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Crimson Dragon: Side Story

Grand scale

Product: Crimson Dragon: Side Story | Publisher: Microsoft Studios | Format: Windows Phone | Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Crimson Dragon: Side Story Windows Phone, thumbnail 1
Not all dragons are lazy, evil sorts who spend their days sleeping on piles of treasure and their nights frying nearby towns.

Some are the fantasy equivalent of a Harrier Jump Jet, zipping nimbly through the skies at their rider's bidding and shooting down targets on command.

That's the premise of Crimson Dragon: Side Story. It's a 2D shoot-'em-up, but in place of an agile fighter plane you're given your very own scaly beast.

Panzering to the masses

It doesn't play like a traditional shoot-'em-up, though. The structure's the same - you fly from left to right, blasting enemy formations before tackling a screen-filling boss. But the controls are quite different.

Crimson Dragon: Side Story plays more like a 2D take on the classic Panzer Dragoon games (which is no surprise as some of the game's developers worked on that hallowed series).

You can only move your dragon up and down via a virtual slider on the left side of the screen. You drag your right thumb across multiple enemies to target them before releasing to fire a deadly homing shot at each of them.

This mixture of simple dodging and click-and-drag targeting marks Crimson Dragon: Side Story out as pretty unique, especially on the rather limited Windows Phone Store. There are a couple of traditional shmups, but nothing like this.

Dragon to the next round

In truth, the virtual dodge control is little too cramped, and needs to be separated from the 'secondary' and 'special' attack buttons, but it's not too difficult to get used to.

Those aforementioned secondary and special attacks gradually unlock as you progress through the game's five worlds, and you can choose the load-out of your dragon by spending the crystals you collect along the way.

The game actively encourages replay in this way, as you won't see a fraction of the abilities on offer in your first run-through. This is a good job, really, as you can blast through the game the first time in well under an hour, aided by the ability to continue by using one of your gems.

As well as playing through the Story mode again, you also unlock Mission mode after your initial run-through, which lets you play trickier versions of the story levels in any sequence.

Grand scale

Visually, Crimson Dragon: Side Story is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the swooping 3D backgrounds and huge bosses are quite impressive, but the HUD and menu design is like something lifted from a mid-'90s game.

Similarly, the story is reasonably well told - but only through text-based exposition, with a virtually static piece of artwork to accompany each scene.

That sums Crimson Dragon: Side Story up, really - an interesting, novel, and entertaining shooter with a number of sloppy touches that hold it back from its full potential.
Crimson Dragon: Side Story
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 7 January 2013
Crimson Dragon: Side Story is a novel and playable shoot-'em-up with a vital twist to targeting that makes it a worthwhile purchase despite some niggly flaws
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