The Ryu Dragon's design is based on a European dragon, being a quadruped creature with a pair of wings facing backwards down the body. As with all Dream Eaters and Nightmares, the features of the animals are exaggerated from their real counterparts, with the feet being tipped off in a single claw rather than three, and the mouth being a beak, somewhat diminishing the intimidation associated with a real dragon, such as Maleficent. Despite this, the Ryu Dragon is one of the larger Nightmares that Sora and Riku encounter.
As with the other creatures of the game, the Spirit color scheme leans towards green, bright red, yellow and other upper spectrum colors, while the Nightmare color scheme is of purple, black and darker red, and the Rare color scheme is denoted with white.
The Ryu Dragon's name is derived from the word "ryū," which means "dragon" in Japanese. Its dispositions are named after dragon-like enemies from the Final Fantasy series.
In the context of martial arts and Asian philosophy, the dragon and tiger are important symbols regarding duality and polarity of the natural world. The Dragon in this instance is representative of that of Yang, whose aspects are found in the terms of spirit, light, and the Heavens, embodying solid, focused, and active aspects. In martial arts, the Dragon is said to be representative of internal and soft styles, focusing on conceptual understanding, including understanding the dynamics of battle, accuracy, mental acuity, technical prowess, fluidity, agility, and reaction. Within martial arts fiction, internal martial arts are also depicted at times to bear powers delving into the mystical, including that related to ki, the spiritual, or even magic, are often are a style considered balanced, and wielded by the protagonist of the story, tying in further to its Ability Link Board.
The Ryu Dragon, as one of the late-game Dream Eaters, is one of the stronger ones. It is able to inflict heavy damage with slicing attacks that allow it to dash past its targets. The Ryu Dragon is also able to breathe fire while in mid-air and launch flame projectiles, as well as cast Time Bomb. The Ryu Dragon has a tendency to favor Fire-based attacks; it has a notable weakness to Blizzard-type commands.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance