Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire
June 20, 2007 - With the ever-growing popularity of Wii, ported over Wii-make titles are beginning to be replaced by full-fledged original content for Nintendo's motion-sensing system. We're seeing tremendous support from some of the larger publishers in the industry, as well as the trickling of smaller dev houses that bring in original content that sneaks in under our radar.Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fireis one of those games. Shown off for the first time at D3 Publisher's pre-E3 show last week, Dragon Blade is a Wii-exclusive action adventure game that promises to make full use of its system exclusivity. It may not be as deep as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but the game is showing tremendous promise even in its alpha stage.
Along with a hands-on demo of the game, D3 was able to show off a few of the finer points of Dragon Blade through a multi-level demo. Dragon Blade follows a young adventurer who seeks six legendary pieces of the "Dragon Blade," each infused with the soul of different guardian dragons. In an attempt to build the ultimate weapon and vanquish evil, the young Link-like protagonist embarks on a quest to find and seal away each of the six dragons, taking their souls and abilities in the process.
Rather than going for a full-fledged adventure style game, developer Land Ho (most known for the staff's work in the Panzer Dragoon series) opted for a straightforward action title instead, so gamers get Wii motion coupled with all-out battle a la God of War. Granted the action isn't quite as fierce as Sony's legendary battler, but the Wii motion lends itself well to straight dual-handed combat. Sam Guilloud, product manager for D3 Publisher of America spoke on the team's influence for Dragon Blade, stating that, "We really want the player to have an arcade experience by just getting involved in the game. We want them to feel like they're the ones kicking ass, rather than spending too much time looking for 'jars of honey,' playing mini-games, or doing side quests. It's about getting them involved in the game, and letting them really take it to the enemies. There's really not a lot of content on the Wii that's actually 'action-oriented.' There's a ton of family games and casual games, a lot of sports titles and first-person shooters, but there isn't really a good hack-'n-slash game that lets people go nuts and really kick ass."
As with any Wii-exclusive design, the real make-or-break aspects lie in the control. With Dragon Blade, it's all about using the Wii remote and nunchuk as your two hands, teamed with the B button for lock-on and the traditional jump and dash actions intertwined. Basic sword control (your main form of combat) is handled with specific motion swipes, so attacking left or right is as simple as swinging left or right, and uppercuts or slams are done with a simple stroke up or down. Also included is a thrust attack similar to Twilight Princess, executed with a simple jab forward.
Where the game earns its stripes, however, is in the actual dragon attacks, unlocked after each boss has been defeated. Included in the list are dragon head, arm, tail, and double arm. Each of these attacks - activated by D-pad - engage huge fire powers in their specific body area. When dragon head is activated, a gigantic fire-breathing noggin appears above your fighter. A simple jab forward fires one (or multiple, if powered up) fireball projectile. In the case of arm and double arm, your hands become gigantic fire claws, and either the Wii remote or combination of nunchuk and remote (in double arm) is used to pull off gigantic, sweeping attacks. Clap the two controllers together and your character smashes his arms out in front of him. Lift up and slam down with your arms and you'll pull off a gigantic fire slam.
As for the dragon tail - our favorite of the power-ups by a long shot - your character's sword actually engulfs in flames and drops lazily to his side, acting as a Castlevania-like whip. Large sweeping movements and overhead slams make for intricate spinning and flailing attacks as the hero literally rips through enemies from remarkable distances. Of course any of these attacks can be made into a custom combo by switching powers on the fly and using precise Wii-mote actions, and by the end of the 21-level adventure you can pull off some simply stunning attacks on enemies.
Aside from the general combat, we really haven't seen a ton from Dragon Blade as of yet. Each level is essentially a point A-to-B experience, as you run through different regions of an ancient, Asian-inspired world. The 21 levels span six different environments, and while each has its own specific look and feel it's still the same balls-to-the-wall action in every instance. The only main change from baddie-beating lies in the boss battles, which require you to fight against gigantic dragons in some pretty epic bouts. As with any enemy, the lumbering bosses can be locked onto, allowing for easy circle-strafing and more region-appropriate attacks.
After breaking down the monster's defenses bit by bit you'll eventually get kicked into a motion-based finishing move called a Corebreaker that requires different actions to deliver a cinematic finale to the battle. Sam Guilloud once again gave us some design insight into how this all works, explaining that, "Every level has a boss dragon at the end, and each dragon is themed differently. There's a fire dragon, a water dragon, smoke dragon, three-headed dragon... each of the battles are made up of three different sections. You start off with an initial life bar you're trying to drain down, which then leads to an exposed crystal where the dragon draws his power. You'll want to destroy each of the crystals, and then engage the Corebreaker attack to do motion-based finishers." The design seems to work in theory, but we'll have to wait until a later date to see an entire boss battle from start to finish, as the Corebreaker attack has yet to be implemented.
The general look and feel of Dragon Blade is already very promising, even though the game is still in its preliminary state. The graphics could be a bit more vibrant, and characters seem a tad bit low poly for Wii, but once the game gets moving the action and effects kick into gear quite nicely. Above all else, the game plays well, as combos can be strung together using any variety of attacks and power-ups. It's a bit of a one-trick pony, as you'll be ripping through levels in traditional action fashion, but it should be fun while it lasts. On top of that, there's a yet-to-be-seen story written by Richard Knaak (author of various World of Warcraft, Dragonlance, and Diablo II books) that promises to tie the entire adventure together nicely. The game is entirely single player though, so anyone looking for a co-op adventure should look elsewhere. Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire is all about powering up, kicking ass, and using specific, precise Wii gestures in the process.
We'll have more on Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire as we approach E3. The game is currently slated for a late September release, and is Wii exclusive. Be sure check out the first footage of Dragon Blade in action, and keep checking back to IGN Wii for all the latest from D3 Publisher.