The bottom line: younger gamers who are also obsessed with fire-breathing lizards will get a real kick out of Combat Of Giants: Dragons, but Nintendo doesn't need to worry about its Pokemon cash cow just yet.
Combat Of Giants: Dragons is, as the name suggests, a combat game featuring dragons. It's a somewhat Pokemon-style game, in that you selectively upgrade a fighting critter and then go into one-on-one combat with other similar critters — and naturally they're all dragons — but it's not quite as deep as Pokemon, although for kids highly endeared of dragons that might not matter much. It's also available in a lighter DSiWare form as Combat Of Giants: Dragons Bronze Edition in a cut down form.
The plot is, frankly speaking, ludicrous and somewhat superfluous, although annoyingly you can't actually skip it or speed up the text when it's on screen in order to get to the bits where the big lizards beat seven shades of heck out of each other faster.
It's like the game designers took a basic RPG plot — and Combat Of Giants: Dragon's plot isn't much more than "There are bad dragons. Kill them." — and decided to spice it up with lots of polysyllabic words with missing vowels. Technically speaking, you're a noble Ebebu Dragon, guided by the lord of all dragons, Ninnurtu, and opposing the foul Salmu dragons. The fate of Tammabukku itself is in your hands. Well, it's in your claws, we guess.
Or, to present the plot in a more straightforward manner, there are bad dragons. Kill them.
Past the game's brief combat tutorial, you'll choose a race for your dragon. These are based around the four elements, which gives you a choice of Ice, Earth, Wind or Fire dragons. Each subspecies has their own special powers which give them slightly different combat abilities. This does give the game some replay value, as the powers for each race differ enough to change some basic strategies. You can also customise your dragon's appearance within some pretty limited parameters, which is surprisingly endearing.
Action in Combat Of Giants: Dragons involves lots of screen stabbing and strokes. Hitting another dragon involves swiping up the screen and then combining strokes in a join-the-dots fashion for harder attacks. There is a slight element of timing, as you can dodge and block attacks, and choosing when to attack and use your powers does play a role in how well you do. Having said that, it can be a bit arbitrary, and the fact that everything you do is stylus controlled can lead to some combat sequences being a little off-tempo.
This is a pity, as Combat Of Giants: Dragons is a superb looking title for a DS game. The game has some very nice animation, at least within the limits of what the DS/DSi can manage in a polygon pushing sense. All the dragons are rather pointy in that somewhat endearing mid-90's way, but they're animated with a decent amount of fluidity, especially when flying, which gives them a certain amount of character. The score is nicely epic, although in-game sounds are a little repetitive, and you will tire of the grunting sounds of your mentor dragon Ninnurtu pretty quickly.
There's an element of grind in Combat Of Giants: Dragons that can't be ignored. Your dragon does gain power as you move through the elemental realms defeating other lizards — and a few surprise combatants as well — but the battle strategies themselves never change, and even the inclusion of multiplayer, either from a single DS card or multiple cards — doesn't add much to the combat engine.
In an odd little move, Combat of Giants: Dragons also comes with a pack of trading cards. Some of the cards have codes on them that can be used to unlock in-game goodies, but the idea is also that you can also use the cards to play a very simplified Magic: the Gathering style card game. There are 62 cards in all, but as far as we can tell the only way to get more cards would be to buy more copies of Combat Of Giants: Dragons, making it one of the most expensive collectible card games on the marketplace. Somehow, we don't think too many gamers will bother.