🐳 23 years ago: Metal Slug 3 was released!


aka: Dragon Fire, Dragon Treasure

Great graphics and a great challenge, I just wish it had a little something extra.

The Good
As a kid we had a bunch of Atari 2600 cartridges my brother used to buy and trade with friends, but unfortunately we sold most of them after getting our NES clone. The only one that remained is a dual cartridge with Dragonfire and Video Pinball, and Dragonfire was probably one of my favorites in our collection.

For starters, Dragonfire is one of the best looking games for the Atari 2600 in my opinion. The prince and the dragon are well animated, and the dragon sprite is huge by Atari 2600 standards. The game is really colorful, each new stage has a different palette. The items in the treasure room are well drawn and easily recognizable.

Some little details in the programming show how well made this game is. For instance, the distance of the prince's jump depends on if he's standing or running, so jumping a fireball is a lot easier if you're running in its direction. Just as you have acceleration in your movement, so does the dragon. This leads to interesting strategies when trying to clean the treasure room. The dragon starts moving toward you as soon as you leave your shelter, and from the third stage on, it will run and it will take some time to slow down so it can turn the other way once you've passed it. So you can somewhat time your movement to evade the dragon and its fireballs.

The action is fast and the gameplay is really fluid, the controls are easy to learn and not that hard to master. At first you will get burned a lot, specially when trying to leave the shelter in the treasure room, but as soon as you get the handle on how the prince and the dragon move, things get manageable (but not easy!).

The Bad
I wish there was a bit more variety to the game. The game has only two screens and they are always the same: the drawbridge screen is always the same, with the only difference being the color of the castle. There could be different challenges there. As for the treasure room, a faster and more powerful dragon is challenge enough, but the rooms could be a little different also.

Something I don't enjoy much about most Atari 2600 games is that there is no real ending to the game, the main goal is just to reach a high score. This game is one of those, but you can beat it in a way: each new level leads to a new castle with a new dragon in a different color. There are nine different dragons in total, and as soon you get past the white dragon, all the next dragons will be white. So maybe you can consider the game beaten once you got past the first white dragon. But I wish it did have a more clear ending.

Maybe there is no real ending because, as with many other Atari 2600 games, the replay value is a bit low. Unless you want to keep coming back for a higher score, there's no reason to keep playing for long after reaching the 10th stage. I guess Dragonfire burns out fast. =P

There's a bit of a luck factor I don't enjoy. The treasures are randomly placed in the treasure room. This is good to keep the gameplay variety, but sometimes too many items will be placed too close to the center and near the dragon, where it gets really difficult to get them. This is not bad per se, it's just that I feel some games will be harder than others.

The sound is nothing exceptional. Is not that I don't like it, but it could have something more, maybe some celebratory music once you finish a stage. The sound when the prince dies is a little annoying, actually.

The Bottom Line
A beautiful and fast paced game that is a must have for any Atari 2600 owner. It could be a bit more varied and maybe have a true ending, but nonetheless it is a solid title.

by chirinea (46950) on October 11th, 2022

Back to Reviews