Review

Dorin the dragon prince lived a happy life in the magical kingdom of Celestia until the King's power-hungry prime minister captured and jailed his family: the King, the Queen and Dorin's love Diana. Pursued by soldiers, Dorin fled his home. As he ran away he tripped and fell into a mysterious hole, landing in the Land of Faeron. Now he has to get back to the surface and save Celestia.

So far the story of Dragon Hopper, which was, besides Bound High, going to be one of the games, which should have saved the system in a relaunch, but sadly neither the relaunch of the Virtual Boy nor the release of this game ever became reality. A prototype definitely exists, the game was shown on Space World 1995 and E3 1996 and was even previewed by Nintendo Power.

The game is a 3D Action Adventure played from a direct overhead view, you control the dragon Dorin, with whom you jump through multi-level stages of action. The game contains adventure elements like exploring the levels, interacting with helpful creatures and battling foes and guardians to find the four spirits who can help Dorin on his quest.
The big thrill of the game is the jumping, Dorin leaps amazingly high to reach platforms and new areas, or drop down to hidden areas of stages that appear through holes or at the end of paths. You have to look everywhere, collecting stars and other items, finding keys, traveling through warp gates and avoiding all of the perils that each level has to offer, before heading to the end of the level. Dorin won't get hurt if he falls to the ground unless there isn't any to land on. You can't lose sight of your dragon if he trots beneath a platform: A user-friendly feature turns all of the upper floors transparent whenever dorin walks beneath them, so you always have a view of the action. As you jump higher and higher, the floors far below gradually fade from view. Through the game, Dorin is attended by a small fairy, which reminds of Navi in Ocarina of Time.

The game has 7 airy worlds crammed with staggered floors, tiny terraces and minuscule platforms. The leaps become more difficult as Dorin climbs up out of the Great Tunnel, crosses the plains of Earth and enters the Tower of Infinity. At the end of each world a guardian awaits him. Each world also has a hidden warp tile that teleports you to a magic shop. Here you can spend your hard-earned Star Coins on new spells or pay to play for the chance to win more money in a bonus room game.

Each time you rescue a Fairy Spirit, they give you clues and you receive elemental powers. When you free the Earth Spirit from his prison in the Great Tunnel, he gives you the power to create a large earthquake that destroys enemies and crumbles weak floors. The Water Spirit is locked away in a rusty cage in the Earth Level, she can teach you the magic of the Ice Dragon, those can freeze water with a frosty blast allowing you to wak across the ice. With each level completed, Dorin grows and becomes more powerful.

Battery-backed memory saves your game progress. Another mode is "Element of Discovery", which allows Dorin to wander through each level in search of a star to take him to the next level.

Dragon Hopper has a real 3-D feel, not only in the graphics, but also in the game play and would have been a great addition the the Virtual Boy's software library, probably being able to compete with masterpieces like The Legend of Zelda.
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