Reign of Fire Review

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It’s time to look at an old Game Boy Advance game that I’ve had for a very long time. I finally managed to complete it the other day as I just barreled through the game from start to finish in 2 batches. It’s a game that definitely feels like a cash in and even embraces this, but still has some potential. There are fun aspects to the gameplay, but the overall product definitely needed more polish. In the end, this didn’t end up being a surprise hit or anything like that, but if you’re looking for a fun way to spend 2-4 hours, this is your ticket!

The story of the game roughly follows the movie, but it only contains the bare minimum requirements of a plot. The game starts off with characters yelling about supplies and that dragons are dangerous. You spend a few missions growing crops, destroying Dragon Eggs and adding more people to your crew. Rinse and Repeat for 9 missions. I was fully expecting one of the groups to betray the heroes since I feel like that happened in the film, but instead they all jump into the alliance wholeheartedly and say the exact same things. “Why fight each other when we can fight dragons?” They all seem so sincere that you will naturally be very suspicious the entire time. I know that I was! Still, you probably aren’t playing this game for the plot.

Instead you are playing this for the gameplay. It uses an overhead style similar to Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance. You have an unlimited ammo of missilles that work just like bullets as you mow down the legions of dragons that chase you down. You don’t have to worry about the flying ones as they will rarely even fire a single shot, but the ones on the ground are the tricky ones. The Red Dinos can fire off multiple fire blasts and your allies will typically get hit every time, leaving you to fend off the armies on your own. You can find health supplies along the route so use them whenever necessary. Most of the missions will involve you searching for something so follow the compass and you’ll hopefully be fine.

The core mechanics of this game don’t seem all that bad. Walking and shooting can work well as a decent, linear experience. Think Super Mario or Pac Man, the games are simple, but effective. The problem is the technical limitations of the game. For starters, you can’t run. The characters move very slowly while the environments are incredibly large and sparse. This makes for a bad combination since you can be walking for several minutes in a row. There’s a reason why they give you a full 30 minutes to complete each level after all. Furthermore, the compass is rarely accurate. As I just said, the levels are huge and there are mountains blocking off several paths.

Let’s say the compass is pointing straight down. You’ll start heading that way only to be stopped by a long row of mountains as far as the eye can see. You must now guess whether the path to get lower is right or left. Choose incorrectly and you won’t make it back within 30 minutes. You can literally spend that entire time just walking around. This is partially due to the fact that all of the levels seem to share the same map and each level covers a different part of town. If you make a wrong turn in level 6, you may wander into the level 1 area and that journey takes a very long amount of time. Personally, I’d say that each level should have had its own stage. At the very least, you shouldn’t be able to walk between them by mistake, that doesn’t seem right.

That part was easily the most frustrating aspect. It’s not as bad as a bad puzzle or anything like that, but it really does slow your momentum down. The game isn’t very difficult once you understand what to do, but the game really does leave you to your own devices right from the start. For example, I died in level 1 many times because I didn’t know how to enter the Harvestor vehicle. Once I found that out, it was smooth sailing and the rest of the levels were pretty easy. There actually is a final boss so that’s neat. You have to fight against a giant dragon. The anticlimactic part is the fact that this dragon isn’t really any stronger than the minions. It has a lot more health, but it won’t even try attacking you since it just burns houses in the meantime.

After completing the human’s campaign, you unlock Dragon Mode. I wish this had been around from the start since it is certainly a lot more fun than the first mode. Granted, I probably would have started with the humans anyway. The gameplay is similar except you play as a dragon so you can fly and you also have super speed while walking. That really fixes one of the big negatives that I had with the gameplay. It is a little lazy that all of the dragons have the same emoticon/facial picture though. It’s interesting to see things from their point of view. I only completed two of their levels and probably won’t go and beat the others anytime soon. It would be fun, but I have other games to play and spent enough time on this one.

It does help the replay value though. Make sure that you jot down the password saves after each level because you likely won’t be able to find them online and then you’d have to start all the way from the beginning again. I do wish that the game had a save feature and I’m glad that it has become the standard for games nowadays. It really can make a world of difference. I would like to quickly point out that one of the pictures used for one of the characters instantly reminded me of a twitch emote. I dunno, the resemblence may not be all that striking from this angle, but go to Twitch chats for a while and it will all start to make sense.
Emoticons

The graphics aren’t bad, but they’re not great either. The title didn’t put a whole lot of effort into the character models. Everything is clear in the sense that you can distinguish between all of the objects, but they do tend to be a little blurry and unrefined. The soundtrack is fairly limited although I did play most of the game on mute. I made sure to listen to it a little afterwards though. It’s just not all that special or spectacular and you may want to keep it off as the constant sound effects from shooting and all of the explosions make it a very loud experience.

Overall, It feels good to be done with this game once and for all. The first level had be worried that the game would be quite terrible, but it picked up quite a bit from there. It’s still not a great game or even a very good one, but it can at least hold its own now. I think you’ll enjoy playing it and the game should be up for sale at less than 5 dollars online. For that price, it’s a bargain to snag. There are around 18 levels if you play both campaigns so that should buy you enough time to make the purchase worth it. With this game gone, I’ll have to see which game takes the top priority spot next time. It may be time for Yugioh to make a comeback.

Overall 6/10

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