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Time Tunnel 2006: American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon. “He’s cool, he’s hot, like the frozen sun, he’s young and fast, he’s the chosen one, people we’re not braggin’, he’s the American Dragon, he’s gonna stop his enemies with his dragon power, dragon teeth, dragon tail, burning dragon fire, a real live wire, American Dragon, American Dragon, he’s the American Dragon, freestyle with dragon, skills are gettin’ faster, with grandpa the master, it’s destiny, yo wassup G, show time baby the legacy, American Dragon, ‘From the J to A, to the K, to the E, I’m the mack daddy dragon of the NYC. Ya heard?!’
Article by Wing See Li – follow on Twitter: xflowerstarx
American Dragon, American Dragon” People that watched the Disney Channel cartoon, American Dragon: Jake Long, in 2005 will know this nostalgic-provoking theme song off by heart. Even to this day, I still remember all of the lyrics of it.
This goes to show how incredibly memorable and insanely catchy it is, not to mention it’s one of the many theme songs that stand the test of time. Though the Season 2 version of this song is a little bit different but with altered lyrics. In my opinion, I believe anything is considered to be old-school if they are ten years old or over ten years old.
Basically American Dragon: Jake Long is about a 13-year-old Chinese-American boy named Jacob Luke “Jake” Long who is leading a double life as a seemingly, normal teenage boy and as the magical protector of New York City, saving and fighting against mythical creatures on a daily basis. He didn’t discover his dragon powers until he reached the age of thirteen. With great power comes great responsibility.
Apparently, his mum’s (Susan Long) side of the family are dragons but his mum’s dragon powers skipped her generation. Aided by his allies such as Luong “Grandpa/Gramps” Lao Shi (his name actually means “teacher” in Cantonese. He is Jake’s grandfather and Dragon Master), Fu Dog (a 600-year-old Shar Pei dog, Lao Shi’s long-time friend and Jake’s animal guardian), Trixie Carter and Arthur P. Spudinski, he defends his city from his enemies like the Huntsman, Huntsclan, Huntsgirl (Rose’s alter ego), Dark Dragon, Chang (Lao Shi’s ex-love interest, Dark Dragon’s right-hand woman and the former member of the Dragon Council), Eli Pandarus (a villainous, but handsome, human wizard), Professor Hans Rotwood (Jake’s crazy mythological teacher who is obsessed with exposing his true identity to the scientific community and the public) and so forth and trying to keep his secret identity a secret from his human father, Johnathan Long, his adversaries and the humans all the while.
The Dragon Council (a massive group of respectful, revered dragons that govern the magical community all across the world) assign a dragon to each city in the world and a Dragon Master must train his or her student in order to prepare the soon-to-be protector to defend a city and anything that lies ahead. In other words, each dragon represents his or her city or country. Similar to the Spyro the Dragon series, most of the dragons are considered to be the good guys and only a few dragons are an exception to the rule. As for American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon, the story goes like this… the Dark Dragon (the number one enemy of the magical world and the Dragon Council) kidnapped Rose (Jake’s love interest) and is holding her hostage in his dark, evil realm.
Fortunately for her, Jake is determined to save her. To help him in his quest to rescue her from his enemy’s sinister clutches, his grandfather entrusts him with an ancient dragon artefact known as the dragon pendant. This sacred pendant allows Jake to channel his focus into powers of dragon flame (the capability of shooting large fireballs from his mouth), dragon scales (this bestows him the power of invincibility) and dragon wings (the ability of flight).
The pendant didn’t fully become active until Jake picked up a piece of the aforesaid pendant (which Rose stole from her captor) along with the note Rose left behind at Central Park in the night. Now with it in his possession, he can use it to its full potential. Along the way, he enlists the help from his faithful allies such as Lao Shi, Fu Dog, Trixie and Spud. Judging by the drawing style, this game is set during Season 1 or after Season 1 and prior to Season 2. Do you want to hear my advice? I recommend you to watch the cartoon to understand the events and the story that unfold in this game.
Back in 2006, there are two American Dragon: Jake Long video games that are entitled, “American Dragon: Jake Long – Rise of the Huntsclan”, for the Game Boy Advance and “American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon” for the Nintendo DS despite American Dragon: Jake Long aired in 2005.
Although, these games are published by Buena Vista Games and believe it or not, WayForward developed them. These days, this developing company is well known for the Shantae series. It’s still hard to believe I discovered WayForward’s potential ten years ago! Boy, I feel so old now!
