Originally developed as an Xbox 360 game, Crimson Dragon was first announced at the Tokyo Game Show in 2011 as Project Draco. In early 2012, it was renamed Crimson Dragon and set for a summer release, but it was "indefinitely delayed" at the last minute. Just before the end of 2012, a demo version of the game was accidently posted to the Japanese XBLA marketplace for a short time. It was quickly taken down, but not before a handful of alert gamers noticed it was available and posted videos to YouTube.
While you probably won't ever be able to play the Xbox 360 version of the game, Crimson Dragon will be available on November 22 as a digital download for Microsoft's new Xbox One console. The extra horsepower of the Xbox One allowed for a graphical upgrade, while the delay in release gave the development team time to add controller support. You can still use the Kinect to control the game if you choose, but for those who prefer a physical pad, it is now an option.
Playing as a human settler on the planet Draco, you must defend against aggressive dragons that have been corrupted by the crimson scale. Fighting astride one of six friendly dragons, survival is a matter of shooting down the opposing forces before they take you out.
The control scheme in Crimson Dragon will be familiar to anyone who has played the Panzer Dragoon series or Rez (originally appearing on the SEGA Saturn and Dreamcast systems, respectively). Veterans of both teams were founding members of Grounding, the developer responsible for Crimson Dragon. It's safe to say that if you enjoyed either of those franchises, Crimson Dragon should be on your radar.
Targeting style depends on your weapon selection. Ray weapons use a traditional "lock-on and fire" approach, while cannon-type weapons simply fire in the direction they are aimed, without any tracking. Vision weapons are akin to lasers, firing a constant stream of energy. The vision reticle is large, making it easy to target. Finally, there are shield weapons that can destroy incoming projectiles.
Both the weapons (and the dragons) have elemental attributes, adding strategy to the pre-mission configuration screen. The setup is similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors, with fire elements having an advantage over wind, wind elements having an advantage over light, and light elements having an advantage over fire. Choosing the right weapons for the level gives you an edge, as noted in the commentary of the Strength in Numbers mission.
Using each of the dragons is encouraged, as there are benefits for leveling them up. Similar to Pokémon, each of the dragons in Crimson Dragon can gain experience and then evolve into a stronger, more powerful form. The evolved dragons will be necessary if you plan on chasing a high score. Every item in the game can be obtained through play, though Microsoft did say that players who are pressed for time will have the option to purchase unlocks with real money. We've seen that multiple times in games this generation, so it's not really a surprise to see that practice carried over into a next-generation game.
In addition to the solo missions, Crimson Dragon also offers three-player cooperative multiplayer over Xbox Live. We didn't get a chance to check out multiplayer, though we did get the chance to "hire" another player's dragon. You could call it a form of asynchronous multiplayer, as Crimson Dragon allows you to use the dragons of other players (presumably chosen from your friends list) as wingmen. If your dragon is used as a wingman by another player, you'll find that its experience level has gone up when you return to play.
Using a wingman offers up advantages beyond the simple "extra gun" angle. You can order him to fire in a certain direction, but you can also combine your forces into a super-powered shot. The combined attack does a devastating amount of damage, making it a useful tool when fighting bosses like the Bloated Anomaly in the Coral Lakes area of the game.
With an emphasis on score and leaderboard ranking, Crimson Dragon promises to have plenty of replay value. This isn't likely to be a game that you'll beat once and then walk away from; it should be one that keeps players coming back for more in an attempt to add "just a few more points" to their scores.
Editor's Note: Download high-resolution versions of our Crimson Dragon videos right here on WorthPlaying:
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