Retro Games Rediscovered: King of Dragons


Do you like Dungeons and Dragons but can neither find a party to join nor want to pay all the money for all those pesky books and supplements?  Then do yourself a favor and try a heaping helping of electronic K-Mart D&D: King of Dragons.  Here’s a longplay video of what you can expect:

Now if you watched all 43 minutes of that video then…great?  You really didn’t need to, and unfortunately I can’t give you that time back.  But what I can give you are some thoughts surrounding the game.  Ready?  Let’s go.

The Game

Published by Capcom in 1991, King of Dragons is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up game that started its life in the arcade.  You know what arcades are, right?  See, arcades were these giant magical rooms filled with super cool video games of all different types.  You converted your hard earned chore money into quarters to feed the machines and play games and…  Sorry, looks like Robert is giving me the high sign that I’m running long.  We’ll table this conversation for later.  The game was later ported to the SNES in 1994 and has been part of numerous Capcom bundles over the years for different game platforms.

The lads are ready for adventure.

The story is as generically fantasy as you can get: the evil red dragon Gildiss has formed an army of monsters to conquer the kingdom of Malus.  It’s then up to you to choose one of five adventurers to defeat Gildiss and restore order to the land.  Players can pick from one of five classes: Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Dwarf, and Elf.  Now I’m not the smartest guy at times, but I’ve never understood why Dwarf and Elf are classes. I suppose the developers knew something I didn’t.  Each character has different movement speeds, hit point levels, attack strengths, and access to magic.  The Elf has range and is super quick, but can’t take much damage.  Whereas the Cleric is extra beefy and packs a wallop in melee. They are the largest character and are really slow.  I mean like molasses slow. I remember one time playing… sorry there’s Robert again.  Gotta keep things focused.

Experience is gained through killing monsters, gathering loot, and defeating bosses.  Gain enough experience and your character levels up by getting slightly increased stats (which you never see) and additional hit points (which you do see).  At the end of each level is a boss fight where, if defeated, drops a golden chest that gives characters cooler weapons.  The Fighter gets a bigger sword, the Wizard’s magic changes color, that sort of thing.  And speaking of magic, you’ll occasionally encounter floating orbs with a symbol on them.  Break the orb and a spell is unleashed on the monsters: flame spikes shoot from the ground with the fire orb and meteors crash from the sky with the star orb.  You get the idea.

The Fighter in action against the evil Hydra boss.

Enemies change and increase in difficulty as the game progresses, but the only way to tell are color changes.  Red orks are stronger than green orks, skeletons with red sword scabbards are harder than their brown scabbard counterparts, you know the drill.  Bosses are all pretty unique, although you’ll encounter several repeats through the game, such as the Wyvern and Minotaur, but each is a different color so it makes them unique, right?  Right.  And if you’re a hearty enough adventurer you’ll eventually make it to Gildiss, defeat the dragon, and save the kingdom.

The lads wrecking Gildiss.  He doesn’t stand a chance.

As far as length is concerned there are around 16 levels, which may seem like a lot but some of them are super short.  The graphics are pretty good, in my opinion, although I’ve always been partial to 16-bit.  Plus the music is pretty good as well.  Where the game lags is the lack of enemy variety, level pacing, and its repetitiveness.  You can only fight the same dudes so many times before it just gets old.  Fortunately when the game starts hitting that point, it brings in something slightly new to try and change it up.  Overall the game is fun and still holds up pretty well.  If you’re looking to do a little couch co-op with friends in an old school  fantasy world, give it a try.  Remember that Malus is counting on you, brave Adventurers, and Gildiss suffers no fools.

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A New England transplant that originated from parts westward, Ryan is a bit of a nerd that knows a little bit about a lot of things, all while claiming to know nothing about anything.  Seemingly part Khajit a logistician by trade, he’s the kind of guy that can get you virtually anything if there’s coin to be had a problem to solve.  Ryan began to learn the scrounging arts while serving time in parts east as a Loggie and has been perfecting them steadily over several decades.  He has a problem with continually purchasing models, paints, and terrain that he doesn’t really need but his wife doesn’t seem to mind.

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