Even though this video game is one of my favourite video games, it didn’t make it in my Top 10 favourite video games.
Here are my Top 10 Favourite Video Games if you’re wondering:
1. Super Mario 64 2. Mario Kart 7 3. Mario Kart Wii 4. Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon 5. Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer 6. Spyro The Dragon 7. Super Mario Galaxy 8. Super Mario Galaxy 2 9. Super Princess Peach 10. The Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-Traction (PlayStation One version)
Speaking of Spyro, there are times when American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon plays like a Classic Spyro game like for example the 3D flying levels and soaring through the (small) rings in these aforementioned levels. They will remind anyone of flying through the speedways or flight levels in the Spyro the Dragon trilogy. I’ll elaborate on these flying stages later on in this article.
Anyway, playing as a dragon is nothing new since it’s been done before during the 90’s, especially when the main protagonist is a dragon. Looking back to 1998, Spyro the Dragon is the first game where I played as a dragon for the first time, it’s my first foray into fantasy and it made me interested in the fantasy genre in the first place, in terms of fiction, cartoons, video games etc.
Since I haven’t played Battle Mode before in my life, considering it’s difficult or impossible to play it without friends so unfortunately, I can’t explain about it. However, after reading the instruction booklet, I realised it’s just like the flying stages, sans the enemies. However, the gameplay and the objectives or tasks are slightly different.
During the solo adventure, these flying stages remind me of the flight levels and the speedways from Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer, Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon, Spyro: Season of Ice, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly and Spyro: A Hero’s Tail, in terms of the rings, flying around the stages and blasting at the ten enemies with fire breath. Soaring around the levels and through rings is nothing new, seeing as I’ve done this numerous times before during my childhood, gaming wise.
Within these stages, I’ve been tasked with flying around an area while shooting down a myriad of magical creature foes ranging from propeller trolls to shadow dragons (or rather “Shade Demons”, as they are known in the cartoon). In every flying stage, there are rings (that are scattered through said area) that I can fly through. The red rings provides me a sudden burst of speed for a short period of time and the green rings boosts the power of the fire breath. Once all of the enemies are eliminated, I clear the stage and I proceed to the next level of the adventure.
The adventure begins with Jake using the bathroom when his grandpa, Lao Shi, and Jake’s animal guardian, Fu Dog, warned him there are trolls wreaking havoc in the streets of New York City. This causes him to leave his house to investigate and find out who is behind the full-blown attack. It initially starts out as a typical romp through the city but as the quest progressed and the story unfolds, it eventually becomes a wild goose chase due to the Huntsman accusing Jake and his allies of seizing Rose (strangely enough, she is referred as the Huntsman’s “daughter” but in the cartoon, he is her “uncle”) and they initially presumed he is the one who launched a full-on attack on the municipality.
It’s like going from door to door. Not only does Jake need to search for Rose and save her before it’s too late, he also must convince the Huntsman he is innocent. Later on in the escapade, it turns out why the Huntsman sends his cronies after Jake and his companions are because he assumed they took Rose.
Sadly, it bought the Dark Dragon all the time he needed to build up his shadow dragon army. After eradicating the Nix on top of the Statue of Liberty, Jake, Fu, Lao Shi and the Huntsman made a temporary truce and they travelled to the Dark Dragon’s hideout. On the other hand, Trixie and Spud made the decision to remain behind in New York City, disturbed by their pals and their sworn enemy temporarily putting their differences aside with the purpose of working together to stop a greater evil. When Jake confronted the Dark Dragon after venturing deeper and deeper in his evil domain, Lao Shi and Fu Dog are ensnared in intensive, concentrated dark energy. He demanded the main villain to release his allies but he refused which resulted in the final showdown to begin.
After emerging victorious, Jake released Rose from her imprisonment and the Dark Dragon fled from the battlefield in defeat and disbelief but not before placing a magical lock on the door, preventing the protagonists from following him. Luckily, Jake had gathered all ten dragon tokens during his journey. This caused the magical seal to be lifted and Lao Shi and Fu Dog ordered him to go after the Dark Dragon and a tumultuous, aerial battle ensued. Therefore, it counts as the second round of their duel, which decides the fate of the magical world and New York City.
After the Dark Dragon’s demise, Jake returned to his allies and Rose where they congratulated on his victory. He as well as Fu Dog expected him to receive a kiss from Rose but she given him a coupon for dance lessons instead, much to his disappointment.
