Colorful super hero action lands on the Wii in a manner most pleasant.
Like many children in the 90s, I grew up idolizing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Despite its inherent silliness, the series was rather captivating and fun to watch. But what few know is that the Power Rangers have a long legacy in their native Japan, and that many TV shows similar to it exist. Kamen Rider is one of them. While considered a cult series in North America, it has a very loyal following in Japan, with many spin-offs being made since its first appearance in 1971. Kamen Rider Dragon Knight for the Wii is a fighting game that celebrates the series' history, featuring 13 Kamen Riders pulled from various incarnations of the franchise.
One word that best describes Dragon Knight is simplicity. The fighting engine is one that strips away many of the technicalities fighters are known for, just focusing on the core mechanics. You have two basic forms of attack: punch and kick. With these you are quickly able to pull off combos and air juggles without the need of a complex tutorial system. Other maneuvers, such as blocking and dodging, are also easy to perform. However, Dragon Knight does try to add some depth to its engine, using the Kamen Rider franchise as its inspiration.
There are two special attacks: Advent Attack and Final Vent. Advent Attack summons a Kamen Rider's creature to attack the opponent. Final Vents act as the game's flashy finishers, but despite their power they can be easily dodged and stopped. At the bottom of the screen is a gauge that determines when you can perform these attacks; for an Advent Attack only one part of the gauge needed to perform it, while the Final Vent requires the gauge to be full.
In addition to these attacks, Dragon Knight employs a simple card system. Each Kamen Rider has a set of cards that can be used to perform special attacks in battle, such as summoning weapons or creating skill-altering effects like blocking the ability to perform special attacks. It spices up the combat quite a bit.
In terms of controls, the Wii Remote and Nunchuck are used but there is no motion control required to perform any of the attacks. Dragon Knight can also be played with the Classic Controller, but neither scheme offers a clear advantage or disadvantage. Choosing one is mainly a manner of preference.
Dragon Knight features a handful of modes common in fighters. First is arcade mode, where you'll face the characters in a series of matches. The game's mission mode lies in Mirror World, which presents its missions through a series of branching paths. The gameplay is then divided into two forms: fighting, which works exactly like the regular game, and beat 'em up, where you'll be asked to defeat all of the enemies in different areas. Participating in Mirror World will net you Rider Points, which help acquire new cards for the characters. While a neat mode, the missions lack variety and creativity.
That is Dragon Knight's gameplay in a nutshell. It's quite good, but this simplicity becomes the game's Achilles' heel. While its basic gameplay makes the game very fun and easy to grasp, fighting fans might not be satisfied due to its lack of depth. The cards and special attacks add a wrinkle here and there, but few of them feel like they add a substantial amount of strategy to the game. It’s a great fighter for those tired of the complexities of the genre, but for those wanting more Dragon Knight will disappoint.
Another problem with Dragon Knight is that it doesn't use the franchise to the fullest extent. Even if it does feature 13 different Kamen Riders, their stories are poorly told. There are no additional modes that dive into the mythology of the series, and fans might feel disappointed that no further references to its legacy are made in the game.
However, Dragon Knight's presentation proves to be one of its strongest assets. Each Kamen Rider is very detailed and resembles the original actors and suits very well. Their weapons, bikes, and creatures have also been modeled with the greatest of care. The only blemishes are the stages, which are very bland and generic, clashing with the colorful and even wacky aesthetic of the characters. Stages aside, Dragon Knight looks really good
In terms of sound, Dragon Knight is mediocre. The background music is very generic, lacking the energy to match the frenetic pace of gameplay. The voice acting is very stiff, with laughable winning and losing lines that lack charisma and emotion. It's not bad enough to seriously detract from the experience, but more could have been done.
Overall, Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is a serviceable Wii fighter that provides fun for those seeking a simpler fighting game. It is polished enough to please most Kamen Rider fans, even if it is only over the course of a rental.