Rise of the Dragon is a predominantly first-person adventure game with some action elements thrown in, much like the other adventure game released by Dynamix at about the same time, Heart of China. In Rise of the Dragon players take on the role of an ex-cop private detective who gets swept up in a sinister plot created by a Fu Manchu-like adversary. While much of the style of the game borrows heavily from Blade Runner (the main character and protagonist's name is Blade, perhaps as an homage to the film) and its hard boiled spiritual predecessors (with crowded, dingy L.A. streets, seedy bars, strong Eastern influences, trench coats, and cynical attitudes), there are high adventure pulp elements as well, with broadly drawn caricatures as enemies and allies, as well as the "chosen one" trope used since prehistory and a pseudo-historical Eastern cult which vaguely resembles the Cthulhu mythos in its modern-yet-supernatural scope.
Players have access to various map locations accessible by subway trains, more of which open up as clues are uncovered and puzzles are solved. The puzzles themselves use inventory and exploration, as well as experimentation with devices found in the environment. There are also dialogue choices during conversations, and a few action sequences during key moments.
The art style emulates certain comic book styles, with slightly exaggerated, emotive faces. There are some photorealistic touches, such as the bitmapped photographic frames used during telephone message sequences.
Some of the puzzles and events are also time-based. Players must pay attention to a clock and calendar in the upper-right portion of the screen. Players will, for example, have a date scheduled for a day and time, and it is up to players to arrive on time.