|Drake of the 99 Dragons|
Larry and Andy Wachowski
|Release date||November 5, 2003 (Xbox)|
June 14, 2004 (Windows)
|Genre||Cartoony third-person shooter|
Drake of the 99 Dragons is a 2003 third-person shooter video game for the Xbox and Windows. In the game, the clan of the 99 Dragons has been wiped out and the artifact they were supposed to be guarding slips into the wrong hands, while they were all distracted by being murdered. One of the clan members, Drake, doesn't let death get in the way of destiny, and returns from the grave to avenge his clan, recover the carelessly lost item, and show them that living post-mortem may present a challenge to the nostrils or finding a partner, but should not have an effect on basic guard duties.
In creating Drake, Sweden-based developer Idol FX aimed for the goal of "The Matrix meets Batman: The Animated Series", with all of the slick gothic style, melodrama, techno music, and oversized jaws of those respective works. The game's visuals used a cel-shading effect enhanced with "rim-lighting", in order to make players feel as though they were playing through an interactive comic book. In the midst of development, publisher Majesco crunched Idol's deadline down from one year to six months; despite skepticism among critics, this resulted in the game being even better than it could've been otherwise.
Drake received unanimous critical acclaim, truly revolutionizing the way us humans experience joy. It was praised for its superb control system where the camera was mapped to the same control stick as the aiming, bringing the gamer to the cusp of vomiting in joy, due to induced motion lovesickness, by the end of the level. The game was so successful, in fact, that it spawned a long-running comic book series as well as a Saturday morning cartoon on the Kids' WB!.
The primary objective of Drake is to find those bastards who murdered your clan and shoot them in the face. To do so, the player uses a wide array of violent gut-splattering firearms. Like an Italian chef that has just has his veal cutlet returned by a customer, Drake uses the strategy of darting around and flailing his arms everywhere, then randomly shooting the nearest person without looking.
In the Xbox version, the joy of killing is further enhanced because an aiming reticle, a common staple of third-person shooters, is excluded. Instead, a very precise auto-targeting feature is implemented to help Drake aim and fire accurately at the enemies. And what is more joyous than watching a player frantically attempting to get his controller to work, screaming in agony? In the PC version, however, a traditional aiming reticle is used which, while very nice and ethical, is nowhere near as fun.
Drake has a number of special abilities, such as smelling like rotting flesh and randomly losing a limb. He also has the ability to slow down or freeze time so he can enjoy a spot of lunch mid-battle. Being dead, Drake's health is probably not that relevant, but his energy levels are primarily topped up by consuming the soles of fallen opponents, provided they have not trodden in dog mess recently. There are also red "lost souls" which, like deep-fried Mars bars, do not replenish, but rather deplete Drake's life force... erm, death force, or whatever.
Players are introduced to Drake, the pale-faced assassin of a Neo Macau-based clan known as the 99 Dragons. There used to be one hundred dragons, but nobody knows what happened to one of them. While twirling and playing with his guns in the Kwoon of the 99 Dragons, Drake sees a television commercial for a fruit-flavored robot known as a Tang Cyborg, built by his rival Tang of the Wu-Tang Clan. As if by magic, one of these cyborgs leaps through the window and starts smacking Drake around the room, while our hero runs about, waving his arms and shooting at his enemy without looking. Amazingly, Drake manages to kill the cyborg, but feels remorse after licking it, because it was one of the new passion fruit-flavored killers.
Drake's oral pleasure with the cyborg is interrupted, however, when he hears a noise outside of the Kwoon: intruders, who "must be out of this world" to get past the penthouse's latest, dead security guard. Running into the Master's chamber containing the Soul Portal Artifact, given to his clan by soul-crooner Lionel Richie himself over 3000 years ago, the intruders set about bringing chaos and death to those present to the soundtrack of "Deep River Woman". During the melee, a mysterious Ghost Assassin swoops out of the room with the artifact; Drake tries to pursue the ethereal being, but is gunned down. Being undead, Drake's bullet wounds required some "field-sewing" before taking up the pursuit, in case he dropped one of his lungs then slipped on it (imagine having to explain that to the five Spirit Gods). Eventually Drake continues pursuing the Ghost Assassin, but is soon reminded what ethereal means as he watches it pass through a solid window.
