Xbox Review - 'Drake Of The 99 Dragons'

by Jordan Van Nest on Feb. 4, 2004 @ 1:16 a.m. PST

Drake is the ultimate Anti-hero. Drake is Feel-good, action-packed gaming with instant gratification. Grim but colorful. Cool and violent without being controversial. Real-time 3D action shooter of furious and brutal revenge, supernatural Hong Kong action style. Read more for the full review ...

Genre: Action
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Idol FX
Release Date: November 4, 2003

Following the lead of the recent hit XIII, Drake of the 99 Dragons attempts to add to the ever growing world of cell-shading. The idea was to create an interactive comic book, told through the eyes of an assassin named Drake. While at first look this game appears adequate, a minute of play will tell you otherwise. Faulty controls, a terrible storyline, low quality graphics, the list goes on. The developers at Idol FX started with a dream. Little did they know that they would bring a world of shame to the concept of cell-shading, and create an utter nightmare. Welcome to the nightmare that is Drake of the 99 Dragons.

In Drake of the 99 Dragons, you play as Drake, an assassin working for a Hong Kong gang known as the 99 Dragons. One day however, your gang is attacked by a mysterious rival group and your entire gang is slaughtered. Seeking justice, you are brought back to life by the Gods to avenge your fallen comrades. While this all appears to be a fairly interesting storyline, it doesn't take much time to realize this is not the case. The first few missions of the game set up the background of the story, and from there progresses in an extremely confusing manner. The first problem with the storyline is that the story is told through cut scenes which are narrated by Drake. You may wonder what the problem with this is. Well for one, Drake sure isn't a storyteller. His dialogue is choppy and hard to understand, which adds to the already confusing storyline. As a matter of fact, at times the storyline is just about as confusing as it can get. And just when you think you're starting to understand one of the 20 or so confusing elements, a few more characters or situations will be thrown at you and will knock you to your feet once again. In the end, understanding the storyline is next to impossible, and just isn't worth it.

A confusing storyline would be bad enough, but mix horrible game play in with that and you have a recipe for disaster. Which is just what this game is. A disaster. One of the potentially interesting features of this game is that you are able to fire two guns at once, using the R and L buttons. This sounds like a fairly neat idea, but of course the game completely kills the idea with awkward aiming and a horrible targeting system. The aiming in this game is controlled with the right thumb stick and is at its best, anything but easy. Not only is the aiming terrible, but the targeting system sucks. There is an extremely loose system in place, but it just doesn't work. And in a game based all around shooting people, you really need an effective targeting system. This game just fails to deliver that however, and comes up way short. I can't tell you how many times I was completely frustrated with the combat in this game. Another big problem with the combat is that at random times, Drake's guns will suddenly point sideways and you will be forced to manually swing them around to the front again. This can happen at any point and can drive you to the point of insanity, especially if you have just run into a group of baddies. Combining with this problem is the fact that the stick which controls the aiming system also controls the camera angle. Which means you are definitely in for some hair tugging frustration. Just as it seems you have your guns aligned, the camera screws up. Just as you think you fix the camera, your guns become unaligned. It is a constant battle between these two elements, and will eventually cause you to either throw this game away, or go crazy. That's not really a quality you want in a game.

Trying to make this game exciting, the developers added a few "special powers" that Drake can collect throughout the game. Sticking to the nature of the game however, these powers are not exciting at all. Quite the opposite actually, they seem to bring even more frustration to this game. Drake's "powers" include double jumping, running along walls, bullet time, and freezing time. These all sound fine and dandy, but in the world of Drake of the 99 Dragons, good has no meaning. First off, jumping is definitely a chore, as you have to try and deal with the difficult camera angles. And all of the rest of Drake's powers really don't help him much. As a matter of fact, they just make things even MORE frustrating. (if that's possible) For instance, the bullet time not only slows your enemies down, but it slows Drake down as well. I guess this is just supposed to give you some more time to concentrate on who you want to shoot, but chances are your camera and aiming will be so screwed up that it won't really matter who you decide on.

Another element which leads to this game's destruction is the repetitiveness. Every one of your missions basically is just following a certain path from start to finish. While this definitely takes away your chances of getting lost, it also takes your chances of being entertained right with it. I had a huge problem with the constant "barrage" of enemies. With the already faulty camera angles and aiming system, this definitely does not help. As a matter of fact, it makes the game unbelievably difficult. In the end, this game isn't about thought or skill, it's about trial and error. The only way to beat this game will be to play each of the levels over and over again until you can get it right. And with a terrible game like this, who wants to do that?

Adding to the already terrible controls and terrible storyline, is the fact that the game contains its share of bugs. There are countless different examples, including many bugs which will force you to automatically fail and restart the level. In a game of already frustrating concepts and poor plot development, bugs definitely aren't a welcome sight.

With every element in the game already doomed to fail, you'd think the developers would have at least spent some time on a graphical scheme. Well I'm not sure exactly how much time was spent on the graphics, but one thing is for sure. They're not good. The developers decided to go with "rim-light shading" which is similar to cell shading. I really wish cell shading had been used instead however, since this game does not look like a comic book at all. This game was supposed to be modeled after the comic book series, but with these terribly looking graphics, no one will ever know that was the intention. Not only are the graphics bad, but the animations are not so hot either. As a matter of fact, they suck. Enemies get stuck in repeated patterns, while Drake looks very funny as he stiffly hops around. All in all, the terrible graphics just add to an already terrible game.

The sound was another story. While many of the voice recordings for the characters are halfway decent, the sound effects are just terrible. Gun sounds, crashes, they all sound extremely cheap and rushed. Many times I recognized a sound as a cheap generic recording I could have download off the internet. The sound is terrible, but with a game like Drake, what did you expect?

Drake of the 99 Dragons is a failure among failures. It really is that bad. This game seems to fail in every single area you can think of. Literally, the story, gameplay, graphics, sound, and ever other element that could ever be in a game, are terrible. The only reason you should even touch this game is if someone is paying you. And even then, I'd think twice.

Score : 3.0/10

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