Dragon Breed was an arcade game released by Irem back in 1989.

The story

You are a "Dragon Rider" who rides an immortal dragon on a mission in a bio-technological fantasy world. There doesn't seem to be too much of a background story to this title, one of the console ports identifies you as "King Kayas of the Agamen Empire", but that is about all the story there is.

The game

This is a horizontal scrolling shooter similar in gameplay to R-Type and Saint Dragon (very similar to Saint Dragon). You pilot a dragon that can be upgraded with a variety of different attacks (technically you transform your dragon into a different type, that has different attack). The one thing that sets this game apart from other similar shooters is the ability to jump off your dragon. Simply fly close to the ground, and press the jump button to dismount. You can use this to your advantage to keep your rider safe while your (unkillable) dragon clears the screen of baddies.

The dragon you ride is a large beast of the oriental persuasion (really long), and takes up a large portion of the screen. The dragon himself cannot be hurt, so you can use this to your advantage to ram smaller enemies (just be aware of your rider who sits up towards the head, he can still be hurt).

Each level has a different "boss" character at the end. They are all different beasties, but do not require any odd strategies to defeat (at least not the first four, which was as far as I could get).

Picking up a "potion" will change your dragon's color, and give him new abilities. Although any color dragons can fire a special shot by holding down the fire button for a while before shooting. There are 5 different color dragons in all. I will detail them below.

  • Green is your default dragon. He has no special abilities.
  • Blue dragons drop lightning bolts from underneath their body, and are best used in open areas with lots of foes.
  • Copper dragons can breathe fire, easily defeating most enemies (although it has a very short range).
  • Silver dragons shoot heat seeking missiles, and are good in most situations.
  • Gold dragons shoot in several directions at once, but the shot do not seek the enemies like those of the silver dragon.
The Machine

This game was only sold as a conversion kit, although many distributors would pre-install these kits in generic cabinets, and sell them to the public that way.

This is a JAMMA compatible title, so any JAMMA cabinet could be a proper Dragon Breed cabinet. The control panel to this title has a single 8-Way joystick, with fire and jump buttons on either side of it (so you can play either left or right handed).

The marquee for this title is a highly detailed scene of a knight riding a green dragon, while being attack by what appears to be a group of carnivorous fish.

Although you may encounter this title in a cocktail cabinet (as the circuit board supports the screen flip for the second player), there were no specific graphics made for a cocktail cabinet. (So the game will appear either unmarked, or perhaps with a few of the graphics from the upright kit jury rigged into place).

Where to play

Dragon Breed was converted to a few consoles and computer systems after its original arcade release, but none of them are really as good as the arcade version. Luckily you can play the arcade version with two different emulators, MAME and M72.

This is quite a fun game, and it is well worth adding to your arcade game collection. I would recommend simply buying a Dragon Breed JAMMA board (to plug into your pre-existing JAMMA cabinet) as opposed to a whole machine.

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