Acclaim is closing out this exciting year for the Nintendo with their brand new title, Wizards & Warriors. If you are a lover of Dungeons and Dragons, and are expecting this to be a similar fantasy role-playing game, you may be disappointed. However, this is still an interesting title with superb action and adventure, set in a fantasy, medieval land.
Set in the Kingdom of Elrond, you play as Kuros, your classic ‘knight in armor’ whose mission is to defeat Malkil, an evil wizard who has kidnapped five maidens and the Princess of Elrond. He has cast a spell over the kingdom, and all animals of the forest, as well as evil creatures summoned by the magician are out to stop you. Kuros must trek through six different stages to reach Malkil. At the end of each level, there is a boss, which you must defeat in order to release one of the imprisoned maidens. The game play of Wizards & Warriors is very much in the vein of Castlevania and Ghosts N’ Goblins, only a whole lot easier.
Each level is quite large, and it’s not nearly as straight forward as most action games, hence why Nintendo categorizes it as an Adventure Series title. There are many different directions and areas to explore on each stage and it’s not immediately clear which way to go. In fact, there are doors that you’ll come across early in your adventure that remain locked. Each area contains three colored keys that you need to find to unlock the corresponding colored doors. On top of this task you must also collect gems throughout the stage. You will need a specific number of them to bribe the guard to gain access to the boss area. In addition, there are a ton of special items that grant you temporary magical powers, special skills, or even a secondary weapon. All of these make completing each level a lot easier, however the later stages are especially challenging and you may find yourself needing to map out the area in an attempt to navigate them.
The levels are filled with a huge variety enemies to fight or avoid. Many are your classic bats, spiders, snakes, and eagles; but there also supernatural baddies like ghosts, goblins, skeletons, and werewolves. Combat with your sword is a little awkward, since the most efficient way to kill your opponents is to jump and thrust into them, rather than simply swing the sword. The secondary weapons are great to come across and add variety to your moves. You can throw the dagger like a boomerang, or even shoot fire from a staff. Like Castlevania, you can only have one equipped at a time.
There is a lot of jumping up from platform to platform to reach your desired area, and the most frustrating thing in the game is missing one and falling to the ground when you’ve almost made it to the top. Now you have to start climbing all over again! Two of my favorite special items have direct impacts on your character’s traversal abilities. The Feather allows you to fall in slow motion, making it easier to fix jumping mistakes. Levitation gives you the power to float for a couple of seconds simply by holding down the jump button. This makes reaching new areas easier than ever. Finally, you can obtain potions, which give you a 10-seconds of either invincibility, speed, or a higher jump. I was very impressed with the variety of extra weapons and power-ups, and it kept the game fun and exciting.
The path to Castle Ironspire is fraught with danger. It all begins in the dark woods and descends into the caves, then into the foreboding underground passage, and finally back up to another forest. There’s enough variety in the different levels, but each area doesn’t feel as impactful as those in Castlevania. Also none of the bosses really struck me as memorable or overly challenging, a letdown from more recent games, like Metroid and Castlevania.
The environments and characters are well drawn, but the backgrounds are almost all black and this is not a colorful game. In some ways this is a good thing as it helps set the mood, but then again it almost reminds me of older NES games and that’s not a good thing. This game will be remembered for years for the outstanding music and dynamic sound effects. The startup music sets the tone, and there are 5 main themes that play throughout the game. The first stage music is extremely catchy. As you reach the caves and underground passage the music becomes quite eerie. I love how the music changes when you are near death, or when you get a magical potion. The sounds that play when getting new items or opening a treasure chest are a real treat. Rare, the development studio for Wizards & Warriors obviously had a terrific sound team.
One major deterrent for me would be the difficulty in this game. You get 3 lives, and a life bar with 12 hits, which is reasonable for what could be a pretty challenging game. However, if your life bar empties, you simply lose a life and pick up exactly where you started, with all your items and weapons intact. The same goes if you lose all your lives, so there really is no punishment. You simply pick up where you last died. All you lose is your points. Of course you can challenge yourself to play through it without losing all of your lives, but I wish that would have been built into the game. This takes a lot of the honest challenge out of it, and it should be a pretty easy game to play through because of this design decision.
Wizards & Warriors offers up a lot of enjoyment. Its exploration and adventure doesn’t nearly match The Legend of Zelda or Metroid, but it’s not a simple point A to Point B game either. The game looks pretty good, sounds amazing, and controls nicely. Hunting for keys, collecting gems, discovering special items, all while combating the hordes of enemies made each level extremely fun. The medieval fantasy theme should connect well with many gamers. Despite a low difficulty curve, I’d highly recommend playing this Game Pak.
Wizards & Warriors Review
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Adventure games are all the rage these days, and Wizards & Warriors is another one worth checking out. Phenomenal music and great gameplay make for one of the best medieval fantasy games available for the NES.
Wizards & Warriors
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.