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Dragon Booster

Score: 78%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Singlecard)
Genre: Racing/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

Dragon Booster is based on the cartoon series of the same name. In both the series and the game, the world uses genetically engineered dragons to race.

The in-game races do a fair job of conveying the style of the series. The environments seem to look like scenes from the show, but during the races, the dragons and riders tend to be a bit small. Although, the basic look of each of the dragon is different enough to keep you from getting mixed up, there is simply no detail in the racers. Instead the dragons look more like green or red or purple blobs running in front of the camera. While in the stables outside of the races (where you go to gear up), the dragons and racers both look just like the cartoon-series partners, but any hope of seeing that kind of detail while actually running around the tracks is lost.

Dragon Booster's background music is okay, but ultimately forgettable. While in a race, it does a good job of furthering the action and keeping up your heartbeat, but by the time you turn off the machine, you quickly forget the music.


Gameplay:

Dragon Booster has several racing modes. All City Races is the Story mode where you and your team of dragon racers will compete in a major tournament. It is here where you will earn passwords (for unlocking content, not saving, thankfully), new dragons, gear and pretty much everything else. This is the meat and bones of the game.

The gear I mentioned above adds a bit of an RPG aspect to this game. This is equipment that you pick up throughout the game. The equipment can be either applied to the dragons or riders. These will do everything from making it easier to see/hit targets or other in-race enhancements.

Free Run lets you just run a race or two without trying to progress the game's Story mode. This is ideal for those quick stints in the car or when you just want to play a single event. Mini Challenge Mode breaks down into two types of challenges. Skills Competition has you trying to hit as many color-coded targets as possible, while Dragon-Human Duel challenges is essentially a single race challenge where you are trying to come out with the most number of points.

Grudge Match is the multi-player aspect. All you need is another person with a DS and the two of you can go head to head in a race. The other player doesn't need a copy of the game either since this game uses the limited Singlecard version of the system's multiplayer capabilities. Training gives you the basic rundown on how to race your dragon. Since this isn't your normal racer and the controls of this game are by no means standard, I highly recommend going through this mode before an other.


Difficulty:

Dragon Booster's difficulty is a mixed bag. It doesn't take much to win most of the races. You can typically take the gold after two or three tries (at most), but the key is choosing the right kind of gear for both you and your dragon.

Why I say it is a mixed bag is because, even though the races themselves are easy, if you want to use your gear to their fullest potential, then you will have to remember several unusual touch-screen commands that will help you take out the other racers. But that control scheme should be brought up in the next section...


Game Mechanics:

...and here we are. Dragon Booster's control scheme is by no means typical for a racer. For one thing, you don't use the face buttons to control speed or braking, for another -- you use the touch pad a lot. You don't really have to deal with turning corners or anything like that. You use the D-Pad to move left and right to avoid things like barricades and holes in the ground. Most of your control comes with tapping the touch screen (where the race is happening).

Tapping on your dragon with your stylus causes him to jump, while tapping on other targeted items (like other racers or energy bars) causes the rider to reach out and hit/capture the targeted object. Your rider is magnetically attached to the dragon and that magnetic connection is one of your weapons against other riders.

Being quick with your stylus finger is one of the keys to doing well with this game. Not only will you need to keep your finger nimble to hit your opponents, but by sliding a bar on the right side of the screen up and down, your dragon will either speed up or slow down. The faster your dragon goes, the more stamina it uses up -- so the speed will have to be closely monitored. Like I said, this is a very unusual control scheme, and it's something that could definitely not have been done on any other system.

If you have gear attached to your dragon, then once you have collected enough energy, you can tap a small icon at the bottom of the screen to activate the equipped gear.

Dragon Booster is a fun game, most of the time. It's unusual control scheme is tough to get used to, but once you get past the learning curve, it can get enjoyable. But it is a very frustrating game until you get to that point.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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