It's an age old story: guy likes girl, girl gets kidnapped by dragon, guy battles through a series of deadly stages filled with all manner of terrifying beasts, guy kills dragon and rescues the girl, and then they presumably get down to it right there next to the dragon's corpse. It's the plot of approximately fifty percent of all videogames, including today's offering; Athena / Seta's 1989 arcade mash-the-attack-button-em-up Dragon Unit.
I'm in a quandary already, because this game has two titles. It's also known as Castle of Dragon which, as titles go, I rather like. Welcome to CASTLE OF DRAGON, where you will stay in ACCOMMODATION OF LUXURY while enjoying our FACILITIES OF EXCELLENCE. However, Dragon Unit sounds far more like a euphemism for a giant scaly dong, so it wins and I shall refer to the game as Dragon Unit from now on.
In case you still weren't certain about what was going on in Dragon Unit, the attract mode handily recaps the plot for you in barely-legible text superimposed over an anime princess' severed head. I'll write it out below to save you from any permanent eye damage.
"One day, from out of nowhere, ferocious dragon Zuriv arrived in the peaceful Kingdom of Wenlary. Zuriv destroyed the town and locked the princess on top floor of castle. Two young kings named Duke and Narda left for a journey to rescue the trapped princess."
Not too bad on the Engrish front there.
"Help me!" cries the princess, with her hair like moss and what appears to be an upside-down thong on her head. Actually, look at her hand, she's clearly a robot. I propose a new plot: Ferocious Dragon Zuriv has created the world's most advanced sex droid, and Duke, after countless years of rejection and scorn from Wenlary's womenfolk, takes it upon himself to "liberate" said gynoid from the Dragon's clutches. Also, stop off at the chemist on the way back and pick up some Vaseline.
Here we are then; Dragon Unit has begun! That's you there, the blue fella loitering in the plushly-carpeted castle. It's a pretty swanky joint to be sure, but Duke doesn't look out of place. The gameplay is, as you can probably imagine, very simple. It's a mixture of Castlevania, Golden Axe and every painting Frank Frazetta ever did - you know, standard knights-and-dragons stuff. You've got an attack button for attackin', a jump button for jumpin' and that's it. You move right-to-left, chopping monsters with your sword/axe/morningstar/dark magical energies summoned from the abyssal depth of Hades and jumping across platforms. Oh, and sometimes you can move on two different planes. Exciting!
What Dragon Unit is mostly is a rip-off of Castlevania, particularly the balls-hard arcade version. How much of a Castlevania rip-off is it? Well, draw your own conclusions:
Hmm. Anyway, Dragon Unit moves along at a fair old clip, slicing enemies and collecting what feels like a hundred different power-ups. I managed to pick up four different weapons in the space of about twenty seconds, and while some of them gave Duke ranged attacks like a throwing axe or fireballs, everything still just boils down to "mash attack until all before you is vanquished". As for the enemies, they're all pretty standard so far: knights in armour, wolves and giant bees. The only oddity is this thing:
What is this thing supposed to be? Well, he's obviously quite cheerful, but beyond that he's an enigma to me. Is he a rat-man? Rabbit-man? Whatever he is, he's holding that scythe very gingerly. I'm not sure he's ready for the rigours of a battle against a man as tough as Simon Belmont Duke. The first stage is very short, and in no time at all you're facing off against the boss. Bosses, I mean.
It's two Cylon wizards! That can shoot fireballs at you! Yeah, there's not that much to say about them. Duke has a shield, and in a shocking twist it's actually not useless. More than mere decoration, the shield lets you block certain attacks. As you take damage, Duke loses layers of his armour until he's down to just some furry briefs and a kicky pair of what look like lace-topped women's boots, but his shield is always with him. It's something, at least.
Once the wizards are dead, the next stage awaits. But first, to the map screen!
Yep, that's a map alright. Notice the crucifixion scene in the bottom-right corner; that's something you didn't often see in the videogames of the 1980's. Actually, take another look at the princess...
Case closed. I guess crucifixion is how they make Blocker lemmings.
Right, stage two:
Spike pits, spiked traps that drop on your head, spikes that shoot up from the floor and flying spikes with feathers on the back. I mean, arrows. The stage is also full of leotard-wearing warrior women who toss swords at you in an extremely nonchalant manner. What's with the gymnastics outfits, ladies? Maybe this stage is actually set in the castle's gym. No dark-soled shoes in the castle!
If you're a gore fan, then these woman might be to your tastes.
Enjoy that, did you? You sicko. Between this and the crucifixion, Dragon Unit is the kind of game I was always being told would turn me into a violent psychopath when I was a kid. Ha! The joke's on them: my psychosis was actually triggered by seeing a hooker get murdered around the back of an adult cinema. I win.
Stage two doesn't have a boss. You just pick a key and that's it, stage over. Unless the key is the boss - a rubbish boss, I grant you, but still trickier than Blade Master's first boss.
