Throwback Thursdays - King of Dragons

King of Dragons

Vital Stats
Released for the SNES in North America in 1994 by Capcom
Our Play Time: 1-2 hours, over several, several gameplay sessions.
Played on: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

You'll definitely like this game if you enjoy co-op brawlers like Streets of Rage or Golden Axe.
You might not like this game if multiplayer is something you believe should only ever be done over the internet.

Free advertising for A&C Games... located in downtown Toronto, your one-stop classic gaming shop!


King of Dragons features many well-accepted fantasy staples, such as pantsless warriors in belly-tops and elves who felt compelled to join the archery team in high school.

King of Dragons is part of the grand '90s tradition of great Capcom games with memorably energetic soundtracks (music by the one and only Yoko Shimomura). The SNES port of this arcade brawler features a 2-player co-op mode, 5 playable characters with unique attribute progression and 16 unique levels. Pretty impressive when compared to other brawlers of the time - especially considering the changes to your character's sprite as they pick up new equipment.

The core gameplay is pretty standard for a side-scrolling beat-'em-up. Players 1 and 2 walk endlessly to the right as enemies throw themselves at your blades. Well, I don't think that description necessarily does the genre justice - but brawler fans probably appreciate this classic formula anyway (I know I do). And, as fans of the genre may expect, King of Dragons successfully brings it's own unique mechanics to the standard convention.

Getting Started...

As a general rule, I think brawlers are best enjoyed with a friend. That's probably the reason why I could never bring myself to buy the first Final Fight for the SNES (a single-player port of the arcade game). King of Dragons is no exception, and the teamwork required to make it through this game contributes heavily to the rich play experience.

If you're playing this alone, you're doing it wrong.

Like any good fantasy game, no one character can do it all - a successful team usually requires players to observe the strength and weaknesses of their partners. The Fighter, Cleric and Dwarf deliver powerful attacks at close range and can withstand enemy blows fairly well, while also having the option to defend themselves using their shields. While the Fighter might be the most well-balanced of the melee classes, the Dwarf is agile and tough (and is short enough to avoid certain attacks entirely). The Cleric on the other hand, although incredibly slow, takes the least damage from enemy attacks, levels up the quickest out of all the characters and sports decent magic strength.

The ranged attackers, the Wizard and the Elf, wear (as expected) laughably ineffective cloth for protection but provide serious support from a safe distance. It's also worth mentioning that while these two characters appear at first to be the weakest of the bunch (the lack of protection via shield can be a huge disadvantage in this game), the Wizard actually grows to become (arguably) the most powerful character, and the Elf is agile enough from the onset to avoid being damaged entirely in most scenarios. It should be noted that your ability to dodge attacks with the Elf will become integral to surviving in later levels as a mere two attacks from any given enemy will more than likely drain your entire health gauge.

Here's a hint, Wizard. Your cloth robes are about as effective as my t-shirt is when it comes to protecting you from golden-plated dragon-men with chain swords. Pictured above: One brave-ass Wizard.

A Kind of Awesome Stupid Journey...

In most arcade games from the '90s, story is something that you piece together half-heartedly in between numerous violent encounters with strangers (seriously, some of these so-called 'heroes' would make sociopaths blush). You might even make up your own as you battle toward a loosely defined goal. King of Dragons is no different. Unless you stick around the game's title menu to figure out what, if any, motivation you need to rearrange the faces of countless goblins and orcs - hell, even if you had stuck around to read whatever paper-thin plot they provide you with - you only have at best a vague idea of what your goal is (although chances are it involves killing, or becoming, the King of the Dragons).

Fortunately, the world map will provide you with enough visual clues to at least set a mental destination - or as the locals call it, 'that creepy-looking castle on the opposite end of the map from where we are'. That should be a simple enough task, provided that someone with any sense of competence is navigating your route.

What is the stupidest route we can take to that ominous-looking castle in the distance?

You probably won't complain as your heroes travel the country side on what has to be the world's most poorly planned detour - this game is, after all, pretty great. If that means you've got to scale a tower in the middle of the ocean that by no means will help you get to your destination more quickly - or at all - then so be it! Seriously. That happens. The whole scenario, however, serves to only confuse things further when, in a twist of logic, your team keeps moving... after defeating that creepy-looking castle!

This series of events may lead you to only one conclusion. Clearly that castle wasn't the final stage and your goal may lie elsewhere. The whole scenario is pretty hard to decipher since the developers never really give you a clear indication of how many stages are in this game. Note that you'd already be at stage 13 at this point, which is at least twice as many stages as most side-scrolling brawlers feature. It kind of lends things this 'any level could be the last level' feeling. In any event, you're going to eventually start asking yourself, "Where the hell are we going!?".

Your heroes promptly double back and start heading south after reaching the Northernmost area on the map - kind of a confusing twist as it looks like you might end up near where you started your journey from - and then the truth becomes apparent, "Oh... we're headed toward that tall mountain in the corner! That must be where the King of Dragons lives!"... Well, wait a second.

I had to take a picture to really illustrate this point because I couldn't find a complete map screenshot on the internet.

That huge blue mountain is the last level; the King of Dragon's seat of power and your ultimate destination in your quest to slay him... and it is right next to the very first level! There is literally nothing between that mountain and the forest in which you start the game! So what were the heroes trying to accomplish with that ridiculous detour in the first place? Well, I guess they helped win the battle against those bad guys in the North... but weren't they all servants of the King of Dragons anyway...?

Final Thoughts...

I really wanted to include a list of all of the hilarious observations we made while playing King of Dragons, but the truth is that we might be the only ones who think that they're funny at all. It might suffice to say though that shoddy dialogue and hilarious enemies, on top of a really stellar game, really help this title stand out.

Oh, but here's one observation I just have to share. Do you remember Goldar from the Power Rangers show? Well, apparently he's an enemy in this. And God hates him (as is made clear to us by the circumstances of his death). Now you'll have to play King of Dragons to find out what the hell I'm talking about.

Yes! I've slain the King of Dragons! Does that make me the new King of Dragons? Like Highlander? Can there be only one? Ho!


Riot Knight | May 15, 2011 at 2:54 PM

I played the shit out of this if it's the port of the arcade version. I loved loved loved it, I spent like 3 days at a finance convention my grandfather dragged us to playing it.

Rene | May 15, 2011 at 3:05 PM

The arcade version looks about 80 times sexier - but the SNES version has the easy access block button, hahaha. Also .... 3 player co-op on the arcade version... how awesome is that!?

Dice | May 15, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Haha I played this with my bro.... when you still could rent SNES games.... a whillle ago.... I loved that one and:

Capcom had a think for "these types" o' games it seems.

Rene | May 15, 2011 at 5:23 PM

Dice, dead serious, I've been looking for a copy of that game for a while now!! Yes, Capcom made great brawlers! =D

Amin | June 7, 2011 at 1:12 AM

This is a great oldschool game. I recently introduced two of my roommates to the 3 player arcade version. There is a lot of funny parts in this game, particularly the dialogue. We made our own funny observations during it too.

The draconian in the screenshot fighting the wizard is badass. So many different attack moves, definitely the most interesting boss.

Rene | June 8, 2011 at 2:00 AM

Throwback Thursday is a feature that it looks like a lot of people have responded kindly to. I think we're going to make more of an effort to turn this kind of thing into a regular installment on our blog.

Michal | June 8, 2011 at 4:52 AM

The draconian i hate his whip attack
but his death no mercy!

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