Dragon Strike: TSR’s Worst Product

For some unknown reason as a child I was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons.  While most people most people wait until they hate the world as teenagers to get into D&D it somehow managed to get its hooks into me well before I had turned 10.  I think that it is a continued sign of how little my parents paid attention to my interests that repeated requests for box sets of new adventures for Christmas where actually answered.  What my parents thought that an 8 year old was going to with a players handbook besides get molested in a dark room behind a comic shop is anyone’s guess.

Needless to say that one year I ended up with Dragon Strike, a game designed to be the first series of adventures for anyone interested in rolling a d20.  While, in all honesty, I think I played one adventure included in the box once (with one friend who also made me promise never to force him to play a D&D game ever again) I did manage to get a huge amount of mileage out of the included VHS.  As a child my bar for what was good and what was bloody vomit inducingly bad was very low, but even then I knew for a fact that the Dragon Strike Movie was possibly one of the worst things that I had ever seen.

The point of the movie is to tell people that it is really easy and even possibly fun to play Dungeons and Dragons, which is odd because it starts with people sitting around a table complaining about playing it.  I think that it is one of the only true to life moments in the movie, as opposed to the jester that is also a dragon, that the moment that someone brings up playing anything that TSR published everyone in the rooms starts to complain–even if they like those games.

The movie has barely started and it is already throwing spike out in front of its viewers.  Some of the other people who are being forced to play, besides the big giant head from Third Rock from the Sun that is DMing, state pretty clearly that they have been a Dungeon Master and players before.  This is really interesting because through the entire course of play they ask some really stupid and basic D&D questions, and by basic I mean along the lines of, “What does a wizard do?”

While the entire movie is fantastically bad, and filled with so many quotably dumb moments that to recount only the best would simply be a script and vague description of the worst ren-fair ever, I really do enjoy that the entire movie is shot with backgrounds that where too bad and poorly drawn for Hasbro to include in She-Ra.  Also one of the ‘keeper’ moments from the entire show is that a large chunk of the intro is done entirely by the DM telling the players what their characters are doing, well before any of them have a chance to select what type of class they want to be.

Besides the fact that the characters don’t have any names aside from their classes, which would get rather annoying as “Thief” as a name is something that is grounds for being arrested in most decent places, the DM seems to let the heroes live under the illusion that they are able to pick who they want to be on this adventure.  Wow, really hard choice, how about instead of picking the poorly named “Elf”–which is a race and not a job description– you pick the king and get to hang out at the warm/well lit castle while getting sexual favors from the concubine as everyone else goes out and fights demons.  During the selection phase, which I have already pointed out that everyone did wrong, the DM reminds me more of a pre-recorded banter that programmers would throw in early video games– including the fact that he uses one “You’re on!” more than once indicating that he was only made to handle three players.

The rest of the cast is directly from a community theatre in hell; they all either have a massive lisp and are mentally handicapped enough that the director probably got some kind of funding for selecting them or the people who filmed this decided that they only needed the cheapest recording devices that could be found in three states while still picking the slowest actors man has ever seen. I own a website with less readers then people who remember this game fondly and I still managed to get better mics for my podcast then they did when filming this.

So the movie is 2/3 over before the group even gets to the castle or has an encounter that they are allowed to control.  Oddly every encounter, besides what would normally be considered boss battles towards the end, all end without fighting.  For the most part it seems more like the Dungeon Master is punishing the group for not working as a team by not letting them battle, as they seem to wander around the castle aimlessly checking elfin lore and walls for magic doors then watching out for angry goblins.

It seems like the guy who was in charge of the special effects was working from a different script then anything that the rest of the cast came into contact with, and was probably so annoyed with the constant lisps and improvised acting that he decided the best way to edit a film was without sound, as randomly something will be happen as if someone is setting off a trap but the characters will be talking about the importance of dental health instead of the giant lightning bolts flying by their head.

So the group finally finds their way back to each other and the concept must get the DM excited enough to remember that, generally speaking, evil mages tend to have their castle staffed and starts to throw encounters at them.  A man/scorpion, a fire elemental, and a dragon are all fought back to back.  Now from what little I remember about D&D, besides always having people talk about how much they like playing and then have them never want to play, is that these are normally rather difficult fights for a well rounded party who has been playing for weeks– they are unbeatable for a group that started out five minutes ago and can’t be bothered to learn what arrows are for.

Regardless of the challenges that seem to be posed the group somehow manages to defeat all of them in about four minutes, each battle killed in a single blow.  They are then instantly returned to the king’s hall that they started at, and then have all of their treasure stripped from them.


There are a couple of problems that arise from the king doing this:

1:  This DM has just managed to strip everything the party could have gotten from this adventure from them.  Dragon Strike was done from cards, so there weren’t really levels that anyone could gain, and no one received any gear and has no money to buy more.  So when wounds are taken into account they were literally punished for their actions by saving the kingdom.

