Throughout the history of shooting games we've faced a hell of a lot of alien rebels and futuristic baddies. The 2D shooter seems to lend itself to these situations - but it's always nice to see a company try something fresh and new. The PC Engine/TG-16 blast-a-thon Dragon Spirit is one such example. Namco had clearly had enough of the traditional 'kill the aliens' plotline and took it upon themselves to break the trend.
Playing in a similar fashion to Phelios (also a Namco title), you assume the role of a fire-breathing dragon with a fierce sense of justice. Your task is to rid your mythical homeland of evil forces which happen to be making all sorts of mischief - dropping litter, scaring old ladies and knocking on doors before running away - that kind of thing. As you might expect this is done by tackling a series of vertically scrolling levels and defeating the big bad boss at the end. The concept may be original, but the execution is pretty standard.
Dragon Spirit looks quite average when compared to the likes of Super Star Soldier and Soldier Blade. The graphics aren't exactly going to set the world alight (this is from 1988 after all) but they're nice enough, with some decent thought going into the design. The trouble is that there's a lot of bare space and things never really get that exciting. The music is worthy of note however, making the (usually poor) PC Engine really sing.
Much like Xevious the action takes place on two plains. You not only have to contend with aerial assaults but also bomb enemies firing at you from the ground. Your dragon can acquire a pleasing range of power ups one of which involves him growing an extra head. The action never gets too frantic but that is not to say Dragon Spirit is not difficult, the large hit-area your dragon has sometimes makes it very tricky to avoid being hit.
For 600 points there are much better TurboGrafx on the Virtual Console, so only purchase this if you're a massive shoot-em-up fan. Everyone else is better off saving their points or trying one of the better examples currently available.