There are some games out there that really shine. They have the opportunity to make something great and they do, exceeding all expectations. Then there’s games that you can tell have tremendous potential, but it is never exploited, and instead of a great game you get a watered down version of something that could have been amazing. Ubisoft Quebec’s game Battle of Giants: Dragons (Combat of Giants in some regions) for the Nintendo DS is one of the latter.

The race of noble dragons was once hunted by mankind for the powerful gems they protected. A fierce battle raged against humans and dragons. Eventually the noble dragons emerged victorious, however, they were severely weakened. The fallen dragons took this opportunity to plunge the dragon world Tammabukku into an age of darkness that would last 100 years. Now a you, a young descendent of the noble dragons, must recapture the powerful gems the fallen dragons stole and become the new Dragon Lord.

It all sounds a lot more exciting than it ended up being.

Battle of Giants: Dragons is basically a fighting game. You explore 3 areas in each of the 4 different regions of Tammabukku, the air, ice, fire, and earth regions, battling every dragon you encounter. Two of these dragons in each level hold special elemental gems that allow for more and more powerful attacks, depending on whether you equip the gems that match your dragon’s element. At the start of the game you can choose one of the four elements, each of which has a special ability (regeneration for ice and wind dragons, poison for earth, burning for fire). You get to customise your dragons appearance (my favourite part of the game) and will unlock new body parts and colours as you go. Once you clear all 12 levels as one element of dragon, you must choose another until you’ve played through as all 4 dragons. There is also a multiplayer feature in which you can pit your dragons against your friends’ with up to four players battling in turns.

Everything is controlled with the stylus. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but button controls would have made a lot more sense for a fighting game as they would allow for a more complex system of battling. As it is, the game is too simplistic. To battle, you simply attack, dodge, or block. Once you attack you must tap on the gem you want to use and then connect the dots on the screen to do damage. Outside of battle you are given goals in the field. Basically you fly around the map and burn crystals to unlock new areas or get the bad dragons to appear. Every now and then you get to smash a crystal instead of burning it, but don’t expect to get to do that too often. That would be, you know, too much variety. So as you can imagine, after the first dragon, things get pretty repetitive. Sometimes the levels are even exactly the same. There are hidden bosses in each level that can spice things up a bit. The game will pit you against things like a UFO, a robot, or a set of drums. But if you’re like me you’ll find this ridiculousness ruins the atmosphere of the game and simply skip those battles.

The aesthetics are by far this game’s best attribute. The dragons and backgrounds aren’t the best on the DS, but they are very beautiful- as is the music. They obviously put a lot more effort into the visual and audio aspects than into gameplay, and it was the awesome animations and pleasing aesthetics that made this game enjoyable for me (apart from the fact that I just REALLY love dragons).

This game seemed to have such enormous potential to really be amazing, and it was frustrating to find out that it didn’t exploit any of the opportunities it had to be great. Between stylus controls limiting the complexity of battle and the dull tasks to complete on the map, the game just fell flat. Though I actually did enjoy this game disproportionately to its quality. The simplistic gameplay and high repetition would be a turn-off to most players, but I would recommend it to both kids and those (like me) who just love to watch pretty dragons fly around and beat the crap out of each other.