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The Day 3 is the second game of the pentalogy in four parts. No, this is not the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but the first game was never released due to its poor quality, and instead of just sweeping it under the rug by renaming the second one, Mirinae played it straight and released For the Day 2 for the MSX in 1990. After three years, the MSX died even in Korea, and so players could enjoy playing the first entry in the series on PC. Like all four parts, Dragon Force is a fast-paced, side-scrolling shmup.
In the fully voiced Korean intro, we learn that Earth has been shattered by twenty years of war, ending with the invention of the Arcadia Bomb. But the same bomb caught the attention of the warrior race of Lelia, who proceded to attack the slowly recovering humans. The player plays the role of one of three human pilots: Jeong Kihyeop in the balanced fighter Taemiru, Jennifer Lee in the stable but slow Black Cat, and Siegfried Reutz in the fierce but vulnerable Gladiator.
In addition to choosing a pilot, there are also two settings for the "Option", a small satellite power-up that enhances firepower. It can either circle around the spaceship or follow its trail. Besides having three different types of these Options, each ship has the same four weapon systems with a standard mode and two upgraded versions. The weapons can be switched at any time, similar to the Thunder Force games on Sega's Mega Drive. However, the weapons aren't perfectly balanced and while the aimed shot and heat seeking ray in the second slot can still be useful in the right situation, the third weapon is a completely useless bomb. The fourth weapon cannot be found before stage four (out of six), and when found it renders all the other systems useless.
The controls are very responsive and even the speed of the fighter can be adjusted with the Spacebar. In addition to various enemy types which attack from every side, there are also supply ships that drop weapon upgrades and shield recharges when fired upon. The action can get very intense with the right combination of enemies on screen, but there are also some dull parts where you just wait for fodder enemies to run into your laser. The stages are too long and it can get quite tiring for the trigger finger.
The bosses might seem overwhelming at first, but once you learn the right tactics, most of them are surprisingly easy to beat. The biggest problem is the limited supply of extra lives - you start with only five credits. These can be stacked up by getting a high enough score, but their supply is nonetheless very limited.
For all 2D fanatics, Dragon Force burns up some plainly awesome sprite fireworks. In each stage, scrolling takes part in multiple planes, and some stages are even higher than the screen and thus scroll vertically. The ground is a pseudo-3D scrolling layer and enemies often approach from out of the fore- or background. There's plenty of explosions and rays and bullets; maybe a bit too many, because it is not always easy to distinguish enemy fire.
Only a few of the bosses don't look quite as awesome as in some comparable games. The soundtrack is equally awesome as the "spriteworks", and the impulsive rhythms and catchy melodies fall nowhere short of the great genre classics. It can also be enjoyed in a separate music test, which, unlike the rest of the game, is controlled with the mouse.
In the end, The Day 3 - Dragon Force is quite a good side-scrolling game, with only the rather long-winded level design holding it back from being called a classic. Fans of the genre should definitely give it a try.
The game doesn't regulate its running speed. The optimal settings for the DOSBox are about 3000 CPU cycles.