Remember our giant shoot-'em-ups guide from a couple of issues back? (Snazzy, wasn't it?) We raved on about Activision's R-Type conversion a bit, didn't we? (Hardly surprising really - it is one of the best Speccy shoot-'em-ups ever!) Well, St Dragon, from new software label Storm, looks just the same - but with knobs on! MATT BIELBY just had to pop along to investigate!
There's quite a bit of explaining to be done right here at the beginning so you'll know what I'm wobbling on about, but I'm not going to do it. Pop over to the 'What On Earth Is...?' bit at the end if you're confused about Jaleco, Storm or whatever, but otherwise we'll dive in head-first - you'll have to pick things up as best you can as we go along.
Right, to the game itself. A picture's worth a squillion words (or so they say) so it might be wise to take a few ganders at the screens [Or, in our case, screen... - NickH] before we go any further. Back already? Okay. What did you manage to work out? If you said it's a horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em-up, then you're absolutely right (but I'm hardly impressed). A horizontal scroller with little space ships in it? Yes, okay. And one with a nifty metallic look to everything? Getting warmer, but I think you're missing something. Look, what if l was to tell you there's a giant alien spaceship on one level that more than fills the screen (and which you have to fly all the way around, destroying one bit at a time)? Sounds familiar yet? Yes! It's an unashamed R-Type clone, isn't it!? (But - I hasten to add - one of the best yet!) Hurrah!!
In fact, at first glance, St Dragon really does look just like R-Type with knobs on. Or rather, with a tail on. You see, your little spaceship is a wiggly dragon/snake-shaped doobrie, the tail being far more invulnerable than the head of the ship, so you can sort of wrap it round yourself when you're in real trouble, giving a similar degree of protection to the droid/ball thing you could stick on the front or back of your ship in R-Type.
Plot is of the standard 'quest against an evil empire' sort (though in this case you've got to rescue a giant space-dragon from the baddies) and that's really all you need to know. Oh yes, except (of course) that things really have moved on a-pace from the original R-Type, and the baddies in St Dragon do much more interesting and complicated things.
So, want to know more? Then come with me, let's nip on a train down to London (unless you live there already of course, in which case you can meet me at the station), make our way to the swank(ish) Storm offices near Clapham Junction, and take a gander for ourselves.
A chat with the crew
Dan Marchant is the software manager in charge of this project, so let's have a word with him first.
Hi, Dan! How's is going, matey?
Really well, actually. We've at last got a lot (though by no means all) of the graphics sorted, so things are starting to really come together. Up until now, instead of spaceships, we had all these rubbishy little sprites drawn by the programmer whizzing around all over the screen, including little messages like 'I can't draw' standing in for baddies and things. In fact (by a spooky coincidence) the programmer's just over there. He's called Andy Taylor. Why don't we pop over and talk to him?
And why not? What a splendid idea! Hello, you must be Andy. How's it going?
Oh, okay actually. We've at last got Virgin's Judge Dredd out of the way (the last game I programmed), so I'm concentrating totally on St Dragon at the moment. I've just returned to programming actually - Dredd was the first since some Codies budgie stuff about four years ago. I've been in Germany and all sorts since then. Sean McClurg (yes, like Doug McClurg from The Virginian and all those crappy monster films, fact-fans), did the graphics (he's an old budget man too) and I think Tony Williams will do the music.
Brillo. Any big problems with it?
Well, we realised quite early on that we'd never get it all in 48K, so it's 128-only game I'm afraid. You could call that a problem if you're a humble 48K Speccy owner.
I should cocoa! What else?
Well, the sprite system caused some probs too - there are some huge sprites in here, some half the size of the screen, which use up a vast amount of memory. The other thing is that in St Dragon each alien seems to make a much more complicated series of moves than in, say, R-Type, so we've got to try and reproduce them all, which is pretty complicated. That's all the really difficult stuff, I think. The rest was just very hard.
SO WHAT ON EARTH IS...
