Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wizards & Warriors

I spent the weekend reading Faulkner and playing Wizards and Warriors. (and Ironsword, the first two games in the 4-part series). You play as Kuros, a knight running around freeing tied-up half-naked babes from evil monsters.
Fun game, really hard. However, you continue from exactly where you die... so eventually you forget about lives altogether. And as the afternoon drifted into evening like insects skimming on water, improbable yet somehow vindicated by the harsh physics of our world, I battled as Kuros, falling repeatedly in battle like Confederate and Yankee soldiers pierced by bullet from afar or the close and familiar sting of a bayonet, leg vaporized by the earth tumbling explosion of a cannonball... In the words of the wizard in Conan the Barbarian: "Life and Death, the same."

It's a curious game, because it's kind of bad. The jumping physics are awkward (though somewhat fun), you can easily loose the best items in the game by picking certain treasure chests, and monsters constantly spawn off-screen and kamikaze into Kuros with no hope of ever defending the attack.

But, the game has nice artwork, great music, infinite lives, and some cool areas to explore. It's a good game if you are looking for a fantasy adventure and have already played Legacy of the Wizard (and part 2 of the post) and Faxanadu. Similar and inferior to both, that about sums it up.

Had I played this game as a child, I might enjoy it more. But as the list of NES games I haven't played dwindles, Wizards and Warriors is a refreshing reminder of the high-quality NES library. I have owned the sequel, Ironsword: Wizards and Warriors 2, for some time, but I could never figure out what to do. I've decided to sink some more time into Ironsword, maybe it gets better as the game progresses.

Wizards and Warriors (the entire series) is also notable for being made in America. Most good NES games come from the land of the rising sun and it's comforting to see that at least some Americans were trying to make a decent NES game.

This installment steal it's story from Mario, having you rescue a princess in 8 castles, the first 7 named from myth and literature, but not being "your" princess. Eventually "Thou Hath Rescued Thy Princess / Thy Search Hath Ended" and thy princess remaineth kneeling in submission, half-naked and blond.

Levels 2-4 are caves, and all look similar, thus the game drags. But stages 6-8 are fantastic, epic, and worth the trouble of getting there. Wizards and Warriors simply needed well-programmed enemies, something even Legacy of the Wizard couldn't accomplish. Enemies in this game appear from everywhere, can fly through walls, or simply can't be killed. Every enemy in the game feels cheap, both in battle and programming.

There is also a place (I believe it is level 5, but it could be 6) that seems oddly familiar. Hmm, what could it be? See the final screenshot, I had to take it with a real camera; I was playing on cartridge today. I'll continue the series and post my thoughts if something interesting should come to mind. I've been looking for a Game Boy game to play recently, and Wizards and Warriors X: The Fortress of Fear looks fun. Any other fans of this series or a particular game within?


Anonymous said...

i was actually thinking about starting this game soon. we'll see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

I can't concentrate on any game but RE5 right now. Its scariness level is OVER 9000.

Anonymous said...

Ah so you DID make a W&W post here!

I like the first 2 games a lot, but I'm sure half of that's the nostalgic kool-aid talking. I will say that the actual sword of Kuros is a very disappointing and ineffective weapon. The thing is only really used to give Kuros a bayonet for when he ultimately jumps into his enemies.

The subweapons (dagger and later the hand axe) are awesome though, especially if you get the power-ups which let you toss more at a time. The best weapon in the entire game believe it or not are the Boots of Force. Yep, kicking your enemies is also the most damaging. You can also use them to open chests without a key, but like you rightly pointed out you might open a chest and get some crappy glitched item (cloak of darkness) that replaces your boots forever.

Do a post about Ironsword next!

Anonymous said...

Not made in the U.S., made in the U.K. by Rare, the peeps behind the DKC/64 series, Goldeneye, Banjo-Whatever, et al. PUBLISHED in the U.S. by Acclaim. The Japanese version published by Jaleco is pretty good - it lightens up on the crushing difficulty a lot and adds all the more hidden stuff.

Matthew St. Cyr said...

I love me some Wizards & Warriors...I beat it a while a ago as well Ironsword. Both great games....never played Fortress of Fear, but I will have to check it out soon!