Dragon Fighter looks at first to be a generic sidescrolling platformer action game where you play as a fighter guy with a sword. But, you can also transform into a dragon during the levels, at which point the game becomes an autoscrolling shooter game for a while. Despite that, this is in fact a generic platformer action game most of the time (with the emphasis on dealing with the enemies), but at least it's a well-made action game that's challenging and too short to become repetitive for how varied it is.
I can't do anything until after a demo play of the first level starts, which is why you'll see the title screen twice. I press AAAABBBBABABABAB before starting the game to put it into hard mode. Hard mode makes it so enemies don't drop items, and they fire a dying shot at you if killed while you're a dragon. Also, their positions and actions are a little different. It doesn't seem like a lot, but those changes are enough to make the game more difficult to play and more difficult to TAS.
Level 1 (snow)
I jump at the start from midair, because I can. I don't kill the first enemy with a charged shot because doing so wouldn't give the dragon power point that killing an enemy normally gives. I jump when attacking to avoid having to wait on the ground while the sword swing animation plays out. Some of the enemies here take two hits to kill, so I hit them with the end of one attack and the start of the next to kill them without slowing down. There are supposed to be a bunch of annoying snowflake enemies attacking me; you can see them on the top-left part of the screen, but they get lost off the screen when I move as continuously as this.
Partway through the level I get enough dragon points to transform into a dragon (by holding up at the peak of a jump), so I do that as soon as possible because the dragon moves very quickly. But, it also puts the screen into a slow auto-scrolling mode, meaning that staying as a dragon is much slower than simply walking. So, I transform back before bumping the right edge of the screen, keep moving and building dragon power while the screen catches up, and repeat throughout the level.
Some of the enemies shoot hard-mode projectiles because I transform into a dragon immediately after killing them. Killing an enemy while already in dragon form does not give any dragon power. I don't use the dragon form for the last stretch right before the boss because the boss is activated by the screen's scrolling position and I was already close enough that an extra transformation would only waste time.
Level 1 boss (ice werewolf)
I hit it with a charged shot for 12 damage, then use the dragon form for the rest of the battle because the dragon's shots do 5 damage instead of 4 for a sword swing. Also, the dragon can fire another shot sooner than usual when the center part of the previous shot goes offscreen quickly, so I hit the boss with the diagonal parts while missing with the center part in order to damage it much more frequently than normal while it's on the right side of the screen, slowing down somewhat as it moves left.
It's impossible to face leftward in dragon form. Charged shots aren't used after the first hit because they take a long time to charge and the boss' invulnerability period is very short. The staff that comes down (after the boss) can't be taken until it hits the ground.
Level 2 (living cave)
The first enemy here is too small to hit without ducking and take 2 hits to kill, so I have to slow down a little to kill all of the ones near the start (for dragon points). Those green walking plant things that shoot upward are hard to get past without slowing down. In some cases I was able to just barely squeeze through the stream of shots, otherwise I used the dragon form to absorb their damage without getting knocked away, or to kill them beforehand.
Some of the extra jumping is done to manipulate the flying enemies here.
I skip the R ("turn red") and B ("turn blue") powerups, because they both result in fancier but less-powerful attacks than the default green color. They're great for normal playing, but pure power is more important here. Also, picking them up would prevent transforming into a dragon for a while.
Level 2 boss (centipede)
I don't open with a charged shot because each hit knocks it upward, so I'd lose it for a while during the transformation compared to already being in dragon form. Also, it starts off so far to the right that it's worth keeping it there with the fast consecutive dragon shots that allows for. It looks like I knock it too high up, but I would have to wait while it's turning around to avoid knocking it back up there anyway, and having it higher when it comes into range lets me hit its head without the center part of the shots connecting with the rest of its body (which would waste time waiting for that center shot to dissolve before being able to fire again).