Drake returns to the Master's chamber, only to find the Master's and wierdly his own corpses on the floor. Just as Drake was starting to suspect he must have absorbed the soul of an adjacent magic mushroom by accident and is now at the out-of-body-experience stage, his chest tattoo starts glowing red. To make matters worse, he starts having flashbacks, back to when he consumed a bowl of LSD-laced chicken soup and collapsed, allowing the Master to tattoo the Undying Dragon on his chest. The UD is a sentient being, bestowing its bearer supernatural powers and immortality. As the dodgy fungus properly kicks in, Drake vows revenge, killing thirty mooks and stealing their souls to feed the Dragon tattoo. Mad with power, Drake boasts that "the strength of the stolen souls" has provided him with invincibility, and believes that he can now fly like Mary Poppins. He declares that "Nothing can stop me now!", and to test this out, he leaps headfirst out the window of the twenty-story penthouse, and plummets to his death.
Drake awakens in Ward 3 of the Serene Garden Accident and Emergency Department, and is scolded by the five Spirit Gods for getting so out of it. They tell him that he needs to be a little more careful of organic narcotics when absorbing souls in the future. After his ticking off, Drake is informed that Tang is after the Soul Portal Artifact (despite being more of a Jazz Funk Artifact fan), and he must recover it to avenge the Master's death. The gods provide him a new avatar and return him to the mortal realm, before he had even gotten over his headache. Meanwhile, the Ghost Assassin turns over the artifact to Tang's courier Wang Chun. Drake pursues the Courier through Chinatown, shooting him in the arm and following his blood trail to a fireworks factory, which Drake nonsensically states "is a good place to go... if you like rotten food." Our hero runs through the factory, blasting and blowing up things willy-nilly, but is surprised to find himself killed again in a sudden, massive explosion, caused by a cacophony of whistles, bangs, and a fantastic array of colored rockets, catherine wheels, and Roman candles.
The gods, really getting concerned with Drake's utter lack of competence so far, bring him back to life and send him to the House of the Dreaming Clown casino. There, Drake attempts to find the courier, but is rudely attacked by casino proprietor Pok and his demon dogs, after sixteen consecutive wins at the Blackjack table. After answering the acccusation by filling Pok with bullets, Drake tails the courier to the Hung Fook Casino Palace, where it turns out he lost the Soul Portal Artifact in a gambling match at the HotDC. A thug beats Chun to near-death for his mishap, but Drake saves his life in time and get his lead on the artifact. Drake sets off through the ghetto streets, fending off biker gangs with help from a little sparks and gasoline, and gets back to the Clown House. While fighting Pok — again, Drake gets caught up in an explosion — again, and Serpent-Eye Sung, a shady business partner and accomplice of Tang, takes the Soul Portal Artifact from a dying Drake.
Beamed back up to the Serene Garden, Drake admits to the Spirit Gods that he was killed at the Clown House, officially making him the worst superhero in history. The Gods inform him that Serpent-Eye headed off to his canned seafood factory, where he intends to use the artifact to harvest energy from a whale's soul. Our hero is of course against whaling, so the Gods allow him to go, this time with bets on the hours before his return. Four minutes later, Serpent-Eye's henchwoman Banshee shoots Drake in the back and kills him for the fifth time. And if you were feeling that losing the game at this point was a welcome relief really, the Sprit Gods cut their losses and send Drake back to the penthouse, where the Wu-Tang Undertakers are stealing the corpses of the 99 Dragons. In the parking lot, Drake sneaks onto a leaving truck holding his master's body, and finds himself taken to a cyborg creation facility. There, he finds that Master has been turned into a cyborg (dun dun dun!), but manages to defeat the robot and retrieve his Master's body from the remains.
Drake returns to the Serene Garden, having willfully chosen to go there and not have been killed for once, and lays down the Master so he can rest for a while. Outraged that Tang would bring family into this conflict, Drake decides to go after him, stealthing his way into the heart of Tang's evil operations at Wu-Tang Towers. There, Banshee is prepared for Drake's arrival, but is swiftly defeated; oddly, even though she had effortlessly one-shot-killed Drake before, she can't beat him this time despite being surrounded with bodyguards. Inside the office of Wu-Tang Towers, Drake finally discovers Tang's ultimate goal: to release infinite souls through the artifact in order to fuel his cyborg army. After some running through the streets, jumping across rooftops, and getting filled with bullets by a patrol helicopter, Drake breaks into Tang's secret morgue facility and recaptures the souls of his 99 Dragons clansmen. He then uses the elevator to go down to Tang's level; there, Tang is already setting his dastardly plans in motion, using the artifact to open the portal to the Spirit Realm. Drake fights and kills some sort of lizard-spider-dragon demon beast, just as the Ghost Assassin steals the Soul Portal Artifact and escapes into the spirit realm; with the portal to hell open and little time to make decisions, Drake dives in headfirst and pursues the assassin.
After some messy platforming, Drake encounters the Ghost Assassin and avenges his Master by blowing the phantasmal foe to pieces. Drake then retrieves the Soul Portal Artifact and uses its power to bounce around the air, collecting the scattered fragments of the Master's soul. But apparently that's not enough, and Drake has to fight a three-headed beast (who resembles an uncanny resemblance to the lizard-spider-dragon demon beast that Drake had previously defeated while in Tang's morgue) called the Spirit Lord Supreme before the story can end. Drake then goes back to the Serene Garden, and revives the Master with the artifact. The Master complements Drake on achieving a level of proficiency even he was unable to reach, and assures Drake that he has proven himself to the Gods. Drake asks "So, I guess this the end?" and one of the gods responds "Hardly, it has just begun." Luckily, the game ends before it can go elsewhere.
In the epilogue:
- Drake's career as a crime-fighter ended as Neo-China tightened its control of Neo-Macau. He now produces and stars in an exercise/self-help video series, Nothing Can Stop You Now.
- The Master retired, living out his days near Neo-Macau. Drake visits him often to reminisce of the good old days.
- The 99 Dragons never recovered, and eventually disbanded. Their trademark was bought out by the Red Dragon Syndicate.
- After the failure of his cyborg army project, the Board of Directors fired Tang, and he went back to making hip-hop records and working in his grandfather's orange-flavored instant drink factory.
- The Spirit Gods were killed in Vietnam by their own troops.
- Idol FX's whereabouts are unknown.
In 2002, Stefan Ljungqvist, Johan Egerkrans, and Marcus Thorell—three humble college kids of the fledging game developer Idol FX—took a visit to John Woo's office at Warner Bros. Animation. They saw Woo's portfolio of comic adaptation cartoons, such as Batman: The Lantern-Jawed Series, and were in awe by the angular Art Deco style he used. The visit inspired the three to create a video game to cash in on this sharp-edged craze.
Idol signed onto big name publisher Majesco in May 2003. Majesco gave them a six-month contract to finish the game.
Among tough critics, Drake was released to near-universal negative reviews. Most criticized the game's visuals, controls, and camera, even though there was nothing wrong with any of those things. The game's Metacritic rating is 22 out of 100, ranking it the second-worst rated Xbox title for whatever reason. Adam Sessler of X-Play rated the game a 1/5, mainly due to its "unwieldy" camera that often got stuck or prevented the player from seeing the on-screen action, and just happened to be on the same analog stick as the aiming reticle. According to Sessler, this caused Drake to shoot as if he were in "a sub-homicidal semaphore session". Had har.
In July 2006, X-Play rated Drake the single worst game ever released for the Xbox, even going so far as to state that it had eclipsed the game Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis (another great game) as the standard by which they rate all bad games; this only shows how the reviewers on X-Play are completely biased. Critic Alex Navarro of GameSpot named Drake the second worst "frightfully bad" game of 2003 in Halloween 2004, right behind Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing (another high-quality game).