Guest review from Chris McAuley
Originally released for the king of handheld’s, Dragonborne debuted on the Gameboy in 2020. Its publisher Spacebot Interactive has since released it on Steam. It is the Steam release which I will focus my attention on here.
Although I played this game on the PC, Dragonborne is a Gameboy RPG through and through. It is in this fact where I derived most of my fun. Its reminiscent of Dragon Warriors in many respects. This game elicited memories of playing my banana-coloured handheld for hours. There’s a real magic when the game boots up, powerful Gameboy chip tunes surge through my headphones. The simple but detailed graphics feel authentic and imaginative.
The game is set in the kingdom of Argon, you play the role of Kris, the son of legendary dragon slayer Kurtis. The game narrative begins with your father having gone missing, as the story progresses you must not only find Kurtis but stop the dragons from waking up and destroying the world. Like the best 8-bit RPGs, the story is quite simple but invokes a sense of excitement. The tasks you are set throughout are varied and at times challenging. Within the first hour you will fight off a vicious gang attacking your local town, then gathering mushrooms and finally breaking into a cave to slay a dragon.
Dragonborne’s NPCs have a sense of character which was unusual for classic titles of this era. Its important for you to talk to each person you encounter. The NPCs will move the story along and assist you in finding out what to do next.
The villages you travel through exude atmosphere and charm. Locations such as inns become burned into your memory as you explore them. Examining a mirror in an inn, Kris’ reflection appeared and a little text box appeared saying ‘Lookin’ good!’. These touches and the wonderful dialogue with some of the characters, which had me smiling, really help highlight the quality of the title.
The battle system is where the weakest aspect of the game lies. There is no experience or skill advancement in the game. During combat your limited options are to either attack, use an item, magic or a special attack bound to the weapon you are using. You progress through the collection of special items and potions. There are dungeons to crawl through to fight dangerous Dragons, these locations are relatively short however. The puzzles which you will encounter are also rarely challenging, focusing on pushing blocks to find hidden treasure chests or destroying all the monsters to open a room’s door.
Overall, the game offers a lot of value as a delight to fans of the retro scene. It is limited fun but will engage your senses and captivate you until the end of your journey. This is one of the very best titles created with the Game Boy Studio. I commend it to you, not merely as a reminder of the ‘good old days’ or RPGs but as a potential highlight of your gaming year.