This is a game that should summon plenty of love from creature-capture game fans and gamers with a soft spot for the 16-bit and 32-bit generation era of games. Dragon Island, developed by NTT Resonant, is being readied for the North American Apple iOS market via the App Store.
The foundation of Dragon Island is built upon the classic start-in-a-town-and-carry-out-a-quest formula, with the main story being that you take your army of creatures and battle to be the best in your world. There are a few twists in this game that add quite a bit to the formula, though. Although the player may start in their hometown, a player is encouraged to pursue their objectives in the game out in the field for as long as possible. The player’s main means to beating the game is building up an army of monsters and leveling them. However, should they have to return to a town to heal them, the games obstacles are reset, too, so the player will need to take on those dungeons they may have conquered hours ago. Choices, choices!
Dungeons are where a large part of the game will be played, especially on the combat side of things. At least when visiting the dungeons, some players may be pleased to notice that those subterranean levels are dynamically generated, while others may be annoyed they can’t memorize the dungeons when revisiting them.
Combat order will matter in this battle portion of Dragon Island, too. If you are going to enter a dungeon loaded with fire creatures, it makes sense to rotate out any water creatures you have in your lineup. I want to take a moment to give credit to the way Dragon Island uses the iPad hardware in attack sequences. Players will swipe their finger over the creature they want to target, using up, down, left, right gestures to specify the attack type they want to use against their opponent. Time matters when taking on opponents, too. Stronger attacks take a longer time to execute, and while they do more damage when they connect, they leave the player cooling their heels for longer between attacks. Weaker attacks are more efficient, but the flipside to that is that the attacks will not make as much of a dent in the opponent’s strength.
During a battle, the game’s 200 and more monsters can be captured using a card. Also during battle, any of the monsters in play can evolve after gaining enough experience. Progress in Dragon Island also can be made through earning helpful recipes and occasional free monsters given to players after completing a quest. The recipes are essential in allowing the player to be a little bit of a mad scientist, making it possible to combine a specific existing creature — literally like ingredients — in your inventory into a bigger, badder beast.
The way the hero levels up in Dragon Island falls on the unique side, too. Instead of leveling through gaining experience for the character himself, the hero gains experience through the size of his army and the creature level.
As someone who is one of those folks who has a love for the older generation of games from the mid ’90’s, I felt a sense of comfortable familiarity with the visual style in Dragon Island right away. Clean, bold and bright graphics in the overworld maps, dungeons and combat scenes are featured in the monsters and backdrops. Character animation looked pretty minimal to me but is effective enough to fit in with the type of game that this is.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sensor of humor I noticed during the Dragon Island demo. Quips from pop-culture staples such as Aliens and Star Wars are sprinkled into the in-game dialogue.
In the end, Dragon Island combines a lot of familiar games with a unique slant on some of the familiar look and feel, and should add up to an experience that will feel pretty fresh on iOS devices. Dragon Island has entered beta and should see the light of day in the App Store in about a month’s time.