Battle dragons and "CARD GET" in this game!
You can tell that Dragon Drive is definitely a game by Treasure with a couple of distinct clues: constant shooting and the phrase, "CARD GET!"
Ikaruga may have won over new Treasure/shooter fans from the GameCube crew, but be warned; this game is quite a bit different. For one thing, it feels more like Starfox 64 than anything else, and for another, it isn't nearly as hard as the average Treasure game. There are two kinds of stages: "on-rails" shooting, and free-roving stages in a set area (you can stop, turn, or move in reverse).
Controlling the game is actually a lot of fun; you control from a behind-the-dragon view and move in all three dimensions while circling or evading other dragons, from generic weak ones to tough bosses. In the free-roving mode, L and R make your dragon move forward and back - if clicked all the way down, the dragon will dash forward or back. Pushing X activates a dash left, right, up or down. The A button fires, and dragons can also do charge-up shots. Y locks onto enemies, and the control pad is used for handy quick-use powerup cards. B creates a temporary shield. It's an excellent setup for needing to move in all directions in three dimensions. The Z-button changes dragons on the fly, so you need to make sure it's safe to take a few seconds to select and transform to a different dragon before doing so. Each has differences in speed, firepower, and shot patterns.
Most of the game is almost dead-easy. Normal enemy dragons are virtually no threat, and most bosses can be defeated by circling and firing. However, in contrast to most of the game, there are a couple of points that stand out as being really damn hard. The boss of the Night Flight level will probably kill any player many times, unless he uses the shield function and saved cards to their fullest potential. It's weird and bothersome to have one really hard point like that after such easy play for the rest of the game.
The graphics, admittedly, aren't that hot. In-game, it looks like a (weak) Dreamcast game. The framerate, usually, is definitely not 60 fps. The environments are generally bland, but at least a couple still look really good. The character models seem average, but most of the time, you can't even get a very close look at them, so it doesn't matter that much. One annoying thing is that at the end of a level, there'll be a cinematic or something, and it will show the game screen again for about one second before going to the next level or cinematic. Most of the music isn't that noticeable, except for some beautiful anime-theme stuff for the opening video and the end credits.
The cinematics and voice work are pretty awesome, though. You can watch lots and lots of video, OR just skip 'em completely. There's an "anime disc" packed with the game that plays on the GameCube. It's not like there are subtitles for silly gaijin, though, so don't buy it for the awesome story where anime kids battle Pokémon or card creatures or tops or Gundams or monsters they made out of food or whatever it is they do these days. Why don't you damn kids go play outside or something?
Unlocks! You guys like unlocks, right? You can open up a view of highly detailed Dragon Drive game card scans and a whole mess of dragons to play as in Versus mode. And let me tell you, Versus mode is a lot more fun than circling around some brain dead boss dragon, so be sure to play it, okay? It plays just like the normal free-roving mode with a vertical split screen. Unlike a retarded boss, a player will zip around and past you, making you lose your lock-on. From there on out, it's a game of wits.
Honestly, I can't see anyone getting too much enjoyment out of Dragon Drive unless they knew enough Japanese well enough to follow the story and were already a fan of the Dragon Drive anime. It's obviously not Treasure's best work on a shooter...