They had it coming.
RELEASE DATE: January 1992
No game wants to be saddled with the name Dragon Fighter. It sounds like a cheap Street Fighter II knock-off or an early 90s television show a la “Beast Master.” Either way, it’s a terribly bland name. Thankfully, Dragon Fighter surprises with its solid combat, fantastic graphics, and derivative, yet enjoyable music. There’s nothing in Dragon Fighter that hasn’t been done better in other games, but it’s still worth a playthrough. The gameplay is vaguely Ninja Gaiden-esque with a hint of Mega Man sans blaster. You play as a shapeshifter, a dragon/man hybrid. In your human form, you slash at any and all things with your trusty rapier, but jump up and tap ‘A’ twice and you become a dragon. Your dragon form is powered up by killing lots of enemies. Don’t worry: enemies are plentiful and will fling themselves at you. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, but many of the enemies can be avoided if need be. Once you’re in your dragon form, the game becomes a horizontal shooter, albeit a slow one. Personally, I avoided turning into a dragon until the boss battles. The game functions perfectly well as a side-scroller, and shape-shifting while trying to fend off several enemies at a time often hampered the experience. Dragon Fighter is a one-life-and-that’s-it type of game, but there are codes to boost your health and I highly recommend them. Dragon Fighter doesn’t surprise in any way and sometimes feels like an amalgam of your favorite NES side-scrollers, but when a game gets all the fundamentals right, it feels petty to complain.