Dec 18, 2007
Draglade is a game with a serious identity crisis. Its core gameplay is based around a simplified one-on-one fighter, but it also tries to integrate elements of RPGs, side-scrolling platformers, music games and even a bit of “gotta catch ‘em all” collecting. Does it work? Well, sort of.
Draglade’s story and setting are based around “Grapping,” a funky-fresh futuristic sport based on the novel new concept of people beating the snot out of each other. The story’s the sort of material you’d see on any random kiddie anime, and the characters are equally clichéd in both design and personality. (Though, to give the game credit, it’s refreshing to see a chubby character who isn’t extremely slow and/or stupid.) There’s a lot of dialogue that you probably won’t care about, but thankfully, a good chunk of it is skippable.
Grapping itself is a more interesting affair. Characters use a combination of a special energy weapon and special attack “bullets” in combat against enemies. The basic weapon strikes can be used for simple combo attacks, or for knockdowns and air launches. They can also be used in conjunction with the “bullet” attacks, which are collectible, customizable special skills that can be equipped 6 at a time and used for a variety of attack and defense techniques. Finally, there’s the “beat combo” skill, which is a special weapon combo attack involving timed button presses to a musical beat, like in a music game. It all might sound confusing at first, but the combat is actually quite simple to learn.
The game’s heroes start off being quite weak, but they can take on special quests in the towns they visit in order to earn experience points, money and new bullets to equip. Even if you fail a quest, you can try it again and still keep all the EXP and items you earned on your first try. Once you manage to build up enough strength and get some good special attacks, things become a lot easier.
And that’s probably Draglade’s biggest failing - the gameplay lacks any serious depth. If you’re coming off of 2D fighters like Street Fighter or Guilty Gear, you’re going to be extremely disappointed in the rudimentary nature of Draglade’s combat. Even if you’re a more casual player, you’ll quickly discover that the game becomes considerably easier once you get some high-powered bullets in your arsenal. The beat combo, despite the game’s attempts to make it the highlight of combat, will quickly fall by the wayside as you discover that bullets are generally safer to use and more rewarding against CPU opponents. Fighting against human players, via ad-hoc or wi-fi, is a bit more up close and personal, but you’ll still find that a good set of bullets will clinch the victory in the end.
Draglade might be a fun mess, but it’s a mess nonetheless. It’s enjoyable to play, but it lacks the coherency it takes to be a really stellar product. It feels like the developers went into a brainstorming meeting and decided to try and throw every idea they had into a single product, all at the expense of gameplay balance. While the game certainly isn’t bad, one can’t help but think that it would be much better if the creators had a bit more focus.