However, their togetherness or date will have to wait since the Huntsman had other plans. Despite no smooch from her, it isn’t all for naught since he saved her in the nick of time before the memory potion worn off. The next day, Spud and Trixie joined Jake, Fu and Lao Shi on top of the Statue of Liberty, reconstructing her as part of their community service. Jake complained and protested about wasting his time fixing the statue but leave it to his grandpa to scold him and informing him to reflect on what he have done.
That’s when Jake decided to ditch his punishment after pretending to use the “Ear of the Dragon” to excuse himself from it. Afterwards, his grandfather called after him, reminding him about tomorrow’s dragon training session. In response, Jake ended the story with the infamous phrase and the possible running gag of the cartoon, “Oh, maaaaaan!!”. The worlds are split into countless levels like New York City, the streets, the skies of the city, Central Park (this is where Jake is supposed to meet up with Rose on a date but unfortunately, the Dark Dragon captured her just before Jake arrived), Fillmore Middle School, Jersey Bridge, the subway, the New York bridges, the Water Treatment Plant, the docks, the Statue of Liberty, the Dark Dragon’s evil dark realm and so on.
In terms of the cutscenes, this game marries both the 2D and 3D art styles and techniques quite well, given that the characters are visible over the 3D background of the places in New York City and of the Dark Dragon’s ominous, intimidating and shadowy lair, thanks to the black thick outline surrounding them to make them stand out.
Sometimes, I find myself chuckling or laughing at the humour that is conveyed in the character’s speeches from the cutscenes. Like for instance, Lao Shi yelled after his grandson even as he reminded him about tomorrow’s rigorous dragon training session when he fled from community service towards the end of the game. “Tomorrow morning! 5 a.m. for hard training! That’s when! And I know you can hear me!” In response, Jake groaned out the infamous phrase, “Oh, maaaaaan!!”.
At least, the humour, the well-written dialogue/game script, perfect character portrayal (everyone is in character from their speech patterns to the way they speak and they are acting like how they should be) and the soundtrack make up for the flaws I pointed out.
Nothing says “I love you” like traversing through New York City while constantly engaging in countless scuffles with the henchmen of the Huntsman and the Dark Dragon’s shadow army with the purpose of rescuing Jake’s sweetheart, Rose. The underlings are minor annoyances in comparison to the bosses. The controls felt clunky (controlling Jake or the American Dragon feels like moving a tank) and stiff, jumping from one platform or spot to the next is tedious, overused and time-consuming, the camera had a small amount of issues but on the bright side, the camera angle movements didn’t cause motion sickness and since this game is a 3D, linear side-scrolling platformer, there is limited space to take advantage of when it comes to fighting off the minor minions and anything the main antagonists can throw at me. Concerning the amount of space, it is a slight improvement to the narrow space between an enemy and me in Rise of the Huntsclan.
However when using the hover ability as the American Dragon, I can’t fly in any direction I desire as opposed to how I’m able to soar freely in the flying stages. In American Dragon: Jake Long – Rise of the Huntsclan, I can make use of the skateboard in contrast to the fact it’s absent from the Nintendo DS version.
On that note, in Rise of the Huntsclan, I have the ability to summon Lao Shi, Fu Dog, Trixie and Spud in order to aid me in battle. Oddly enough, the Huntsman is ridiculously tough to beat compared to the difficulty level when I’m involved in scuffles with him in Attack of the Dark Dragon. Plus, in Rise of the Huntsclan, the bosses tend to start out by standing on the right side of the screen before me and him or her lashed out at each other. In addition, I recall having many encounters and confrontations with Huntsgirl. Out of the two games, I say I prefer Attack of the Dark Dragon, mainly because it’s a teeny bit easier, it’s the kind of game I can replay as many times as I want and I actually have fond memories of it, in spite of the noticeable flaws. When I’m playing as Jake Long, I have a limited arsenal of moves such as moving using the D Pad, jumping using the B Button (holding it down will cause Jake to jump higher), punching by pushing the Y button (if I’m pressing it multiple times in quick succession when I’m near one of the Huntsman’s or the Dark Dragon’s underlings, I’ll execute a combination of punches and kicks), pressing the down button of the D Pad and X or Y buttons allows me to kick low, the down button of the Control Pad and the B Button lets me to drop through a soft floor beneath me and last but not least, the A button allows me to kick.
