Following Bruce Lee's death, a number of films were made to cash in on his legacy, featuring actors who maybe looked a bit like him or had a similar name, and quite often with entirely nonsensical plots. The games industry, however, didn't particularly catch on to the trend. That is, until 1995, when two Taiwanese companies, Ramar International and Tony Tech, created...
Yes, that is supposed to be Bruce Lee, and yes, that is Arabic - The Dragon is quite possibly the only NES game (other than a recently dumped pirate translation of Captain Tsubasa 2) to feature Arabic as an in-game language. It also seems to use the same sound engine as a few Sachen games. I'm not sure what to make of that - probably Sachen's sound guy just quit and joined Ramar or Tony Tech or whoever. But there could be something more sinister going on. Maybe.
Note! I turned the sprite limit off to take these screenshots, it flickers like a bastard if you leave it on. And I cheated my way through the whole game, obviously.
So this is the backstory - apparently Bruce Lee has quit his day job (of being dead) and has taken to saving the people of the world from criminal gangs. Where that tavarish trashery Mr. Tat comes in to it, I'm not sure, but Bruce's professor wants him offed and so offed he shall be. At least, with cheats.
Standing between Lee and Tat is none other than Suzuki, a ninja from Japan, very much of the Godfrey Ho school of ninja costume design. He also seems to be Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, but hey. Wouldn't surprise me if "Bruce Lee" was based on the Liu Kang sprite, either.
Now, if you just fought Scorpion.. Suzuki for a few seconds then switched off (or, more likely, closed your emulator) in disgust, you'd think The Dragon was just a really terrible fighting game. But, those of you with the patience to master the godawful controls (or cheat your arse off, as I did) will beat Suzuki, like so:
and thus the story advances.
But what's this?
It turns out The Dragon is also a really terrible scrolling beat 'em up!
And a really terrible platform game!
Yes, in between the already tedious fighting stages, there are these even more tedious fighting/platform stages. See those boxes? Some contain recovery items, extra lives or nunchakus. Others explode and take off over half your life bar. Pick two wrong crates and you are fucked. Yeah, back to the start you go. Bitch.
Oh, and each one of these is actually split into two separate levels. Great.
The worst part about these levels is that I actually have to play through them, to some extent. At least with the fighting stages I can just set the opponent's life to 0 and kill the bastard with one hit - here I actually have to jump over the spike pits and beat up the randomly coloured enemies and everything. Well, I don't have to, I could be playing something good instead. But I'm not. I'm playing The Dragon.
I won't stop to consider why I'm playing The Dragon. It's almost certainly too depressing.
But nevermind that.
Johnny Cage Ram (the King Fighter).
Ram seems to favour these purple fireball things. Yep, that's Ram. The only other thing I could mention about Ram is his name. I mean, come on, Ram? Maybe he was named after Ramar. It's still a stupid name, though.
Obviously none of the developers actually played this far enough to notice the victory text was fucked.
Anyway. To Italy!
Italy, of course, is famous for its kung-fu midgets, and on this stage they are out in force. It was also here that I first realised the blue bar, which acts as the enemy's health bar in one-on-one fights, actually charges up as you take damage from enemies in these stages - once it's full, you can press A and B together to unleash the "Skill of Fighting" (providing the game registers both button presses), in which Bruce punches in both directions while the screen flashes, killing all enemies on screen. It's still pretty limited in its usefulness, though, considering there are rarely (if ever) more than three on-screen at any one time, and they all die in one hit anyway.
I think these are supposed to be zombies. I don't know why a criminal gang would employ zombies. Budget cuts, probably.
The second part of this stage takes place in what looks like a film studio, in which you fight boxers. And, hey, more zombies and midgets. Why not. It doesn't have any terrible platform bits, though. They're just getting lazy.
Tat, the Chevalier of the East! At last we meet, you tavarish trashery. Not looking anything like Kano, either. And Tat being Tat, he has two skills of fighting.
Presumably this is the Icy Killing Pugilism - doesn't look particularly icy to me. More like another purple fireball. Ah well. I didn't see the Skill of Sky Gilding either, although he jumps around a lot. Maybe that's it.
and another glitchy victory! So that's Tat down, where now?
Oh, I get it. They're half-arsishly trying to shoehorn the plot of Bruce Lee films into the game. Well, why not.
Thailand, the home of sumo wrestlers. Of course.
I like this stage's BGM, for what it's worth. I'd say it sounds more Italian than Thai, but what do I know about Thai music? Nothing, that's what.
And the shitty platform bits return! I missed them.
As do the midgets and zombies. But then they never really went away.
The second part of Thailand is much like the first, only you can see outside. Sumo wrestlers, midgets, zombies and such are still very much the order of the day here.
Alice "Sonya" Yang, the Pussycat from France. I bet her Wizardary Chi Skill of Wave is another purple fireball.
Or not. Still, it's pretty much the same thing as the purple fireball - just a generic projectile attack.
You know, I always thought these were Bruce's victory quotes. Maybe they're actually defeat quotes from the person whose arse you've just kicked. Either that, or the developers don't quite understand the concept of "winning".
Wait, so what did Alice have to do with anything? And what happened to Samit? Should I stop attempting to make sense out of a story that's really just sticking the plot of one film after another without even trying to link them anymore? All these questions and more will almost certainly not be answered as Bruce continues his journey to...China, probably.
Wait, this doesn't look like China. And I don't know what's up with the music on this stage. Sounds like it's being played entirely by ringing phones. I think it's supposed to sound like steel drums.
Still, the zombies and midgets are back. And I think that black guy is new to this stage.
Part 2. Yeah. Sumos are back! And more zombies.
At least I got some nunchakus out of one of these damn boxes. Which seem to disappear when you take damage. Fuck.
Fatek! The Iron Mask Man, from the Middle East, with his Fire Trochoid Wizardy. Fatek, who definitely isn't Raiden.
Fatek can fly a bit, in place of everyone else's generic projectile attacks. Doesn't seem to do anything fiery or trochoidy (not even a purple fire-trochoid), but at least it's something new.
Incidentally, I noticed the Arabic text on the box next to the life bar seems to switch between two different things, and . But not being able to read Arabic, I have no idea what they mean. Anyone who knows Arabic is welcome to shed some light on it, though.
Yeah, take that, you bastard. Now for the truly epic ending...
Cheats, though, if you want them - Bruce's health is at 006D (set it to anything other than zero to be invincible) and your opponent's health is at 00BE (set it to zero to kill them with one hit, anything else makes them invincible). That should be enough for emulators, at least - I have no idea how you'd implement them on a Game Genie or Pro Action Rocky or anything.
And what of Ramar International? To quote from their website (yes, they're still around): "Our main products include two kinds.One is GPS Navigation Products, such as Car GPS, PDA GPS,Portable GPS,Car Vehicle Management System. The other is Islamic Electronic Products,such as Pocket Dictionary, Holy Quran ,Azan Clock Products and so on.". Still putting that Arabic knowledge to good use, then. I just hope their Arabic is better than their English.