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Saint Dragon - The Atari Times

Saint Dragon

The "Holy" Dragon
by Matthias Jaap

January 18, 2002
Although the ST is not the ideal shoot'em up machine a lot of these games were produced for the Atari. Saint Dragon is an old-fashioned horizontal action game.

In the beginning they said that shoot'em up games couldn't be done because the ST's hardware did not support scrolling. Steve Baks two classics Goldrunner and Return to Genesis proved them wrong. Saint Dragon is a conversion of a not widely known arcade game. Jaleco brought the game into the arcades in 1989 and it certainly had a hard time since action games are one of the dominant genres in the arcades and the competition was great. However, at that time the software houses were quite keen on licensing arcade games and The Sales Curve grabbed the license for the home version of Saint Dragon.

There is no background story. You are a mechanoid dragon flying over a planet and blasting everything away that moves. The enemies are also robots and some carry an extra item with them. At the end of each stage a more dangerous level boss appears. It's a good thing that there are lots of extension for the dragon's weapon. Once an extra item appears you can shoot it to switch on an other extra. It's also notable that when you lose a life you'll keep your extras so unless you avoid all extras you'll meet the level boss with a heavily armed dragon.

The dragon itself is quite huge and consists of a head and a tail. The tail is invincible and can be used as a force shield. It can stop smaller shots and enemies but is more or less useless against the level boss.

There are different kind of enemies. The ground ones can fire auto-aiming missiles at you which can be quite a problem because there is sometimes little space to maneuver. One of the most deadly ones in the first stage is the wolf which doesn't shoot but jumps quite high. 

The dragon moves in front of a rocky planet. There is no parallax scrolling and therefore the background doesn't look very impressive. There is also very little animation. The dragon has two animation phases (mouth open-mouth closed) and the level boss is just a big graphic with a few animated parts. The scrolling is not as smooth as it could be but it's acceptable. The graphics itself are of average quality and not very innovative.

The sound consists of a melody with some digitized instruments and is also average. There are certainly better tunes.

Although the graphics and sound are on an average level the game has it's strong points. The dragon's tail allows some interesting variations. The game is hard but it's fair: you have four lives and three continues. The extras are kept after you die so you will not have to face the more deadly aliens on later levels with your standard weapon.

The weak points of the game is it's lack of innovative ideas. It can't compete with genre classics like R-Type and Gradius. If a shoot'em up game is not innovative it should at least score in the audiovisual department - but Saint Dragon fails there too. It isn't a total failure - it surely is a nice conversion.

Saint Dragon may be a good game for beginners but if you want to see good action games stick to Turrican, Wings of Death or Xenon II.

Hmm... Never thought I'd see the Jaleco logo on an ST screen...
Looks very reminiscent of R-Type, but with more natural backgrounds.
Saint Dragon
System: Atari-ST
Publisher: Jaleco
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 81%
Sound & Music Score: 71%
Gameplay Score: 74%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 73%

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