The red circle with a yellow spark at the centre is known as a Max Attack that the enemies sometimes drop when they are defeated. According to Lao Shi, I can hold up to three of them at once and they can only be used in dragon form. I tend to use them in the frustrating levels such as the subway and the Statue of Liberty. The light blue spark next to the Max Attack object is called a focus point. Opponents let go of them when they are vanquished. Each time they are collected, the centre area of the pendant is filled a bit more at a progressive rate. Once the pendant reaches its maximum, it will flash and I’m able to touch the circular dragon icon on the bottom screen to transform into the American Dragon. Either I choose between touching the icon or shouting “Dragon up!” into the microphone. Occasionally, I come across red dragon-shaped objects and if I accumulate them, I gain another life by one. Also, there are times when enemies leave little or big hearts on the ground as parting gifts. The small ones replenish the health bar a tad bit and the large ones refill said bar a lot.
The instant I transform into the American Dragon, three dragon ability icons instantly appear on the edge of the pendant as focus point meter slowly depletes over time. It decreases much faster if I used advanced moves but it isn’t drained when my foes assault or ambush me. To prevent the meter from reducing, I must continue to collect focus points by trouncing my adversaries.
These are the three dragon capabilities that I can use at my disposal as shown below:
• Dragon Fire – Red is the colour of Jake’s dragon flame. This ability allows me to shoot gigantic fireballs that reduce enemies into piles of smouldering ashes and burns down colossal crates.
• Dragon scales – Yellow is the colour of Jake’s underbelly scales. This ability grants me the ability of temporary invincibility, letting me to walk through smoke and stone gargoyles’ fire unscathed.
• Dragon Wings – Green represents Jake’s spines. This ability allows me to spread my wings and fly up and down instead in all directions.
When the time is up, I revert back to my human form. Throughout the adventure, I have to play as Jake in his human form. In order to select a dragon power to use, I must drag it to the top of the pendant using the touch screen or the R Button. For example, if I desired to use fire, I must rotate the red icon to the top of the pendant. I can only utilise one dragon ability at a time. To make use of the selected dragon skill, I can either touch the icon or press the X Button.
When I’m playing as the American Dragon, the amount of the abilities I have increased tenfold. Not to mention, I can also extend the use of my extraordinary dragon powers by filling them up with focus points. The abilities are as follows: the Control Pad allows me to move left or right, the Y button lets me to perform the melee combination (this occurs when I’m face-to-face with an enemy, otherwise this combo is rendered null and void), the X Button results in the current magic to be activated (the one located at the top of the pendant), the B Button causes me to jump, pressing the A Button lets Jake to shoot a series of fire sparks from his mouth in a horizontal direction while he is in mid-air, pressing the A Button and the Control Pad Down button causes Jake to unleash a storm of diagonal spark blasts, pushing the Y Button when Jake is in the air will result in a diagonal downward kick dash (this move proves to be helpful when it comes to taking on an abundant enemies at once when being outnumbered. Furthermore, I can strike many enemies with a combo attack), holding down the L or R Buttons will rotate the pendant left or right (alternatively, I can tap and pull on the bottom screen to spin the pendant which is the method I prefer to use) and finally, pushing the A button unleashes the Max Attack, producing a spark blast (this can be performed when tapping the Max Attack icon which can be spotted at the bottom left corner of the touch screen) if I’m overwhelmed by the mass of enemies ganging up on me.
The dragon pendant didn’t become fully active until Jake obtained a piece of it that is attached to the note Rose dropped at Central Park. There are six slots on the dragon pendant: three dragon power icons and three dragon stone icons. These stones can be collected in no particular order and they are stored in the special necklace and these stones come in three colours: blue, purple and orange. Touching them on the bottom screen activates them. Like for instance, when I touch a coloured dragon stone, it sends a blast of that colour across the screen and the transparent, mystical platforms become solid upon contact. For instance, there are transparent blue platforms that can be seen floating over a body of water. To change them into solid blue blocks, I must touch a blue-tinted dragon stone on my pendant. Throughout the game, the soundtrack consists of music tracks that are a mixture of hip-hop and oriental. The soundtrack itself is fairly forgettable but there are a few music tracks that stand out to me from the rest. Two of my favourite music tracks are in the first level of the Dark Dragon’s evil realm and during the ending credits. Not only that, but I’ve noticed the game undergoes a repetitive pattern: firstly, a normal level, secondly, a flying stage and thirdly, a boss battle and rinse and repeat. After each of them is completed, the game auto-saves.
