Irem, the creators of that classic shoot-'em-up, R-Type, took a quick butcher's at their fabbo creation and thought, "Wait up! What if we took out the R9 and put a huge dragon in its place?" Dragon Breed was the result (although I'm not too sure where the "Breed" comes into it).
The scenario concerns the young king and all-out hero, Kayus. He's pretty miffed at having his kingdom stomped on by the forces of darkness and so decides to do something about it. Thus, in a fit of terrifying rage he takes to the skies astride the mighty Dragon of Light - Bahamoot (!?).
The problem is, the forces of darkness suspected something large and destructive was about to be launched their way, and so decided to send a photon-laden welcoming committee. What they didn't know what that the dragon itself is invulnerable to any kind of attack. Having said that, one hit to the rider means instant disaster and life-losing doom. It's a good thing that Kayus has total control of his dragon, as he can control the tail as a kind of shield. Also, any aliens that career into the dragon's tail meet with instant annihilation.
Kayus sometimes likes to do his blasting solo, so if any land is found, he can jump down to terra firma, perhaps picking up some useful power-up while wreaking some ground-based havoc.
Various power-ups can be collected and bolted on to the dragon's armour, enabling Kayus and old death-breath to get their hands (and claws) on the latest tools of destruction, including the likes of homing missiles and extra alien-frying laser bolts. The dragon also has an R-Type-style beam weapon at his disposal, enabling one long press of the joystick fire button to be turned into a blazing laser trail, destroying everything alien-looking in its path.
The forces of darkness at this point may sound totally outgunned, but they have a rather nasty trick up their alien sleeves. At the end of each level, Kayus and his dragon mate have to face a very large (sometimes over a couple of screens) end-of-level guardian, and only be destroying these bastions of terror will Kayus be able to continue his trail of destruction...
Okay, I admit it - I never actually got to play the arcade original, but if this conversion's anything to go by, then it looks like another trip to the arcades is on the cards!
It's the inclusion of the dragon as well as the rider that adds a whole new level of playability to the tired horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up genre.
The ability to zap aliens with one swing of the tail, or coil it around your rider for temporary invulnerability adds an element of novelty to the gameplay and it'll take ages just to master the control method, let alone blow away the magnificent end-of-level guardians!
The graphics are totally terrific, as are the smooth-scrolling backdrops (with perfect parallax, yet!). The programmers at Arc (of Forgotten Worlds fame) have also worked wonders in keeping this conversion so faithful to the original, so take my advice Amiga shoot-'em-up fans, and buy this quick!
Oops! Some flickery sprites make this a bit weak graphically, but fortunately the playability remains intact.
One of the best Speccy shoot-'em-ups you'll find, with liberal dollops of colour and spanking good playability.
Slower than the Amiga version, but Dragon Breed on the ST still packs a powerful punch in the shoot-'em-up stakes.