A-ha! Now you're asking. Well, it's a software house, isn't it, and the reason you've never heard of it before is because it's new. Or rather, it's sort of new. You see, the company and people behind Storm have been around for quite a while now, it's just that they've always been a bit behind the scenes. Their proper name is actually The Sales Curve, and they're a bunch of programming and marketing people who've got very close ties with Accolade in the UK (in fact, they share the same offices), have produced hit games like Silkworm, Ninja Warriors and the upcoming Judge Dredd for Virgin in recent(ish) months, and are generally rated by 'those who know' as being worth watching over the next six months or so - they could well be rather 'big'.
Well, they're the coin-op people who came up with the original St Dragon machine, and they're fairly unknown too. Besides St Dragon, you may have seen their Porsche rally game Big Run, which allowed you to link up a series of machines to play your friends (we covered it in Slots Of Fun last year) or the super-sickly-cute Rodland, which is like Bubble Bobble crossed with My Little Pony. St Dragon will be the first of their games to be converted to the Speccy (that we can think of at least - let us know if we're wrong) but (spook!) the other two will be done by Storm later in the year.
He's just this blond bloke who works at The Sales Curve and who supervised the development of St Dragon. You don't need to worry about him too much.
ST DRAGON, STAGE BY STAGE
Okay, Dan, can we go through all the different levels and the differences between them?
Sure thing. Okay, this first level (the one you can see in the Screenshots [or not, as the case may be - NickH]) is set over the surface of some alien planet. The baddies are of the mechanical crab, larvae, snake and insect vadety in the main - someone took weeks going through the coin-op giving names to them all and working out all their individual abilities! - but towards the end of the level you get the most spectacular baddies, which are these giant mechanical pumas, which leap at you and are very hard to kill. End-of level-guardian is a giant (mad) cow with rockets for feet. Bizarre!
This one's in a sort of alien jungle, populated with mechanical jellyfish, butterfly and R-Type snake Iookalikes. There are some laser-firing rocks in here too, a wraith thing (which is like an evil mirror-image version of yourself), and a bizarre flying saucer at the end that splits in half and shoots a weird pattern of stars all over the place.
This is more your traditional R-Type-style tunnel affair. There are slugs crawling along the floors and ceilings, giant laser ships that almost block your path, a bizarre thing that bounces along on one foot (and looks like a robotic version of one of those cartoons from Monty Python), and a rather indescribable end-of-level monster. What, you really want me to try and describe it to you? Oh, alright. It's sort of like an alien from, er, Alien, trapped in a test tube. The tube splits open, and it shoots fireballs which move in a sort of maze pattern, creating a weird network of flames which you've got to avoid. Actually, I find it totally impossible, this bit.
This is set in space, with the baddies including alien spaceships that appear to be totally made up out of tubes. The end-of-level monster looks like an upside-down bath tub (or perhaps one of those old Mallard steam trains) and drops from the top of the screen, before spewing out various horrible, um, 'thingies'.
We're not sure if we'll be able to do this one in the Speccy version yet, but, if we do, it's the one with a giant alien spaceship you have to fly around, making sure you don't get crushed at the edges of the screen, frazzled by the rocket motors or shot to pieces by the various gun eraplacements.
A space port level with giant cranes and so on to avoid, big drill heads that drop from the ceiling, and a giant baddie that consists of loads of stars that bounce around the screen. One neat touch on this level is that you can see a massive graphic of the trapped dragon you've got to rescue (which looks like an organic, and five hundred times bigger, version of yourself) revealed slowly behind you as you progress. Finish the game, and you get a final screen of the two dragons flying off the planet together. (Well, you do in the arcade version anyway!)
|Matt Bielby has kindly authorised this site|
|LOOKING FOR EX-YS WRITERS! Do you know where any are?|
|READERS NOTE: The original YS articles on this site were written many many years ago, and should provide no indication WHATSOEVER of the author's present writing style. Judge these people on their current work, not articles they wrote decades ago.|
|All original YS text is still copyright to their original owners, including BOTH publishers and authors. Permission has been granted to reproduce these articles by a few of these owners - if you see your work on here and would like it to be taken down, e-mail me and I'll do it straightaway. All other pages have similar restrictions - email me for more details.|
None of the pages on this website may be reproduced in any way, nor sold to the general public (i.e. put onto a CD-ROM) without the consent of Nick Humphries and the author of each article. If you want to include any of these articles on a site or a CD, contact me for more instructions.