Level 3 (water)
The music in this stage is pretty good. Those bouncing wheel enemies are quite a pain to get past. I took a hit from the first one since I was able to kill it in the process and needed the dragon point. The rest of them I avoid very narrowly by taking advantage of the way an enemy freezes for a few frames when it takes damage. I get a little extra speed from the rightward-flowing water, but it's nowhere near as abusable as the water in Kabuki Quantum Fighter.
Level 3 boss (turtle head)
This is probably the easiest boss, and it's pretty boring because it's invincible for a long time and has too much health to kill in one round. I did a little dancing to the music here to lessen the boredom a bit.
Level 4 (mechanical)
This stage is sparse on enemies to start out with, so I don't get to use the dragon form for a lot of it. And all of the enemies here are irritating and time-wasting compared to enemies of previous levels. I skip the armored guys on top of 3 wheels because they take 5 hits to the back to kill. The flying green ones that drop invincible wheels are worth killing, though, especially because they are the only enemy in the game that gives double dragon points. Once I finally get dragon form, I use it to soften up enemies (who are now strong enough to not die in one hit from the dragon's attacks) before killing them with the sword. As long as the final attack is done with the sword, it still gives dragon points. I manage to get past the spread-shot firing enemies on the ground by landing on top of them at the instant that I damage them in order to glitch through without taking damage.
Level 4 boss (metal spider)
This boss sends out 4 little machines, and only becomes vulnerable as it drops down to gather them up after all of them are broken. I break one of them while it's as far left as possible, which causes the boss to take slightly longer to gather it up. That just happened to be enough to allow for killing the boss in one round, saving about 20 seconds by a 1-frame margin. For some reason this boss stayed vulnerable after it was killed, so I brought it down to negative 50 hitpoints during the seizure-inducing explosion.
Level 5 (haunted)
I couldn't reach either the skulls or the skeleton feet without slowing down too much, so again it takes a while to get enough dragon points. The homing fireballs the skulls shoot are somewhat difficult to dodge. I jump to throw them off when they're just close enough to not home in again afterward, or to jump over them if I can get them to approach at the right angle. It gets a little crazy here with so many fireballs to dodge, since I'm not doing the sane thing and slowly taking out the enemies before progressing, but the game still manages not to lag. The flame-shooting candles/cannons have a lot of HP, but they have so many that it actually makes them easier to kill, because they can take a charged shot without dying in 1 hit from it, allowing it to damage them without their dragon point going to waste.
Level 5 boss (disconnected skeleton)
Very straightforward, I hit the heart with a charged shot and repeated dragon attacks. For some reason the charged shot does 1.5 times as much damage to this boss as it does to any other boss, but that's still nowhere near enough for multiple charged shots to have been worthwhile.
Level 6 (sky)
This level is entirely an auto-scrolling shooter, unlike previous levels where the auto-scrolling shooter aspect was optional. I made the dragon move to the beat of the music for most of this level while taunting the enemies. I managed to trick one of the enemies that's supposed to line up with you and fire to instead go flying off the bottom of the screen, and again back off the top of the screen, by moving behind it at the right time so that it forgets to stop (but after that I dodge their attacks at close range because that looks more impressive).
Level 6 boss (bizarre floaty thing)
There's not a lot I could do to speed this up. The head has 100 HP, and since I'm stuck in white dragon form, each shot only does 1 HP of damage. I would've played around more with dodging its shots, but because of how the hit detection works, getting inside of it and firing more often than it can be hit seems to be necessary in order to damage it as fast as possible.
At the very end, it gives me the hard mode password even though I already used it. (Maybe they didn't think anyone would actually beat the game in that mode.)
Memory values used:
boss HP: 0x0488 music beat indicator: 0x0562
Emulator used: FCEU 0.98.15 (but this movie doesn't require that particular version)
- Plays at hardest difficulty
- Aims for fastest time
- Takes damage to save time
adelikat: a seemingly mediocre game turned into an amazing TAS. Accepting for publication.