic stats.
- Aldo the Cleric is slow and only has small hops for jumps, but he’s got the best defense. And he levels up faster than the others! On top of that, he recovers the quickest after blocking.
- Vargas the Dwarf is small, with a quick attack and good speed. He’s got a long jump, the second-best defense, but low magic power and the worst range.
Personally, I like playing Wizard the most. While he’s slow and has low HP, getting to his endgame and decimating opponents with his powerful spells is great. Though Fighter can be fun too, namely because of his good speed and high HP. Plus there’s a trick you can do where you hold forward and repeatedly attack.
Lets you attack at a slightly faster speed than normal.
A Tale of Adventure
The game does have a plot, as mentioned above it’s simply that the evil red dragon Gildiss woke up and caused mayhem, and now you gotta stop him.
There are some plot advancements given throughout the game, such as a soldier telling you about attacking monsters. There’s even a magic tree that talks! The game’s attract mode also has a couple scenes where characters tell you about the chaos happening in what looks like a tavern.
Can’t have fantasy quests without taverns!
There’s also lots, and I mean lots of fantasy baddies to do battle with. You got orcs, wolfmen, wyverns, slimes, giant spiders, and more. There are even some humans(!) that do the bidding of Gildiss!
Bosses are great too, big huge fantasy beasts to take down. You got a giant rock-throwing cyclops, an orc king, wyverns, a black knight, and more! Gildiss himself is an epic showdown – he’s so huge all you are his legs and tail, one claw, and his neck and head. He’ll fly up and stomp down on the battlefield, sending treasures raining down in the foreground. Epic!
There’s a decent amount of places you’ll travel to as well. A ship attacked by mermen, dark woods where lizard men, slime and skeletons roam, large battlefields, and dark caves and dungeons. Each have their own distinct look, and are brought to life with a great, vivid color palette. The map itself is huge and expansive and for once…you don’t just stick to traveling to the right.
The Bard’s Pick of Song
Sound-wise, KoD rocks. The sound effects are great, and by the end of the game “HOOOO!” will be stuck in your brain – the characters do this whenever they level up or get back up after losing a life.
Swords swing and clash, skeleton bones break, magic pounds and thunders the battlefield, and monsters cry out as they fall to your onslaught. KoD has that classic Capcom sound design that makes the game a joy to listen to.
Yoko Shimomura of Kingdom Hearts fame does the music for this game. And it doesn’t disappoint – each track adds to the epic fantasy quest that you’re embarking on. Personally I like the Character Select and Main Theme (the stage 1 music) the most but hey – no track in the game disappoints.
The music is excellent, epic, and another point to Capcom knowing how to really dish out some fine tunes.
Another addition to Capcom’s classic collection of beat ‘em ups. If you like fantasy and beat ‘em ups, don’t pass on The King of Dragons. Or if you like good games. Or just fantasy. Or just beat ‘em ups.
It’s one I still pop in every now and then and enjoy. And the variety of characters really give you different play styles and experiences to learn and get good at. Seriously Wizard and Elf make it more of a run and gun type game whereas Fighter invokes that classic skull smashing beat ‘em up feel.
The only way to play is to either get the SNES version or buy the Capcom Beat ‘em Up Bundle, which actually includes both English and Japanese versions.
(You can also do emulators but…do that at your own risk).
So what are you waiting for? Get your golden tokens, insert ‘em, and go loot some treasure!
If you want to see the game in action, check out my gaming alter-ego Razzle having a whack at it: