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Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Dimps
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Rhythm/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Sometimes I wonder if anyone, at least in the US, ever thought the whole rhythm-based gameplay thing would really catch on. What began with games like PaRappa the Rapper and Vib-Ribbon eventually led to games like Amplitude, DDR and Rock Band. The downside to the genre's success is that it has become overcrowded, making it harder for games to really stand out. Draglade is a rhythm-based fighting game, which is enough to at least set it apart from other games on the market. However, it has its problems and clearly isn't something for everyone.

For a game that is based around music, I was expecting more from Draglade. The introduction song and some of the in-game tunes are cool enough, though when the music really matters the most, it is forgettable. Judging by the game's concept, I guess I was expecting a little more play between the gameplay and music, similar to the system used in Def Jam Icon. However, the music used during battles and when activating special moves are two separate things; when one stops the other begins. This produces a conceptual disconnect that hurts the game. Although the ability to write your own combos in the Dragon Sequencer is a nice addition, the combo beats can get tiresome.

Visuals are anime-inspired, complete with over-exaggerated emotions and lots of scrolling lines to denote fast-paced action. Were it not for the game's neat concept, it could really pass for just about any other similarly themed game, like Beyblade. Still, the game looks good. Characters are really big and pretty detailed; as are many of the towns and enemies you'll come across in your travels.


As generic as Draglade may look, it brings an awesome hook to the entire experience. Draglade is, at heart, a 2D fighter. Characters are equipped with a device called a G-Con that draws from the environment and generates a unique weapon for whoever holds it. The devices are the key tool to a popular sport called Grapping, which is a mix of weapon-based gladiatorial combat and music performance. This sport plays into each of the four main character's plotlines. One guy wants to be the best while another is escaping his past. Like much of the presentation, the stories are pretty generic and all boil down to each earning a Grapper license and becoming a Major Grapper, who are the superstars of the sport.

In addition to the Story mode, which is really just a bunch of Grapper battles, Draglade also offers two multiplayer modes. Wireless mode lets you battle it out with a friend provided you are sitting nearby. The mode allows for both one- and multi-card play, which is a good thing if you can't find someone else with the game or want to convince someone to buy it (which I was able to do).

Draglade also supports Nintendo WFC (WiFi Connect), so you can take on other Grappers around the world online. Winning online battles earns you points that count towards your position on a nation-wide leaderboard. Online battles are fun and make Draglade a top-tier choice for players looking for a good online fighting game on the DS.

Another cool mode is the Dragon Sequencer, which is a mini-sound studio where you can layout the tracks for your in-game combos. As you play through the Story mode, you'll hear new beats that are added to your stockpile of beats. When entered into the sequencer, you can edit and remix the beats to build new combos to use in battle. If you're feeling particularly creative, you can also try to write out your own beats. Naturally I immediately tried to recreate the hook to several songs. Although combos aren't more than a few seconds in length, the mode is amazingly deep and flexible considering the basic number of tools it includes.


It doesn't take much to get into Draglade, but you really have to play around with the game to really get good at it. Even if you aren't the type of player that typically takes time out to play through tutorials, it is worth the time.

Combat doesn't require the same amount of timing and skill as most fighters; in fact you can easily button-mash your way through a number of early battles. But, as you move up the Grapping ranks, timing becomes a little more important, especially went it comes to knowing when to use your beat combos. Rhythm isn't neccessary, though it does help to have a little if you want to pull off some of the more complicated combos.

Game Mechanics:

Combat is basic and features the same basic setup as most fighting games. You have weak and strong attacks as well as the ability to jump, block and a few special moves. Draglade adds to this by introducing Bullets and beat combos, which are where most battles are won or lost. Bullets are a type of special move that you can purchase in stores in each town. These include projectiles like fireballs and lightning bolts as well as support moves like a healing raindrop. You can bring a total of six Bullets into battle, but only three can be active at any one time. You can, however, switch between Bullets mid-battle using the touch screen. The trick to Bullets is that you can only use them so many times in a battle; so part of the game's strategy is knowing exactly when to use them.

The real fun of Draglade's battle system opens up after pressing (L), which activates the beat combo meter. The meter is basically a DDR-like meter where a series of dots scroll across. The object is to tap the attack button in-time with the beat. Although you can rapidly hit the button and still get some sort of combo out of the attack, you have to match the beat perfectly if you want to get the most out of it. The basic combat system is solid enough, though the beat combos add an enjoyable new twist to everything that is a lot of fun if you can get into it.

If companies weren't willing to try something new, we'd never have games like Phoenix Wright, Cooking Mama or Trauma Center. However, these games aren't for everyone, and Draglade falls safely in that category. Though it may suffer from a few shortcomings, the concept and gameplay are solid enough to make it worth giving a try if you're looking for something new.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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