Dragon Fighter‘s cover is a beautiful mistake, but the game itself surprises with solid combat, fantastic graphics, and enjoyable music.
You play as a shape-shifter, a dragon/man hybrid. In your human form, you slash at any and all creatures with your trusty rapier. Your dragon powers only take hold when your metamorphosis gauge has been filled. Filling the gauge takes lots of kills, but thankfully, enemies are plentiful and willingly fling themselves at you. Collect colored orbs – green, red, or blue – as they determine what powers both your human and dragon form will have.
Once you’re in your dragon form, Dragon Fighter becomes a horizontal shooter, albeit a slow one. It’s best to turn into a dragon during the boss battles. While the game functions perfectly well as a side-scroller, shape-shifting while trying to fend off several enemies at a time hampers the experience. Also, if your metamorphosis gauge runs out prior to a boss battle, you’ll be forced to fight as a human, making the battle much more difficult.
While not a copy of any one title, Dragon Fighter plays like an amalgam of your favorite NES side-scrollers. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before, but when a game gets all the fundamentals right, complaints feel petty.
PUBLISHER: Sofel DEVELOPER: Natsume
RELEASE DATE: 08/10/90 – (JP), 01/1992 – (US)