Horizon: Crimson Dragon

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Flying under the radar at launch for the Xbox One is exclusive on-rails arcade shooter Crimson Dragon. A digital-only release, and announced as a Kinect title for the Xbox 360 years ago, you’d be forgiven for over looking it. You really shouldn’t though – this is a game with some serious pedigree. James Paton explains…

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The Future is Crimson.

Upcoming on rails shooter, Crimson Dragon, is the spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon series that featured on Sega’s Saturn console, developed by the now legendary studio, Team Andromeda. The series has maintained an almost mythical quality since the console’s demise all those years ago. The development team were initially created as part of Consumer Software R&D Department 1, but later split to form an entirely different studio that existed solely between the years of 1994-1998, releasing three highly influential titles in that time. When the studio closed, many of its key staff went on the join Polyphony Digital (Yuji Yasuhara was lead designer on the rather underrated Omega Boost), Artoon, Feel Plus, United Game Artists (their title, Rez, under the stewardship of Tetsuya Mizuguchi is arguably the finest example of the genre) and Smilebit, who would later produce the underwhelming Panzer Dragoon: Orta for Microsoft’s Xbox. Out of the ashes of corporate shakeups and general disillusionment, however, a golden phoenix has arisen in the form of Grounding Inc.

Co-founded by the former head of Team Andromeda and lead designer of the Panzer Dragoon series, Yukio Futatsugi, and Rez/Panzer veteran, Mineko Okamura, Grounding Inc. has thus far released three titles, but is hard on work on the game that will surely make the studio a household name. Completing the team are numerous highly respected artists and the excellent composer, Saori Kobayashi (creator of the Panzer Dragoon Saga score). This group of highly talented individuals are crafting an Xbox One launch game that will have the capacity to steal the limelight from its big budget brethren.

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Crimson Dragon was originally developed, and reportedly finished for the Xbox 360, as part of a wave of titles developed in, and aimed at, the Japanese gaming market – an area where Microsoft has consistently struggled to gain traction. Despite having the game ready to go, Crimson Dragon was never released (aside from a short-lived leak) and at E3 2012, Futatsugi was given the news that the project was being shifted across from one platform onto another. Of course, it is perhaps a sign of Microsoft’s faith in both the title and its developer that it has been scheduled to be released as a launch title for the forthcoming Xbox One, and it would seem that Futatsugi and his team are eager to repay that trust.

Aside from the game now boasting upgraded visuals, increased length and enhanced RPG elements, the latest incarnation of Crimson Dragon also has another feature that will no doubt widen its appeal. Originally, the title was set out to be an entirely Kinect centric experience, but the limitations of the technology (first generation Kinect anyway) and frequent campaigning by fans has seen the latest build incorporate a more traditional, controller based interface as well. There are options to play the game using solely Kinect based controls, or it is possible to utilise only the Xbox One controller, but there is also a third option, and it is a feature that I believe we will be seeing a lot more of on Xbox One. Players can choose to use both Kinect and the controller simultaneously. In this form, players use the controller as normal but can also use voice commands to activate certain features. The move away from Kinect only controls has also allowed the team to implement a variety of other ideas that further enhance the experience.

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Boss battles now take the game off of its rails and throws players into free flying sections, whilst Draco Connection offers players the opportunity to summon some back-up in the form of another dragon. Crimson Dragon players can register their beasts online and when required, a friend’s dragon can be called upon to provide assistance in battle, and as a bonus this will also bestow additional items upon the dragon’s owner as a reward. It is here where the Kinect enabled voice commands come into effect too, as players can usher commands to their compatriot that enable them to attack, retreat and so on.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, there also promises to be online co-operative missions and a steady supply of DLC from the developer, but of course, there’s more. The game will ship with six different breeds of dragon available for use, however, should the game be purchased before the end of the year, an additional dragon type will also be included. Dragons can be modified and empowered through continued use and, whilst their main weapon cannot be changed, numerous secondary weapon options will also be available, allowing for a certain degree of strategy to be involved in tackling the game’s many levels. On top of this, there will also be items to collect to enhance and speed up dragon growth, and opportunities to record high scores by effectively tackling bosses within the time limits given. Between its online play options, RPG elements and the ludicrously addictive search for high scores, there is more than enough content here to keep gamers eagerly coming back for a very long time to come.

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Crimson Dragon is an Xbox One exclusive that should be on the radar of any serious gamer intending to purchase the machine; it is a magnificent looking project born from a studio endowed with enormous quantities of both talent and experience, not to mention that it is the spiritual successor to one of the greatest and most influential series of games that has ever been released. Whilst seemingly one of the most overlooked entries into the Xbox One line-up, Futatsugi’s latest offering probably ranks as my most wanted, and if I haven’t managed to convince you so far that it should be yours too, well, you haven’t heard the best news yet; it’s only going to cost a meagre $19.99 (expect to pay around £15 in the UK).

Are you convinced now?

– James Paton. Give him a shout on Twitter @TheBlackPage81

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