Hands-On: Dragon Valor

Namco's action-RPG import shows up on our doorstep, find out what we think.

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We got a hold of Namco's action-"RPG," Dragon Valor, late last week when it was released in Japan, and we played it all weekend. We sacrificed our weekend to bring you the latest information on the game. While we'll save the meaty bits for our full import review, we decided to dish out some gameplay details and screenshots of Namco's newest baby.

Dragon Valor is an action-adventure that dips into RPG territory by way of item and spell management. Your inventory is only about 12 spaces large, as is your list of magic abilities, which are accrued, naturally, one by one. You collect spells by wrestling (figuratively) differently colored books from the hands of unwilling enemies. At the end of every "level" is a boss who, as tradition would dictate, needs to have his butt kicked.

Action takes place on a side-scrolling plane, with boss encounters handled in a finite arena, where 3D movement is allowed. All the game's graphics are 3D, despite the side-scrolling nature. You control a variety of characters who share the same basic functions (jump, slash, jumping-slash, jump-jumpitty-slash-dash-attack, etc.). Control, if not the actual gameplay, is excellent in Dragon Valor. It is very responsive and exactly what you'd expect from the makers of Tekken and Ridge Racer. Analog and digital pads are supported, so you can take your pick. Unfortunately, the action is very repetitive, making for a weary gaming experience. Enemies get more tricky about their attacks later in the game, as do the bosses, so there is a fairly steep learning curve, but it's not much more difficult than, say, Fighting Force.

While the game may seem like a Dynamite Cop in armor, it does span two discs, meaning that some surprises may lie ahead. We just haven't found them yet. Stay tuned for the full-on import review coming soon.

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