Octurbo: Dragon Egg!

Taking another sip of PC Engine grease, and then spitting it out because holy shit this is not my Dr Pepper at all, we have a new NCS game in the form of Dragon Egg: a platformer with an upgrade mechanic that, to me, didn't feel like a million miles away from Volgarr the Viking's. Thankfully, though, Dragon Egg is nowhere near as difficult as Brad's Neverending Norse Nemesis. NCS (or rather its software division Masaya) were the developers behind previous Octurbo entry Double Dungeons, but they were also responsible for Langrisser (Warsong), Cho Aniki (the bodybuilding shoot 'em up. You know the one) and Jeff's beloved Target Earth (actually part of their Assault Suits series, which also includes Cybernator for the SNES). So, busy people. How does Dragon Egg stack up to that ludography of semi-classics?

Actually it's not too bad. As I stated previously, it's an upgrade-based platformer that rewards cautiousness more than recklessness, because the upgrade items come slowly over many stages but build up to something quite substantial if you're careful enough to stay alive to acquire them all. As with Volgarr and countless shumps like R-Type, it's also quite useful to be as far along the upgrade tree as possible for the boss encounters. But whatever, we all came here to see a little girl bash draugr with an egg (right?) so here we go:

Wyvern and Shirley

Welcome to Garble Egg! I'm reliably informed that word is "dragon". I'm sure VGK will tell me that it's actually "gazebo" or something.
And another welcome to the land of Königst. I know König is german for "King", but if there's Kings in this game I haven't found any yet. Mostly little girls and dragons so far.
Talking of which, here's our heroine now, bashing what looks suspiciously like the color-coded undead Vikings a certain Zapatomaker was bashing to pieces just the other day. All our offensive options revolve around the dragon egg we carry everywhere; while the dragon's still in its embryonic state, though, this little bop is the only attack available to us.
Oh hey, a house. People live here? In skeleton land?
Apparently this dapper mole does. I said the Dragon Curse eyepatch pig was the coolest shopkeeper I've seen in a TG-16 game so far, but Sir Moleberry over here is a strong contender. Funny I should mention that Wonder Boy game, because Dragon Egg feels very much like Wonder Boy in Monster Land so far - right down to farming cash for a few useful power-ups. Given that Wonder Boy is almost like the Mario of TG-16 (one of the launch games was Bikkuriman World, which was really just Wonder Boy in Monster Land with a dubious paint job), it's explicable enough. Sorry for writing so much here, I just wanted to linger on this cool mole dude for a while.
The game remembers what genre it's supposed to be, so the second part of this stage ramps up the platform quotient quite a bit.
Damn falling platforms already! Surely these are more of a "World 4" sort of deal?
Anyway, while most enemies drop money, some (and I have to imagine these are fixed) drop fire orbs which can eventually level your egg into this little hatchling dragon. You can see on the top left that I need three more for the next form. As a hatchling, the small reach of the egg bop has been replaced with a quite lengthy burst of flame.
Since I went for the power-up last time, I think I'll opt for this absurdly cheap heart container. I know right, I should've bought that first. Keeping your health up is paramount, because dying resets the dragon/egg's progress, so life containers and HP recovery items should be the first things you buy.
The first boss is this gladiator dragon. Feels like a missing boss from Dragon's Curse. His weak spot is actually his bandaged tail, so that means jumping over him when he walks over here.
First though, we need to dodge this boomerang. It's fast, but there's a safe place to stand to avoid it every time. I do like bosses I can learn from.
Though I lost a life (and thus my longer reach) it was an acceptable sacrifice because it meant learning this guy's pattern and being able to stomp him on the subsequent try.
For beating the level you get a fancy McGuffin gem and a power-up that quickly rotates, like the icons at the end of a Super Mario Bros 3 stage. I messed up and got a healing item, but had I been a little more patient I could've nabbed another heart container.
In what seems like a very dangerous move, completed stages are removed from the map by burning a hole where they used to be. It's definitely dramatic, but I'm fairly sure I need this map to see where I'm going. It's not like vellum isn't extremely flammable, you know.
New stage and it's a vertically-oriented one. I don't much care for Scyther here, nor do I like the look of that jelly waterfall. Looks like raspberry.
But then this stage suddenly becomes all dungeon-esque, like I just dug through a wall I wasn't supposed to in Terraria.
The game's difficulty curve is quite gentle, at least in these early stages. These little curatives are all over the place, though it usually means going out of the way and climbing back up.
Now it's suddenly Pipe Mania? I can't fault the game for mixing things up from stage to stage.
All right, so now the Bonk inferences are coming thick and fast. I hope Mecha-Godzilla doesn't wake up at some point.
Very soon afterwards I find a third fire orb and upgrade my dragon again. Incredibly, there's still another growth tier after this. Now that I'm riding the dragon, my mobility feels a little faster and my fireballs are now ranged attacks. Quite the upgrade.
Yay! Lord Montgomery Mole is back to sell us stuff. It's been a while, so I have quite a bit of cash to blow. I spend most of it on damage upgrades and health.
I also buy a "barrier", which gives me some temporary invincibility. It was either this or the skull, and I'm a little hesitant about purchasing pieces of dead humans from sentient animals, as well-groomed as they may or may not be.
The game's getting anachronistic as hell now, with this wall turret and supercomputer mid-boss. Having a dragon and full health makes things a lot easier though.
The next boss is this initially underwhelming Metroid blob thing.
However, his true nature is made apparent as soon as you try shooting it: it splits until multiple copies, and then one of those copies will split into multiple copies of its own. You have to be lucky enough to not kill the next duplicator before dealing with the other clones, or you'll be swamped with these Kerbal-looking bastards.
Finally, the last one goes down and I earn my second gem. I also manage to nail the heart container this time, only to find out that four hearts is the limit. Just as well, really, or this game might get a little too easy.
More ritualistic map burning. If that fire spreads, it's going to be a problem...

Anyway, burning maps isn't something I need to worry about any longer, because I believe I've shown enough of this game off. Dragon Egg's quite a decent little platformer, about on the same tier as the Bonk games I've covered so far: nothing as transcendental as Super Mario World or Sonic 2, but it sits above most of the torrent of uninspired platformers that would inundate the 16-bit generation. Plus I'm kind of curious about what comes after that dragon-riding form...

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Posted by Morningstar

I wish I had an egg that could turn into a dragon...

Posted by Video_Game_King

Wait a minute. Warsong and Cho Aniki are brothers? My entire world view has been shattered.