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Crimson Dragon is Panzer Dragoon with a side of laser-gravy


Grounding Inc's Crimson Dragon already had a lot in common with the Panzer Dragoon series. Given that it was under development by the same core team that worked on Panzer Dragoon, including creator Yukio Futatsugi, the similarities weren't exactly surprising.

After trying out the latest iteration of the game and speaking with Futatsugi at E3, it seems that any distinction between Crimson Dragon and Panzer Dragoon is nominal at most, especially now that Kinect is no longer a central feature. In the most vital of ways, this is a Panzer Dragoon game. As a longtime fan of the series, I can tell you that's a very good thing.

Gallery: Crimson Dragon (E3 2013) | 5 Photos

Before I alienate any fans that were looking forward to Crimson Dragon as a Kinect experience, I should point out that Kinect control is still an option. The game doesn't use a Kinect-only approach, however, opting instead for a hybrid scheme working in tandem with the Xbox One controller. The controller will be used to direct the dragon's flight path, while players will be able to aim and shoot using Kinect gestures. I wasn't able to test these Kinect features during my session, though. Presumably, they should work as well or better than they did on the Xbox 360 version, given the improvements of the new Kinect sensor.

Control method aside, Crimson Dragon plays and feels exactly like the old Panzer Dragoon games. I guided my dragon with the left stick, locking onto foes with the right stick and letting loose a blast of homing laser-breath at every opportunity. The demo also featured another weapon, plasma-breath that arced electricity through anything within its exceptionally large targeting reticle. It was easier to target enemies with plasma-breath, but it wasn't as powerful as the homing lasers.

Crimson Dragon also carries on Panzer Dragoon's tradition of being drop-dead gorgeous. I flew through a huge cave as a giant worm erupted from the magma below. I targeted segments of the beast, landing homing lasers left and right. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do enough damage before an on-screen timer lapsed and the worm plunged back beneath the lava.

Shortly after that, I faced off with a dragon, dodging stalactites and doing my best to shoot its projectiles out of the air. I'd nearly exhausted my health bar by the time I knocked it from the sky. I watched it tumble down as another much larger dragon exploded from the lava – so large that it caught the smaller dragon and ate it in a single bite (see image above). Alas, my battle with the massive monster will have to wait, as the demo ended right there.

Though Crimson Dragon borrows heavily from Panzer Dragoon, it makes a few tweaks to the formula, Futatsugi told me. For one, while most of the game will be on rails, boss fights will allow players to fly freely. Also, now that Crimson Dragon has made the jump to Xbox One, the dragon breeding system has been significantly improved, he said. Whereas the game originally included six different playable dragons, it now features six different tribes of them, each with multiple dragons to discover. Crimson Dragon also includes cooperative online multiplayer and asynchronous multiplayer that allows players to download their friends' dragons and play alongside them.

The core of Crimson Dragon though, its laser-filled dragon belly, is Panzer Dragoon through and through. Flying, rolling, dodging and blasting enemies feels as good as it always has, and that's what really matters. The multiplayer, the expanded dragon roster, the next-gen glitz – all of that is just gravy.

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