Insert Disk collects Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis.
Today’s retro game review is Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story for the Sega Mega Drive / Sega Genesis. This retro gaming classic is based on the movie of the same name. You’ll take control of Bruce Lee through a variety of important moments throughout his life. Bruce Lee himself is legendary. However, most will find Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story the game is a little underwhelming.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. Today we’re taking a look at a game based on a film based on a true story. It’s time to take a look at Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Now I enjoy a Bruce Lee film as much as the next person. Enter the Dragon, Way of the Dragon and Fists of Fury are amongst my favourites but really any occasion you see Bruce Lee in action it’s clear that he was a martial artist first and actor second.
The game Dragon: The Bruce Lee story is based on the movie of the same name. It’s a retelling of significant moments from Bruce’s life from the difficulties he had in an America of racist undertones through to his injuries and eventual breakthrough in to the public eye. Overall it’s actually not a bad movie. There’s a bit of artistic licence thrown in and the movie does well to not get drawn in to the controversy around his death. The plot is very much about his life. So, a martial arts master, a plot set up for some set piece fights you would imagine that this would produce one amazing game. Sadly this wasn’t the case. Right from the start the game is somewhat burdened by its control system and attack power. On your first playthough you’ll find yourself jumping all over the place just trying to land some punches. When you do land an attack, they seem incredibly underpowered compared to other fighting games and not what you would expect for Bruce Lee.
It does become easier with practice but it does dawn on you very early on that Dragon just isn’t going to be the experience that you’d hoped for. The move set is quite reasonable and by building you power meter it is then possible to activate the nunchuks. However, it’s a real mission to not get decked in the process by the opponent, especially if you choose to play on the harder difficulty settings. The stages do follow the movie somewhat but with a few characters thrown in for good measure such as what appears to be Jim Kelly of all people. I’m not complaining here as it’s a good surprise to see his likeness pop up in the game, it’s perhaps a nod to the fans of Enter the Dragon and karate in general that he replaces the actor that was in a similar scene. Bruce will fight a range of characters in various locations including sailor and chefs. Overall it’s a good fight roster but you will be seeing them back later in some classic sprite colour swaps.
With the controls being rather difficult to master and your standard attacks being a little underpowered it is inevitable that you will die at some point. At this point there’s what may be my favourite element of the game. Lee’s phantom fear arrives in the form of a samurai. If you can defeat him you win the right to another life. I actually found this quite a clever concept being able to fight for your survival. If you are looking to collect Dragon there’s a variety of options. Here is the UK PAL edition for the Sega Mega Drive. It has some nice artwork and a standard black case. You’ll be able to pick a complete edition up for around the £10 mark. Similar North American versions can also easily be found for around the $10-$15 range. In my opinion this is still too expensive, the game is not directly a Bruce Lee product nor is it that great a game to play and isn’t particularly rare. It’s interesting that this one hasn’t sunk to the lower bargain bin prices for collectors yet.
The game isn’t terrible but it certainly doesn’t do justice to the story of Bruce Lee or his phenomenal impact on martial arts and Jeet Kune Do around the world. What I really wanted is for this game to have the hard hitting kicks and snapping punches we see on screen. Instead we get a rather diluted shadow of the man. The game is still worth a play through if you can find it for a bargain price. I have the feeling that it just won’t hold players attention for too long though as other beat ’em ups of the 16-bit era have.