2: The guy who doubled for the Big Giant Head goes on for a couple minutes after the movie about how the DM should always let the players win and feel like they did something, even though this is the exact opposite of the goal of any DM–punishing the people who play their game, while he basically didn’t allow his party to gain anything that even looks like a reward.

Looking back I have no idea who this was really intended for, the DM seems to speak through the player characters constantly (something most players would kill a DM for doing), the game still requires everyone to manage a higher level of math to play, and at the end everyone only ended up wasting an evening entertaining the guy who brought D&D to a party wearing all black.

I Don’t Know How I Own This: Panzer Dragoon Anime

Once, in college, while I was hanging out with my girlfriend at her parents’ house her mother noticed that I was watching Scooby Doo. My response to this was, “I like Scooby Doo,” probably because it was one of the few sentences that I could coherently make without giggling like a five year-old around a fart. For the next two years that girl’s mother found every excuse that she could to gift me any item even looked like that specially-abled dog’s likeness.

I bring this up for two reasons: one that people don’t really know what to buy nerds to show them that they have an active interest in their lives, as they refuse to make an attempt to understand video games or Star Wars, thus ending up in many gifts that barely warrant a “thank you for thinking of me.” The other reason is that this amount of blind gifting can also lead to hating the subject it was once about and why to this day I refuse to watch a single moment of Scooby Doo.

The reason that I brought up that entirely long story is so that people can understand that I have no idea how or why I own this anime. It was stored in a large plastic box in the back of a closest that I don’t think I have opened in years. I was amazed and even a little worried on how it got there.

Either way, the anime is based off of the Panzer Dragoon game that had come out on the Sega Saturn– and by based off I mean the same way that a “Fillet o’ Fish” is based off of a “Chicken Nugget”, the idea is there but nothing else. If the game went any further out of its way to have nothing to do with the game it would take place underwater and feature a man made of candy and childhood nightmares.

The video begins with a large fleet of ships apparently getting ready to attack a giant black tower, or just flying around and exploring—either way they are actively near it. Seeing as the tower seems to be controlled by HAL, who in turn is in control of just about every laser the world has ever seen, he decides that the correct course of action is to kill all humans.

This, of course, suddenly switches to a set of people hunting—for food– what appears to be a scorpion made out of 90% rock and 10% poison. Is this hundreds of years later? Is it the next day? Who knows!

With some of the worst voice acting ever we are introduced to the hero (Kyle), his female friend and only reason he goes on this journey, and worthless/expendable male companion. No, really, it seems like they just hired a couple of people off the street and recorded them as they read lines cold.

[powerpress]

All of the character development that is ever going to occur pretty much takes place in this one scene. Alita (the only girl) seems to be able to sense things, even though that is never brought up again, and the friend who dies when the dragon attacks for an unknown reason and never brought up again ever.

What kind of troubles me, besides the overall quality of this anime, is that our hero is supposed to have been traveling with this friend Devidok (which is only ever pronounced twice, both different ways) for years. He only met this girl, from what I gather from the only flash back during the movie, maybe a week before if you are super generous. He takes 0 time to mourn the friend that gave his life defending him and dashes off to the girl that he could have literally met the night before.

Also, while on the subject of not explaining things; why is this girl so special to the dragon? During the only flash back we find out that she is blind, and it is briefly stated that she can “sense the direction of things,” but that is never treated as if it is anything special other than hearing. Even the final battle between the two dragons, one of them seems to lose a considerable amount of power and in put through a great deal of pain when she is taken from him. No reason given, just happens and something else happens.

The dragon that the hero becomes friends with name is Blau. Oddly this is only mentioned during the last five minutes of the movie, and is pronounced differently every time it is said –by both the human rider and the dragon itself.

Beyond the simple issue with its name, Blau is not without problems himself. The rider that he had before the black dragon killed it, and Devidok seeing as I am the only one thinking about his heroic sacrifice here, was never discussed yet he had all kinds of special equipment and armor on suggesting that he had been with the dragon awhile–so someone else that doesn’t mourn the dead. Also, the dragon can talk, but only does so to state that they need to get to the tower fast and during the ending to say good-bye.

Here is a thought, when the dragon was killing hundreds of people that it knew to be possessed with demon spawn why didn’t it say something to the hero? Kyle spent an entire day trying to nurse one of those things back to health, only to ask Blau to kill it when he figured out what was going on. If time really was important it would have probably been easier, and faster, to just say something instead of stand around like you knew better. I guess dragons are just naturally jerks though.

Honestly though, the best part of the entire movie is that it is short. From the time that Hal blows up all the stupid looking steam punk zeppelins to the moment stood blind girl can finally see is about 15 minutes. The box says that it is 35, but that seems to be with both the previews of other anime and the seven minutes at the end that goes through all the concept art, and then shows the scene it was from.