The Legend of Dragon Flame High School hearkens back to legendary NES classics

Review of 龍炎高校伝説 on XBLIG: Buy
This retro River City Ransom-style beat-`em-up RPG is fun and well-balanced despite being rather short.

This retro brawler follows the story of high school student Ryuichi Yagami, whose sister Miyuki has been kidnapped by a gang from a rival high school. Ryuichi must battle through four high schools—Dragon Flame High, Fairy Tale High, Ninja High, and finally Hell High—to rescue her. The story is a bit light, but that’s not surprising for a fighting game, and given that the English translation isn’t very good it’s probably for the best. The cartoony graphics are as just whimsical as the high school names imply, but the style is cohesive and not so over-the-top as to detract from the gameplay.

The feel of the game reminds me of a high-action arcade game more than a true fighting game. Ryuichi has no block moves, and hit detection is too picky for precision to do much good. I found that if my vertical positioning was just a few pixels off, I wouldn’t land (or dodge) a punch. Still, it’s not hard to work around the hit detection, and the fighting system has a few neat twists thrown in, such as unique weapons that can be found on certain screens.

While the hit detection makes the game tough early on, I found that the game’s RPG elements balanced out the difficulty. Ryuichi starts the game weak, but can spend the coins he collects from beating up opponents on stat upgrades and new moves. Staying leveled up makes later fights easier and shorter. As with most RPGs, however, enemies keep pace, so I often found myself returning to previous screens to grind for experience.  The special moves aren’t complex, but most are more trouble than they’re worth to execute. If I were to play through the game a second time, there are only two special moves I’d actually purchase, and I’d save the rest of my cash for stat upgrades.

There’s no real penalty for dying. When Ryuichi is defeated, he respawns in the last town with all moves, stats, and coins intact. I tend to get frustrated quickly when I get stuck, but I thought this system was perfect. Combined with the save feature, I can’t think of a way to actually lose progress in the game. Even with unlimited continues and level grinding, fights still have substance—I never found myself mowing down enemies on new screens too quickly just because I got ahead of the power curve.

The one downside to The Legend of Dragon Flame High School is that it’s short. I finished in about two hours. Each high school consists of three or four screens, with a series of boss fights at the very end of the game. The game was so engrossing that I wasn’t bothered by this, though. The process of leveling up makes the game itself seem longer, and the variety in the screens and weapons keeps it from getting stale.

I give The Legend of Dragon Flame High School (listed on XBox Live as 龍炎高校伝説) a Buy. It’s short, but its presentation and variety are well worth the 80 points. The well-balanced difficulty means that, unless you just hate action-oriented games, you shouldn’t get too bored or too frustrated no matter your skill level.

Leave a comment