Stage three is a dungeon. Inside a tree. I think? Wherever it is, it's got roots and manacles. Also, be-quiffed barbarians who are shirtless to the point of indecency. I'd just like to point out that in the above picture I haven't gained the power to fire armoured boots into the groins of my enemies, (more's the pity,) the barbarian just happens to be standing over a speed-up icon.
They're a bit less nonchalant than the female warriors, which isn't difficult considering the ladies attacked with all the ferocity of someone tossing an empty crisp bag into the bin, but how do they fare in the gore stakes?
Well, their arms drop off and huge gouts of blood spray from the wounds, so I'd say they fare pretty fucking well. Or really badly, depending on how you look at it.
Stage three is extremely short - I mean like less-than-a-minute short - and soon you're at the twin bosses.
A pair of gorgons with honest-to-goodness naked breasts. And Rockstar though they were daring; more like Tepid Coffee, right? The best thing about the gorgons is looking at them from the bottom up. Decent snake-body, good, okay. Decently drawn torso and arms, they're okay, oh look you even gave them some gold bangles as detail, that's pretty good. Breasts? Check. Let's just... oh, you forgot to give them a face, what a shame. They look like Charlie Brown with a shrub on his head, and despite being gorgons they can't even turn you into stone. Shocking.
Once the gorgons are dead, it's on to stage four. How're you doing, Dragon Unit? Still ripping off similar yet superior Konami titles?
Oh, good, carry on. Yep, stage four is either a graveyard in a forest or a forest that just happens to have gravestones in it. You're attacked by the standard assortment of graveyard-type enemies, including zombies, spiders and blue skeletons that looks like the ones in Golden Axe but explode in a goddamn mushroom cloud when you kill them.
I guess that's one thing that Dragon Unit gets right. After a short platforming section, the bosses show up.
I'd like to say defeating these two beetles requires skill and a cunning strategy, but you have to use exact same tactics as all the other bosses: hammer the attack button and hope that they die before you lose the will to live. It was close but they died just as I was reaching for the bottle of bleach and my collector's edition Star Wars glass.
Stage five. There was a stage five? There must have been, I've got screenshots of it. I have a vague memory of climbing up some platforms... nope, it's gone. Seriously though, in a game that's quicker to get through than a book of Richard Littlejohn's funniest articles, stage five stands out as taking me about forty seconds to complete, and that was without really trying. I reckon I could get it down to about fifteen if I suffer a horrible brain injury at some point in the future and decide to play Dragon Unit again.
The final stage, and it's into Zuriv's castle. I hope you like enemies all over the place, filling the screen and generally being a nuisance:
That's a lot of knights, but you'll notice that they're mostly just milling around and not paying Duke all that much attention. Luckily, the one interesting enemy in the game finally turns up here, meaning this stage wasn't a complete bust.
The green wizards here can shoot copious amounts of fireballs, and as there's generally two or three of them on screen at any given time, you will spend most of this stage dead from extensive third-degree burns. Also you will notice than in the picture above, that wizardly chucklefuck appears to be teabagging me, the prick. Luckily I have one thing on my side that he doesn't: infinite continues. Suck it, Orko! Get back to whatever Harry Potter rip-off you're appearing in now.
Dragon Unit is starting to live up to its title now, as a pair of two-headed dragons arrive and proceed to act in the same manner as every other boss so far (every boss that wasn't a key, at least). It's a long, tedious fight, especially when you die, lose all your power-up and have to battle the dragons with a sword that has the same cutting power as a baguette. Again, infinite continues win the day and the last smidgen of interest I might have had for Dragon Unit drains away. But wait, there's more, as it turns out that the double dragons were merely a precursor for the main fight with Zuriv. Yay.
Duke has found the super-advanced sex robot!
"Oh yeah, shit. The dragon. I'll be with you shortly, my silicon goddess!"
So, you get to fight Zuriv. Is that facial hair or teeth growing out of his face? I'd like to see a dragon with a beard. A long, flowing Gandalf number, yeah... If it seems like I'm stalling, that's because I can't remember thing fucking one about this fight. I think I just stood in sword range and pressed attack, occasionally trying to move out to the way of his fireballs but ultimately realising it was a pointless exercise and just letting him kill me. Eventually he dies and I go and soak my thumb in some ice water.
*bzzt* I WILL NOW ACCEPT YOUR INPUT KING DUKE *bzzt*.
Thus the kingdom is saved, except for a bullshit "or is it?" disclaimer at the end of the credits which I'm choosing to ignore because I don't want to contemplate playing a sequel to this pile of old knob. Wyvern Phallus Dragon Unit is not a game that you should be playing. There are a hundred games that do the same thing but better. The music isn't bad, the green wizards are a little bit interesting, aaaand the only other saving grace I can thing of is that it's incredibly short, which is hardly a glowing endorsement. Really though, just avoid it. Not even my made-up plot about a sex robot could save it, and that tells a sad tale all of its own.
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