Although not every experience has been for the better (we'd like to just forget that the latest Steel Battalion game didn't come out, thanks), the Xbox 360's motion sensing Kinect device has changed some game experiences for the better. Dancing games like Just Dance and Dance Central are certainly on the rise; Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team at Q? Entertainment have done remarkable things with the vibrant Child of Eden; and Double Fine's Sesame Street-licensed Once Upon a Monster has been a delight to young kids and adults alike.
Microsoft is readying a new experience that should bring some hardcore players back into the fold as far as Kinect goes, with the forthcoming Crimson Dragon for Xbox Live Arcade. Though not officially licensed as a follow-up, the game is a spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon franchise that Sega started long ago, with the last entry, Panzer Dragoon Orta, releasing on the Xbox a few years back.
Crimson Dragon brings several Panzer Dragoon veterans back into the fold, including creator Yukio Futatsugi and composer Saori Kobayashi. But the big difference this time around is how you play the game. You'll no longer be using a controller to weave your dragon (dragoon?) in and out of danger, but rather your hands. We recently tried out a hands-on demo to see how this worked.
In the game, you ride atop a winged beast that's able to breathe powerful laser-like attacks to obliterate enemies. What's cool here is that you aren't just stuck on firing one-on-one. You can actually lock on and hit multiple enemies at once, first getting them on your radar (and seeing an indicator to show when they're ready to be fired upon), and then letting loose with a firework-like display to bring them crashing to the ground. Some enemies require to be hit much quicker than others, as they can blast a projectile at you that'll do some damage if you're not quick enough to dodge or deflect it.
Some of the basics for Panzer Dragoon are in place as far as gameplay is concerned, but how you play is a completely different story. You actually use your body to guide the dragon (dragoon?) around the screen, leaning back to fly upward, leaning in to dip down, and leaning from side to side if you're looking to move around those directions. It takes a little practice in order to get the feel of it, but it's actually quite refreshing once you do, with very little error in performance.
Then there are the firing mechanisms for your dragon (dragoon?), which you actually operate by using your hands. For instance, the right hand will allow you to aim the cursor on screen, while you keep the rest of your body in place if you don't feel like wavering all over the place. From there, you'll use your left arm for a firing mechanism, with either quick shots or lock-on projectiles that hit multiple enemies at once. Again, practice will make perfect with this, but it'll eventually sink in.
If pressure sinks in during some of the later stages – and it will with some of the more immense enemies you'll have to face – there is a special screen-clearing attack that you can use to turn the tables. Simple raise both of your arms at once, then lower them quickly, and your dragon (dragoon?) will let loose with a devastating attack. It's a bit of cheating when it comes to smaller enemies, but against the big boys, it's a saving grace.
The functionality of the Kinect seemed spot on with the demo that we played, but Microsoft may be tinkering with the game even more than expected, as Crimson Dragon was initially scheduled for a release in 2012. A demo previously appeared (and then vanished) on the Japanese Xbox Live Arcade, indicating that it may be done fairly soon, but there's still no official release date, outside of sometime this year – if that.
The look and sound of Crimson Dragon is right up there in nature with the Panzer Dragoon games. The graphics are refreshing, with several fantasy-based locales to fly through, strange enemy design that'll keep you on your toes, and beautiful visual effects that make the most of the Xbox 360 format. We've only heard bits and pieces of Kobayashi's soundtrack thus far, but it's certainly staying true to the tone of Dragoon. You can't really ask for more than that.
It'd be nice for Microsoft to schedule Crimson Dragon for a release so players could actually have a good Kinect game to turn to again, especially with games like Dragon Ball Z Kinect and Power Rangers: Super Samurai failing to grasp the full potential of the device.