Subject: What heck is Dragonriders: Chronicles of Pern?
Posted on: 2020-11-16 16:51:15 UTC

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a ROM of curious and forgotten lore...

I found a videogame. See, I was looking for a copy of Dynamite Cop on the Dreamcast, so I browsed to the 'D' section of my less-than-legal resources, and I found Dragonriders: Chronicles of Pern, a game released in 2001 on the PC and Dreamcast by Ubisoft. That, in and of itself, is really weird. By 2000, everyone already knew that the Dreamcast was going to fall behind in sales, and by October of that year, the PS2's insane launch-day sales had cemented that. On January 21 of 2001, Sega announced that it was leaving the console market, and everyone had seen it coming. That means that this game released on a console that was already dead, and on PC, which was not really a great market for this sort of game. So this thing's mere existence is... weird. It feels like something happened to this game. I don't know what happened, but there's no way that everything went as planned, because nobody would have planned this if they were in their right minds.

Futhermore... it's a Pern game. How did that happen? Why did that happen? I don't think Pern was exactly a hot and exciting property in 2001, and the last Pern videogame was released in 1983. Why, after 18 years, why 2001 the right year to try again? I mean, to my mind, 2001 is probably the wrong year to try again, because the Pern series was about to take a nosedive in the general consensus (Although I confess the last Pern book I read was Masterharper...). Once again, the circumstances around this game are baffling.

And the only thing more baffling than the circumstances around the game are how it plays. I'll confess, I haven't gotten very far in it, at all, because it's... so, so bad. Chronicles of Pern is five years behind the times, and I mean that literally, because it plays like Resident Evil 1 on the Playstation. Actually, it plays worse. The game uses a fixed camera and tank controls (forward moves the character in the direction they're pointing, back moves them opposite that, left and right turns them). This was common the Playstation, for reasons that are a little bit complicated to explain right now (technical limitations of the system and ways to make games look better resulted in designs that were amenable to this sort of thing), but this game is on the Dreamcast, and doesn't use any sort of prerendered background. Sonic Adventure, released three years prior, had a much better camera, and that game is famous for having a poor camera. And while fixed camera and tank controls were common for horror games in 2001, since it was traditional and the poor controls and ability for the game to hide enemies just offscreen could contribute to the horror, this isn't a horror game! there's no excuse. This decision... baffles me. And the combat is even worse. It feels unresponsive, the controls are confusing, and I have no idea what's going on.

Also your dragon has a super weird, deep voice that kinda freaks me out?

Honestly, I can't decide if I want this game out of my sight forever or if I want to play more to see how bad it gets. If anyone else is curious, you can grab the PC version on myabandonware, and the Dreamcast version from your favorite piracy site. But... mostly, I'm just utterly confused and fascinated. I had no idea this existed until a few days ago, and I still have no clue how it got made.

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