05/05/2022

Dragon View Breathes Fire on the SNES


Dragon Brawl

By Jared Petty

Another week, another SNES cartridge. That’s life here at Limited Run Games. In between the Switch and PlayStation releases, we get the chance to publish some fantastic cartridge recreations, reissues, and original games for classic consoles. Today’s highlight is a tale of sword and sorcery for ye old Super Nintendo Entertainment System that we’re guessing you missed out on the first time around.

Dragon View is the sequel to the first SNES RPG, Drakkhen, a weird and eerie hodgepodge of neat ideas, random encounters, striking imagery, and bizarre design. Drakkhen is a visually striking game on SNES, a pre-Super FX chip foray into 3D. Its aesthetic is part Starfox, part Hard Drivin’, and part CRPG, and it’s a beautiful, fun, fascinating mess.

Drakkhen thrives on stunning, brutal, unapologetic obduracy. Why does the giant cat head rise from the earth and disintegrate the party with laser eyes? Who knows? Who cares? It’s awesome. It’s a guide game of the first order, absolutely requiring regular references to a FAQ to make sense of the vast open world and its opaque puzzles. Still, the journey is just so darn wacky and interesting. It’s really unlike anything else you’ll ever play.

Despite its 16-bit 1994 vintage, Dragon View (Super Drakkhen in Japan) draws inspiration from the 8-bit era of sequels that weren’t afraid to significantly deviate from their source material. Castlevania 2 kept whips and Dracula but transformed from a linear brawler/platformer into an open-ended proto-Metroidvania adventure. Zelda 2 remade itself from a top-down action-adventure into a side-scrolling action-RPG complete with an experience point system, magic spells, and customizable stats. And Mario 2 USA wasn’t even a Mario game to start—although it turned out to be a fantastic one!

Dragon View embraces that same philosophy. There are still Drakkhen elements at work: the 3D outdoor exploration sections remain, as does the split-screen display that uses the upper half of the monitor to depict the action and the lower half to show relevant stats. But the core combat and much of the exploration have been vastly retooled.

The strange, semi-automated RPG combat of Drakkhen is replaced by a fluid side-scrolling brawler approach. Wander the world and bump into an enemy, and the art style and camera shift from first-person 3D to third-person 2D. The combat becomes something like Golden Axe, Tower of Doom, or Shadow Over Mystara… walk to the side and kill things like a medieval Final Fight. Find treasures, level up, explore, and battle big-ol’ monsters.

It’s smooth, pretty, and colorful. Creatures and environments are creative and gorgeously tendered. You’ve got uppable stats, magic spells, and weapons you can switch out. When a fight ends, it’s back to the 3D map until you enter a major location like a town, where you collect info, visit shops, and do other RPG things. You’ll also explore dungeon-type areas where you’ll fight through extensive 2D levels battling myriad monsters.

Dragon View is in almost every way a better game than its prequel and a nifty, fun experiment in action RPG design. It really does have a bit of a Zelda 2 thing going on, although it’s not as punishing as that famously-frustrating sequel. If you find yourself longing for a solid SNES game you never got around to playing, this one will grab and hold your attention. Dragon View is a grand experiment that gets a whole lot right.

Limited Run Games:

the industry leader in the production and distribution of premium physical video games. Founded in 2015, they have published over 1,000 physical games and soundtracks in addition to winning a number of awards for their bespoke Collector’s Editions. Limited Run is the gold standard in bringing digital games to physical form for casual fans and collectors alike. Visit limitedrungames.comfor the latest offerings, or follow the brand on your social media platform of choice for all LRG-related updates:@limitedrungames.

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