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SummaryThe future doesn't look good for LA
The GoodIn the late Eighties, a small company called Dynamix created Project Firestart, an action/adventure game for the Commodore 64. It had features that were uncommon at the time, including cinematic sequences, video images, and action sequences. All three of these game mechanics formed the basis for Rise of the Dragon, their first MS-DOS adventure game.
Anyone who have seen Blade Runner will know that Dragon shares many similarities with the movie, in both story and style. The only difference is that we are investigating what happened to the mayor's daughter, not tracking down Replicants who pose a threat to society. Maybe it is also a coincidence that your character is also named Blade, and that the game is set in Los Angeles?
The games makes use of an internal clock, which updates every five seconds and is on the top-right of the screen, above your inventory. Like in real life, events happen at certain times. The inventory also has a clock, but with buttons that let you go forward a minute or a whole hour. Having these forward buttons is ideal for skipping time because you spend most of the time doing nothing until near the end of the game. Dragon is the only Dynamix adventure game where a clock is visible on-screen as you interact with the environment. The graphics are quite impressive. All of the environments look as if they are taken right out of a comic book. The only difference is the animations in most of the environment, some of them, particularly the outdoor environments, blend in with the game's setting (ie: it is always dark and gloomy, no matter where you go or what time of day it is). Beautiful cinematic sequences are scattered throughout the game, and tell the player that something really big is happening. The game's introduction – where we discover what happened to the Mayor's daughter – is superb. Dragon comes complete with a comic book that continues where the introduction left off, where the mayor comes into Blade's apartment instead of contacting him on vidphone.
The realism the developers added to the game is amazing. Nearly everyone you meet remembers what you did to them. There are dialogue branches, and saying the wrong things to your contacts will result in them getting angry, which will jeoparize your chances of getting new leads. Character portraits often accompany the dialogue, and they are complete with facial expressions that reflect the mood they are in.
The music and the sound effects are great, often blending in with what is happening on screen. The game supports popular sound cards at the time, including the Adlib, SoundBlaster, and Roland MT-32. The introduction even contains digitized speech that can only be heard if you are playing with SB. In my opinion, the game's speech is nothing compared to what you hear in the Sega CD version, which does include full speech throughout the game as well.
There are arcade sequences scattered throughout the game, and these are similar to the action scenes in Project Firestart, released one year earlier. These arcade sequences are fun, but the controls need to be getting used to. They also work just like any arcade game – you shoot, jump over things, walk under things, turn off switches, and other stuff. They usually take about two minutes to get through, and it is worth it if you want to see yourself defeat your adversary. If these arcade sequences are too hard, then the game will eventually let you skip them and move on. Dragon gives you the opportunity to save your game before each arcade sequence, and this is ideal if you want a break from all that adventuring and just want to kill some bad guys.
The game can be replayed, especially if you want to take different dialogue branches to achieve the same result. For example, you can cheer your girlfriend Karyn up by giving her some flowers in one game to get a set of keys. Then, in your next game, you can make her angry and still get your keys. Let's say you skip those arcade sequences in one game, but you want to complete them in the next. There are also those alternate paths you need to consider to achieve what you need to do.
The BadAs I said, you spend a lot of time doing nothing in the game, and the developers could have added more stuff for you to do. Why not do extra stuff at the warehouse instead of just blowing it up, or doing more stuff at other locations?