Interestingly enough, Clancy Brown voiced the Dark Dragon in the cartoon. Back then during the 90’s, he provided his voice for some of the dragons from Spyro the Dragon so him voicing dragons, whether they are good or evil, is nothing new and special. Although in both American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon and the Game Boy Advance version, there is no voice acting whatsoever.
Most of the boss fights in Attack of the Dark Dragon normally involve a circular arena or space with the boss at the centre with the exception of the true final showdown with the Dark Dragon. Unluckily, the amount of space is limited and restricted so it fits perfectly on the top screen. I’m using my experience of the tumultuous skirmish against the Dark Dragon as an example to describe what a boss clash is like. Looking back to my first playthrough of the aerial face-off, I weren’t expecting it at all but I couldn’t help myself but be reminded of the larger-than-life and exhilarating aerial battle against Ripto from Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer. Pretty much, the Classic Spyro series is more like, “Dragons vs. Dinosaurs”. Back to the subject, unlike the first round of the duel with the Dark Dragon, the second and final round takes place in the sky. It’s revealed he isn’t quite finished yet and I had to try and blast him out of the sky. In this battle, I had to give it my all and we were exchanging volley after volley of fireballs, a stream of sparks and massive fireballs respectively. Neither of us is refusing to surrender and it’s like a fight to the death until either of us is left standing. The most annoying thing is he keeps disappearing (or teleporting) in a puff of dark smoke every time I tried to approach him and aim my torrent of miniature sparks at him.
Therefore this battle is not really tricky, it’s actually time-consuming. In response, he counteracted by firing continuous volleys of gigantic green-coloured fireballs in my direction, to which I attempted to evade them by flying out of harm’s way but there are times when I failed to avoid them due to me being impatient and my impulsiveness getting the best of me. This left me wide open to an attack from the opposing side. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours. After successfully nailing innumerable hits on him, he materialises in the middle of the area and breathes a stream of his dragon breath or some sort of an extremely long beam at me without hesitation, to which I steer clear of with ease. I then countered his attacks by swooping in and unleashing a torrent of tiny sparks at his weak spots, most likely in his chest or upper torso and towards his underbelly scales. We kept exchanging attacks and assaults until I eventually prevailed. He continued to flash and he is engulfed in incalculable amount of black and purple puffs of smoke until he finally dissipated into nothingness. With that, I flew back to where my allies are waiting for me and they praised me on my success and the rest is history. Just like all the other final boss conflicts, it usually takes more than a while or numerous hours to him or her in.
Back then in 2006, I can only finish the game in a handful or several days or weeks when I was a teenager at the time. Fast-forward to 2016 and I can complete it in a day just like Spyro the Dragon. Unfortunately, the Nix (or the “snake” as it’s known in the game) still proved to be a challenge to defeat just like in the past, considering it takes more hits than the previous bosses and it takes more than a while to anticipate its attack pattern. Regarding 2006, I only managed to collect most of the dragon tokens, which caused different pictures to be presented on both the top and bottom screens. I vaguely remember an image of Jake, who is accompanied by Lao Shi and Fu Dog; sitting around one of the tables in the back room of the Canal Street Electronics shop appeared on the touch screen. As for the message that can be noticed on the top screen, I can barely remember what it said. Still to this day, this is one of the best games I’ve played that stars a dragon as the main protagonist and featured dragons as the main magical creatures.
I believe this game holds up to today, regardless of the outdated graphics and admittedly, tedious and time-consuming platform-hopping. But to be honest, I never give a hoot about graphics in the first place and I only cared about the important aspects of games.
If you’re a fan of American Dragon: Jake Long or a fan of dragons, then you should give this game a try. Unluckily, the replay value is on the short side and you won’t get more out of it, seeing as there isn’t a post-game quest.
Article by Wing See Li – follow on Twitter: xflowerstarx
Some images from the game (outer box photo from Wing See Li) and explanation:
This game is one of my favourite games for the Nintendo DS:
As the back of the box suggests, it’s obvious who the main characters are:
Sometimes I find myself singing or humming the theme song:
The music track in the ending credits is one of my favourites from the soundtrack:
All’s well that ends well, now Rose is safe and sound at Fillmore Middle School: