When Mario found a Yoshi egg, it just cracked open and its inhabitant came fully-grown, complete with boots. Dragon Egg is relatively more realistic. You carry a similarly spotted egg, but you must work to hatch the dragon inside.
You control a girl wearing pink Osh-Kosh-B'Gosh overalls and a knapsack trying to nurture a dragon into adulthood so that together they can vanquish evil. Much of the journey is standard platforming fare: hit enemies, find power ups, don't fall into chasms ... every enemy defeated rewards you with an item, and dropped coins help you purchase the appropriate sundries to increase your chances of success.
The dragon has four states: egg, baby, steed, flying steed. When fighting with just the egg, your range is short and you will need to stand at point-blank range to inflict damage. Flailing your egg wildly at enemies will eventually yield power ups, and things become exponentially easier with each stage of growth. In toddler form, the dragon spits short streams of fire. In the next stage of development, the dragon carries you and jumps become easier. The fourth state allows for more airtime and the use of powerful fireballs. One misstep, however, and its back to the egg.
There's an innocence about Dragon Egg that makes one feel guilty about criticizing it too harshly. The sprites are big and colorful, and some of the enemies are so cute that you may hesitate to make them crispy with your dragon flame.
Beneath the cotton-candy veneer, however, many problems lurk. Most glaringly, the game is too short - six levels in all, and half of these can be traversed rather quickly.
Enemies do not renew themselves no matter how far you move from their spawn spots, and while this makes backtracking easier, it also make accumulating items difficult. You may go the majority of the game without fully powering your dragon into full adulthood.
Another drawback is its continue system; if you die while fighting a level boss, you continue right back in the boss's lair. While this sounds good (I would've loved this feature if it were in the old Castlevania games), your dragon regresses back to its amniotic state, leaving your girl to fend for herself with only an egg. This may frustrate to the point of resetting the game in order to properly power up your scaly flamethrower.
The sound and music doesn't take advantage of the PC Engine's capabilities. Some levels have music that loops ad nauseam and it may sound like the devil's laughter if you keep falling off the same moving platform over and over again.
Despite all its flaws, Dragon Egg still earns a high enough score to warrant picking up a HuCard (or ROM) to play it. Picture a pig-tailed little girl running through your living room accidentally breaking your favorite Tsarist era Faberge egg; she's just too cute to stay mad at for long.