Saturday, 19 April 2014

Chapter XIII: Saint Dragon

During my elementary school years, I had two classmates that used to fancy me. It didn’t mattered to me, not only my heart belonged to someone else, but I also much more interested in playing football and video games. One of these girls name was Bree, and she was very shy. Her looks just didn’t make her stand out; not that she was ugly, she was just plain. With her chubby looks, big glasses and oversized clothes, it’s easy to picture her as a young Ann from Arrested Development. Who’s Ann? You ask.

Exactly.


Years have passed, and Bree changed schools, but her cousin stayed being my classmate throughout the years until I went to college. Once in a while her cousin reminded me of Bree. ‘Bree still loves you’ she used to say to me, maybe once every semester. How can Bree still fancy me after all this time, as I never saw her again?

One day, while I was in ninth grade, I saw a familiar face in the bus. There was no “Oh, that looks familiar” thought. I knew who she was right away. Bree had blossomed into a gorgeous and striking beauty and that chubby low-profile girl with big glasses was no more. She looked at me and smiled. What a beautiful smile. Her hair also looked amazing. Long and golden, it shined as beautifully as the water reflections on Skeggtown’s seaside at the end of a hot summer day. Maybe I should tell you that we ran towards each other, in slow motion, and then kissed passionately while time froze around us. That didn’t happen. I just looked down embarrassed while I felt a cold shudder down my spine.


During the next few months I learned that she always took that particular bus, so I made sure I left school at the right time to see her. Every time I said to myself that I would talk to her no matter what, but every time I just ended up sitting on the opposite end of the bus feeling embarrassed.

When I got to tenth grade, Bree enrolled in my school. ‘This is it’, I thought, ‘no more messing around, I’ll finally go talk to her’. That proved harder than I though. Many boys in school were interested in her, with some of them being quite popular.

One morning a friend of mine, “Andy Dyke”, asked me if he could lend him an Amiga game. His stepfather had a restaurant, and one of his employees had bought a second hand Amiga for his son, and so he asked Andy if he could get him some games. ‘Okay’ I said to Andy, ‘I’ll bring you one this afternoon’.


I had gone home for lunch, and the game I picked while I was there was Saint Dragon. I had good memories of the game, as I played it a lot during my early Amiga years. But times have changed, and like Bree had changed, I didn’t have an Amiga any more. I had to let go and move on. When I arrived at school I saw my best friend “Joe The Cop”, and asked him ‘Where’s Andy?’. ‘Oh, he went to make out with Bree, behind the cantina building’. Shit! I felt everything crumble, I just wanted to cry but stayed strong. After that I moved on, as I tried my best to forget about Bree. Well, she only stayed in that school for a year, so that made things easier.

Not long ago, maybe last year, I was speaking with my mom on the phone. While chatting about the most mundane things, she said to me that while she was having a coffee the other day the waitress came to her and started chatting. ‘Her name was Bree’ said my mom ‘and she told me that she used to be you classmate in elementary school’. After that she proceeded to show photos of her son to my mom while saying ‘my son reminds me so much of Ricky Skegg, he has the same golden hair as him and the same haircut’. It’s also weird how can she could recall who my mother was after all these years. Maybe you’ll find this either cute or creepy. I just think it’s a good story to tell.

Now on to Saint Dragon.


I did play the arcade version of this game not long ago, and while I did, in my mind it wasn’t very different from the Amiga conversion. This is one of those games that I held in high esteem as one of the best Amiga conversions, right next to luminaries like Rainbow Islands, Rodland and Super Off-Road. Now, after playing it with these jaded eyes I have to rethink that.

The Amiga version is notably not as smooth and not as pretty as the original. Also, as expected as most of these conversions go, it slows down a bit when there’s too much going on screen. Still, it’s a respectable job by The Sales Curves, which also did the perfect Rodland conversion. Other differences include a lower difficulty level, which kind of makes sense, even if some parts of the game are quite difficult, like the rocks on level 2.

As the bible once taught us, being pelted with stones is never fun
There’s a timeless appeal to shoot-em-ups. The fact that is based on the simple premise of “destroy or be destroyed” and basic controls makes many of old gems immediately playable. Besides, the whole dynamic of having to avoid constantly the hail of bullets our foes throw at us, while also having to tear down the opposition takes lots of concentration and skill. There’s no other type of game that gives that whole rush of being “in the zone” as shoot-em-ups. Playing some of the most demanding ones is a much more effective stimulant than coffee will ever be. Or maybe even cocaine. I don’t how drug enforcement agencies never used Cave games as some kind of methadone for cocaine and meth addicts.


Most games of this kind usually have some kind of gimmick to differentiate it from the lot. In this case it’s the dragon and its tail that also works like a weapon and a shield. In the same year, another shmup, by the name of Dragon Breed, had the same mythical animal in the main role, but I have to say that Saint Dragon is a much superior game. Besides the dragon, the game doesn’t do anything else much different that was is common in the genre, but what it does, it does it well.

As for the visuals, I just love the graphic design of this game. There’s kind of a Roger Dean feel to the design of this alien world that is very appealing, especially for me as a nerd of science fiction and Metal. The music may not seem much at first, as it lacks the punch and celerity that is required in this kind of adrenaline fuelled games. The thing is, these tunes are catchier than the Black Death was. Even while I was loading the game I was humming it from start to end. While it lacks in blunt force it definitely makes up in finesse.

I never liked snakes, even before I knew the existence of species that spit missiles
I have to say that I don’t know why I picked this particular game for Andy Dyke’s employee’s son. It normally doesn’t make much sense to give something as good to someone I didn’t even knew. I could have taken this chance to get rid of Narco Police or Rick Dangerous. Maybe I loved the Amiga too much to give this kid a bad first impression. I’m sure we would certainly be made fun of in school for not having Doom or Tomb Raider to play at home, so no point in being mean.

By the way, if ever design a shoot-em-up, it will definitely be called “Blinking is Dying”.

This one can't blink anymore


2 comments:

  1. I'm reading these posts in reverse order, newest to oldest and so far the running theme seems to be that while you were in school, you had girls throwing themselves at you, but you were too shy to ever do anything about it. I wish I had that problem when I was in school!

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    1. Well, now that you mentioned it, it kinda looks a bit smug on my part, and actually not at all true, if you notice that some of these episodes were significant years apart:)

      But I guess I will refrain a bit from writing about girls for some time.

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