I noticed that when news about Jet Dragon () started popping up, its developer Grezzo was mentioned as having worked on things like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Switch. Which, hey, they did. But I think that to properly understand Jet Dragon, it’s more instructive to look at some of the original games made by Grezzo; games like Ever Oasis and Line Attack Heroes. Because like those games, while Jet Dragon is a pretty cool game, it takes more than a little patience to bring out its finer qualities.
I’ll cut to the chase. Jet Dragon is a horse racing simulator, more or less. You might look at the screenshots and think you’re in for some thrilling aerial races, but let me assure you that the racing in this game is patterned after the usual horse racing games that were really popular in Japan back in the day. Your main job while racing is to tap the screen to make your dragon boost. This uses some of their stamina, and if you’re out of stamina you won’t be able to boost anymore until you replenish it by passing through rings along the course. Frankly, you’ve either got the stats to win or you don’t, but knowing when to boost and when to chill is also of some importance. You can also use abilities if your dragon has them and you’ve got the stamina, though again they’re a matter of knowing when to use them to maximize their value.
So yes, mainly about those stats. Your dragon and rider have levels and stats, and you’re going to have to increase those stats if you want to compete. Participating in races will help them level up, but you can also do training and make use of facilities to increase some stats. Training raises fatigue and consumes your money, so there’s a limit to how much you can do at a time. Time, money, fatigue. I’m not explaining things well, am I? I have a feeling the Monster Rancher fans out there are picking up on it, but I suppose I should come at this from a different angle for the rest of you.
Alright, so Jet Dragon. It’s about dragon racing, but your job is mainly managing a dragon racing team. You start with basic facilities, one rider, and one dragon. By the time you’re out of the tutorial you’ll have another rider and dragon. The game generally follows a calendar of events, and you can choose how you want to spend each week on it. Upkeep costs money, and so does entering races. That means you have to actually get off your duff and win some races or else you’ll end up living in a cardboard box or something, and a dragon is definitely not going to fit in there. As you win races, you’ll gain sponsors and fans, bringing in more resources and unlocking other features. The story, such as it is, will also unfurl.
Outside of the racing, the main challenge comes from managing your finances. Of course it would be great to train a bunch between every race, but that costs money. Upgrading your facilities is of great benefit in the long term, but it costs money now. Expanding your team is awesome, but it also costs more money. Money, money, money is all you need. And the only real way you’ll earn it is by racing, because even sponsors aren’t going to throw their money at you for leaning on a fence post. Every new feature that opens up presents a new way to spend money, so you have to keep it coming in.
As mentioned earlier, your racing performance is largely dependent on your stats. Your actual input during race could best be seen as intervention at key moments. You won’t be doing any steering, just deciding when you want to expend stamina on boosting or using your abilities. Training will raise those stats, to a point. But the effectiveness of training depends on the mood of the dragon and/or rider, and also on how tired they are. A refreshed, perky dragon has a higher chance of seeing better gains from the training sessions, and since they cost money you’ll want to get the most out of them.
Still, even leveling up and training can only take a dragon so far. They will eventually hit their limits, and at that point you’ll want to look into breeding. Breeding your dragons is a nice way of getting a new steed that has higher potential and better abilities, and it’s a key tool in your box for keeping those wins rolling in. Indeed, it’s the only way you’ll be able to stay competitive because Jet Dragon really doesn’t pull its punches when it’s time to race. If you haven’t been doing things right on the management side, it won’t take long before you’re eating dragon dust.
There’s a lot of depth here waiting to be discovered, and Grezzo has clearly done its homework again when it comes to making a game with upfront charms and a surprising amount of complexity hiding behind the veneer. It’s very well-made for what it is, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a horse racing sim or Monster Rancher game, I think you’ll find a lot to like in Jet Dragon. The striking visuals certainly help with the initial attraction. One happy side effect of not needing to be quite so hands-on during races is that you can enjoy the sights of each track. It’s not going to knock you out of your seat or anything, but riding a dragon through pretty locations is a no-lose proposition as far as I’m concerned.
Jet Dragon isn’t going to be for everyone, but those with an open mind and a love of simulation games will likely be pleasantly surprised with what they find here. Those looking for a slick dragon racing game with dragon drifting and such are going to be less pleased, since that aspect of the game aims more at the strategic than the action-packed. If you’re looking for something different that has a lot of meat on its bones and you have an Apple Arcade subscription, I recommend giving this a look.