I love Fantasy narrators. Can you imagine if everyone talked like that?
In ages long past, a great hunger drove the mighty warrior to seek out the legendary meat lovers pizza, which came to him in a vision. He quested long to come to the sacred Hut of Pizza, whereupon he requested his meal from the wise sage who took him in from the cold and seated him in the warm light at yon table that, lo, was beside the TV showing Sportscenter. But there he sat, long forgotten by the world, and the hunger devoured him from within. Lost to the temple monks, none arrived with the Tray of Serving, nor did any ask if he wanted his flagon of Mountain Dew restored to its former glory. Now a wrathful shell of his former self, the mighty warrior must take up arms and battle his way into the great kitchens to reach the office beyond, where he shall face the Lord Manager of the Hut of Pizza, lest he never leave the realm.
Thus begins Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire. An uninspired little bundle of tropes, clichés, and trite I picked up in a Game Stop for 80 cents. When I thought, “That price is nothing to shake a stick at!” I should have considered that this was a Wii game, played entirely via shaking stick method, and not very well at that.
Dragon Blade opens with a story pieced together with the refused shat out and flushed away by other fantasy clichés. The young hero has a dream of being a chosen one, then gets a spiritual companion who tells him to go out and collect pieces of something. Then someone razes his village to the ground because no fantasy world would be complete without an all-powerful organization that harbors grudges against idyllic backwater towns. Either that or these people have a primitive understanding of motivation. “Happy New Years everyone! In order to help you finish that novel, start that diet, and finally get around to that yard work you’ve been putting off, I’ve burned your house to the ground! Go get ‘em, tiger!” Then after the hero’s girlfriend dies in a scene so bad, Anita Sarkeesian felt it like Obi-Wan felt the destruction of Alderaan, we begin an adventure full of hacking and slashing down a linear corridor!
Well-crafted names can make or break a fantasy story. Unfortunately, names are almost required to sound like a toddler vomited up a bowl of Alpha Bits along with a few Scrabble tiles they swallowed, but a good writer can make names sound natural (Samwise, Eddard, Laurana), exotic (Daenerys, Chewbacca), or meaningful (Gandalf, Han Solo). A bad writer can make names that sound like something you pulled out of a garden or read off a prescription bottle. Dragon Blade falls into the latter category with names like Vormanax, Norgiloth and—our hero—Dal. The first major boss battle is a dragon named Jagira, which would have only been an acceptable name if they were writing Thunder Cat fan fiction. One can only assume the half-assed lazy attempt at scribbling out an opening paragraph and relying on an assumption that fantasy readers won’t care if it sounded as awful as a banjo in a wood chipper. I mean, I know that game developers don’t really care much about story, but could they have at least scraped together a few coins and pulled in some starving, wanna-be screenwriter and….holy crap the story was written by Richard Knaak!
Seriously? They hired one of the better Dragonlance authors, the man who gave us The Legend of Huma and Kaz the Minotaur, and he wrote out this shit? That’s gotta be a mistake on Wikipedia’s part. Although, the game clearly isn’t about story. After the opening cinematic, the game limits itself to a few lines of dialogue before boss battles, sort of a pre-battle, fantasy smack-talk. The real focus is on the hack-and-slash action and well-crafted, challenging boss fights.
So that’s top-notch, right? I can say this strongly and confidently about the action in this game: meh. Just meh. It’s not the worse thing in the world, and I suppose there’s currently a large following for games so difficult you measure progress in Dragonball Z minutes. But there’s a difference between games that are crafted to be challenging and games that fuck with the controls to prevent success. Once more, this game is in the latter category. I once wanted to find a Wii game that accurately allowed me to simulate sword fighting; this is not that game. Dal swings his sword with such flourish that each attack animation represents an excellent time to go make a sandwich, use the restroom, or go clean the basement. With controls so slow and unresponsive, the best I could do was initiate attacks while the enemies were still charging at me and hope that they would be kind enough to impale themselves on my sword. The motion controls carefully sense whether you’re swinging the Wiimote up, down, left, right, or stabbing forward, and translate them all into a sort of side-slash, incapable of hitting anything below Dal’s waist or at eye level. This gets rather annoying while chipping away at bosses. The fights with the dragons seem to have received the majority of the developers’ attention, trying to create impressive and fun battles. But in an effort to make the fights last longer, their defence is so high that you might as well be whittling down their scales with a safety pin.
Ultimately, the difficulty turned me off. Beyond that, I suppose the game wasn’t terrible. It was simplistic, but that’s okay at times. However, I find the blurbs on the box that advertise “unique two-handed combat” a bit disingenuous when the game brings absolutely nothing new to the table. It’s like finding a loaf of bread at the store that’s spelled out “fresh” with mould spores.