Dragon Collection Hands-On Preview

At last night’s Konami Gamers Day event, next to new console games in the Metal Gear and Silent Hill franchises, there was just one iOS announcement: Dragon Collection, a freemium card-collecting game that’s huge in Japan, will be coming to the App Store this Fall. While it doesn’t have the name recognition in the U.S. as Konami’s other big games, Dragon Collection does have 6.5 million registered users in Japan, so we thought it was worth trying.

Dragon Collection starts off with you learning the basics of monster-training from a friendly fairy who guides you through the tutorial. You can explore the world by questing, which basically just involves tapping the “start quest” button. This will zoom in slightly on an image of the landscape, giving you only the slightest impression of progressing through the world.

In other words, immersion is not this game’s top priority. Questing takes a few seconds, and zero skill, so the main effect is one of pulling the lever on a slot machine. You’ll randomly receive new monsters and loot, and drain your energy bar with each move. Energy replenishes at the rate of one unit every three minutes, but if you level up, you’ll instantly refill your bar.

The other main portion of the game is card-battling. You can challenge other players to duels, which lets you arrange your deck into a pyramid-shaped army. To strengthen your cards, you’ll have to fuse them together in a special menu and pay a bit of in-game currency. Currency is earned by questing, so you’ll bounce back and forth between advancing the quests and leveling up your favorite cards.

Some of the card graphics are cute, as are the machines that let you fuse together cards. But we were disappointed by the questing– there’s really nothing to look at, and it serves only to let you acquire more loot. Some of the dialogue is cheerful and fun, though, so as a text-based adventure with a bit of visual flair, Dragon Collection seems decent.

Dragon Collection is Konami’s biggest push yet into the mobile-social realm, but with all their great gaming franchises, we still feel they’re not taking full advantage of the iOS platform. Where are the Metal Gear, Castlevania, or Silent Hill games for iPhone and iPad? Even ports of Playstation classics would be welcomed by fans. Dragon Collection is a highly casual experience, which means it has the potential to find a wide audience, but we’re not sure hardcore gamers will be interested.

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