Do your thing, Analogue Pocket!
I have been the proud owner of an Analogue Pocket since April, and up to now, I’ve really only used it for Game Boy/Color cartridges. The system’s lovely ability to create save states allowed me to finally beat Solar Striker, a feat that had always been just out of reach (that final boss, man). However, when our Reviews Editor Jordan passed along an offer from the Incube8 Games folks to play ROM demos of upcoming games on said magical device, I was intrigued. But how? I wondered. As it turns out, I needed some additional software to run the Incube8 Games files, but after a quick walkthrough from NWR alum Andy Goergen, I was all set up. Two demos were included, which I’ll cover below.
Dracula: Dark Reign
Billed as the first ever official Bram Stroker’s Dracula game for Game Boy Color (which seems correct), Dark Reign is essentially an Igavania game on GBC hardware. You play as Dracula protagonist Jonathan Harker, although it’s unclear whether the game is an adaptation of the 1897 novel or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the 1992 film, in which case you’d be playing as Keanu Reeves, and Sir Anthony Hopkins would be giving the “miserable pile of secrets” speech.
The woefully brief demo has our hero escaping his bedroom and stabbing undead enemies with a knife while looking for an exit sign. Rather quickly upon leaving his room, Keanu—er, Jonathan—falls victim to a collapsing floor and lands deeper in the dungeon. The gameplay never really changes–Jonathan stabs a lot of zombies and bats, but the action is satisfying and the Igavania vibes are strong. Completing the demo, which takes about five minutes, unlocks additional weapons for subsequent attempts. These include a sword and an ax, both of which, along with the knife, are greatly influenced by the same armaments in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and/or Order of Ecclesia.
‘Twas a lovely demo and I very much look forward to the finished product.
This game, as opposed to its Igavania ROMmate, is a Game Boy game. It’s a top-down RPG that looks a little like Dragon Quest on the map and a little like Pokémon on the battle screens. You play as the local hero, Kris, who is asked to go to a nearby village and take care of the ninja problem there. A gang of thieves has the small population under their thumb, and so you walk up to them to initiate a turn-based battle that looks almost exactly like Pokémon, but with people instead of pocket monsters.
On your turn, you can attack, use magic or special skills, or use an item. Items were surprisingly critical to my success, as the enemies hit hard, and my character’s lowly spear didn’t do much on its own. Using the special spear skill, however, made a bigger dent. That said, the use of defensive and offensive herbs, as well as HP potions, quickened my success. Once the village was saved, I was pointed in the direction of a cave, which I took to be Dragonhym dungeon. Once inside, I was beset upon by cartoony zombies and demons and leveled up enough to gain a magic attack (which was not as good as my spear strike skill). Landing critical hits or lucking into enemies missing an attack is, sadly, quite rare.
The dungeon had an unlimited healing shrine, which I made liberal use of. It also had a few puzzles in the form of Pokémon-like directional mazes, where stepping on an arrow causes you to fly in that direction until you hit a wall. There was an added wrinkle, however, in having to direct two rocks to land on switches, and then use a third rock to destroy a rock wall. Once through the wall, however, the demo ended.
Dragonyhm is a fun, if somewhat by-the-numbers, Game Boy RPG. It looks good, though; the spritework is straight out of those old RPGs. The music loops a bit too quickly, but, again, pretty accurate for the system it’s developed as an homage to.
Both games were fun, and while I’m definitely more interested in Dark Reign, I look forward to both.
More than that, this experience has opened up my Analogue Pocket in ways I hadn’t previously considered. It’s a piece of hardware I highly recommend, if you have the means and you can ever grab one before they go out of stock.