A musical fighting game? No, no one gets "served," unfortunately. But Draglade's still pretty cool.
OK, so are you ready for something a little different when it comes to your gaming tastes? Well, Atlus is just the chef to prepare a gourmet feast for you. Its latest offering for the Nintendo DS, Draglade, is definitely out there when it comes to approach. The game has a formula similar to that of the Beyblade and even the Pokemon games, taking a spry young youth and driving him down a path of glory as a Heavy Grapper (no, not a Grappler, a Grapper - I guess he's good at, um, grapping). However, its approach is what's the payoff here.
The game's a routine brawler for the most part. You start off by choosing from one of four Grapping would-bes and leading them down the path to successful Grapping - or, in this case, arena fighting. They'll encounter a number of various opponents, including some weird-looking opponents that take a lot of damage. Fortunately, they have some weak and heavy attacks to pull off, along with a few other techniques. Most of the story's bland, with no real spark behind it. The characters aren't diverse enough either - you won't spend a great deal of time caring about who they are or what their motivations are.
However, Draglade offers some spark in the gameplay department. You're given access to both "beat combos" and "bullets". With "bullets", you can set up healing and offensive attacks on the bottom touch screen, shifting things around for immediate access during a battle. Being able to trade particular "bullets" with other players is a nice touch, as you can mix up your battle performance this way. The real treat, however, is with the "beat combos". Here, you set up a slight musical interlude by hitting the L button. You then have to hit your light attacks in succession with the scrolling bar. Doing so activates a special combo attack and jazzes up the crowd, who either rewards you with a "cool" or "bad" rating. It's a nice touch that's refreshing in a game such as this, especially considering you can customize your own "beat combos".
The presentation here isn't amazing, but if you're a fan of old-school 2-D fighters or games of that nature, you'll feel right at home with Draglade. The visuals are bright and peppy, and the character designs are taken straight out of the anime books. Characters look vibrant and happy, even some of the enemies. The backgrounds look good, scrolling backwards in an Art of Fighting style as you move further away from your opponent. The music is vibrant and upbeat, although it's lacking in personable spark. Still, it's a not-so-typical design for the Atlus team, so we'll give them props in the department overall.
The single-player mode is mostly bland. You'll customize certain items but still feel that something's missing in the story to keep you going. Fortunately, Draglade has a few multiplayer options to consider. You can either hook up with players locally or get on the Wi-Fi Connection to connect with others, whether you're getting into a fight or interested in trading up customized items and moves. This gives the game greater replay value than it deserves, and I wouldn't be surprised if a Draglade community rises up over the next few months. Hey, it sure beats a jaded Beyblade community made up of people whining about how ineffective their yo-yos are.
Draglade won't change the way you game, and Atlus has released more memorable games than this in the past. However, at least it's trying to go with something unique, and for that, the game deserves at least a rental. If you're into fighting games or are looking for something with a more interactive touch (especially with the "beat combos"), you might even feel compelled enough to go all out with a purchase. It's no Drag, but with more thought in story and character development, it could've been something greater.
What's Hot: Interesting "beat combo" system; decidedly old-school look; multiplayer options, both local and Wi-Fi.
What's Not: Distinct lack of personality; the story wears out its welcome.