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DEVELOPER Interactive Studios

While browsing around on google for old N64 game info I stumbled upon this game created back in the day by Interactive Studios, now known as Blitz Games, and decided to take a closer look at it, not really knowing what it was other than a cool sounding game title.

As mentioned, the game was being developed by Interactive Studios, who also were responsible for the creation of the game Glover. According to various previews the development was started sometime in 1997 and the release was planned for Q2 2001 by MGM Interactive, who by the way never got any of their N64 plans out into the hands of consumers. Another scrapped MGM Interactive title was Rollerball which was in development at Z-Axis, but that's another story. Okay so some will say that they took part in the release of 007 The World is Not Enough, but I'd honestly give credit to EA for releasing that one.

Anyway back to Dragon Sword and a list of features in the game:

  • More than 50 different enemies, both humans and creatures
  • Five huge worlds, with a total of 10 levels
  • More than 40 weapons, including knives, cross bows, battle axes, board swords, spears and flaming arrows
  • Different weather conditions, including mist and electric storms
  • Experience-based character evolution. Improve fighting techniques, weapons and spells.
  • Advanced polygonal special effects
  • First-person projectile view
  • Co-op missions and four-player deathmatch modes
Dragon Sword takes place in the land of Avantaria which has been invaded by the Darrc Horde, followers of the Dark God. The Light God, who was the only one capable of stopping the invasion, has been prisoned within a living creature of utmost evil, the Darrc Dragon, and the only thing that can destroy the Dragon is a mythical sword - the Dragon Sword! The sword was shattered in pieces entrusted to various commanders of the Darrc Horde. Meet Kailan and Cutter, two rather unlikely heroes. Kailan is a barbarian cheiftain while Cutter is actually heir to the Darrc throne. These two anti-heroes find themselved imprisoned by the Darrc Horde and decide to track down the Dragon Sword and bring peace back to Avantaria.

Kailan and Cutter both have a range of basic attacks spiced up with lots of combos. But that's not all, they also have access to magic powers such as sending waves of fire across the floor or protective force fields to shield themselves. There are other features that allows the players to blind enemies with a lit torch, or batling a gang of baddies in a single attack.

The game moves through a series of scrolling levels from demonic caves to polished marble halls, with the villian mage Xyrus' sending his hordes of green ogres to attack the heroes in packs. If that's not enough for you the game also includes a 4 player deathmatch mode.

Originally it got off the ground as some sort of Zelda clone, according to an old preview by IGN that quoted assistant creative manager Ian Pestridge.

Stephen Rushbrook was signed to do some concept art for the original game idea and the two drawings seen above is some of the work he did. In an email to me he wrote:

Not sure how much of my work ended up in the game .. not much from the character side I think... They were more interested in setting their lead characters more in the Conan meets Pamela Anderson vibe. (I recall I was not to chuffed at the slide into generic teen fantasy..)

I was working externally to Interactive as a freelance concept artist and produced reams and reams of art for this game (5 versions of enemy encampments for this area, 5 for that). Axes, swords... lots of stuff..

As to my environmental concepts... Never saw the final game so I cant tell how much my concepts influenced the final art, but on the occasional visits to theair brand new offices (new back then) my art quite literally plastered a single room. :)

Talking to Robin Butler, Lead Animation, 2nd stage Art Director, Game/Character Design, I got the following bit of information; we sort of pushed it toward a 3D golden axe. which we were all fans of. and it played really nicely.

The Interactive Studios team responsible for Dragon Sword was called "Team Storm" and had a total of 9 people dedicated to the development of the game, 3 programmers and 6 artists. The team name came from the original title for the game, Dragon Storm, but as a game with that title already existed the title had to be changed, but the team name stuck.

Originally the game was planned to be released during autumn 1999, but it haunted release lists as late as 2001 when the N64 was pretty much dead. UK magazine CVG ("Computer & Videogames") wrote in August 2001, "Either way, Dragon Sword looks like being the most exciting home-grown Nintendo title of the year." However that sadly wasn't enough for the game to make it to the store shelves.

What made MGM Interactive drop the release? well according to an old "64 Magazine" article the main reason for MGM was that they felt the cost of producing and marketing Dragon Sword didn't match up against the financial return that the game would make that wasn't a part of a movie tie-in. So even though the game had outstanding previews, MGM decided that it was too complicated to publish because it hadn't been hyped by a movie first? The sadest part is that Dragon Sword was actually finished and ready to ship to the production plant.

To me Dragon Sword looks like a game that could have become an N64 classic, something that wasn't often seen on the N64 unless it came from Rareware. I would truly have loved to give this game a try, as I loved Game Axe back in the day. I do hope that it's being preserved by someone out there, or maybe in a deep dungeon somewhere, and that it can be recovered someday.

In an interview with website "cubed3", Philip Oliver one of the founders of Interactive Studios said; As for ever seeing abandoned Nintendo 64 title Dragon Sword on the download services, don't hold your breath - Philip declines chances of a comeback. "Dragon Sword was a great game at the time, but it was a third person battling game. There would be no point bringing that back as it would just look aged."

I tried contacting Philip Oliver for a comment about the game, but he never returned my emails unfortunately.

Back in the day 64 Magazine even tried to make MGM change their mind by running a full page article about how people should tell MGM to release the title and they even made a slip that could be returned to 64 Magazine who then would forward it to MGM Interactive. But as we now know, it didn't make MGM change their mind.

A master piece long lost? .... Well thankfully not. Because on April 9 2010 word spread that a beta of Dragon Sword had been released by an anonymous source. The beta contains 7 of the 10 levels planned and the game is very playable even though it also contains a lot of bugs. But all in all I'm very happy to see this game preserved. What did make me wonder though is that the beta is 72megabit, so did this come from a prototype flash cartridge....