Legacy of the Wizard is the latest fantasy adventure game to hit store shelves. This game, known as Dragon Slayer IV in Japan, has many similarities to the Legend of Zelda series and it should generate plenty of buzz amongst Nintendo owners. This is an enormous and challenging game that at times shows signs of brilliance, but sadly it is littered with glaring issues and design flaws. That being said, there’s a whole lot of worse games on the NES that are glutting up retail shelves, so if you’re itching for a new Game Pak, this one could fit the bill nicely.
As you might expect, Legacy of the Wizard features a detailed story told almost exclusively through its instruction manual. This game stars the Drasle family who are tasked with destroying the menacing dragon, Keela. Together they must explore the underground labyrinths to locate the Dragon Slayer sword, which is the only weapon that can defeat Keela. This journey won’t be easy though – four bosses stand in the way and only by collecting the four Crowns will the path be cleared to snag the weapon and kill the dragon.
The game begins in the Drasle’s house, which conveniently rests directly above the massive labyrinth below. You play as one of the five members of the household and each has his or her own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Some have exclusive skills that allow them to utilize specific items throughout the game. For example, Pochi is the family pet monster and he’s immune to the attacks from other monsters. The father is strongest and can move blocks, whereas the mother can fly once you locate the correct items. Throughout the game you’ll need to rotate between the family members to reach certain areas. Part of the fun of the game is discovering how and when to use each person’s powers, however here lies the first major annoyance: you must return all the way to the beginning of the game to switch between characters. Finding or buying a crystal will warp you to the house, but you’re not able to warp back to where you came from, resulting in a long trek back to where you were. This issue also crops up when you want to quit playing the game, since the only place the game will give you your password to continue is at the house. Unfortunately there isn’t any battery backup to make things easier.
Although some will inevitably make comparisons to Zelda, this game features a side-view more akin to Zelda II. There are small shops and inns scattered about the world, but there are not really any conversations to be had with any other characters. Rather than having dungeons or labyrinths that you enter, this game plays more like Metroid where the entire game is one gigantic maze with multiple pathways and countless areas that are unreachable at first visit. You attack the monsters by firing projectiles at them. Most common enemies are quite simple to defeat, but there are lots of them in each room and they reappear after a few seconds after you kill them. Firing your weapon uses up your magic, which is represented in tallies instead of a standard meter. Fortunately, nearly all enemies will drop health, magic, gold, or keys (which are used to open treasure chests) so running low on any of these is rarely an issue. Although watch out! This is one of those games where you take damage if you jump or drop down from a high ledge. Inns and shops are common and resting at an inn fully replenishes your magic and health. Have the manual ready so you know what you are buying at the shops, as there is zero in-game explanation.
Graphically there are some great colors that help emphasize the fantasy setting, however this very much looks like a game that is two years old. The playable characters, and common monsters are quite small, much like the size of Dana in Solomon’s Key. This will likely turn off gamers who have spent the last few months playing visually stunning games like Blaster Master and Super Mario Bros. 2. The creatures you are fighting lack much imagination and won’t be remembered like the baddies in the Zelda or Mario series.
Perhaps the greatest strength Legacy of the Wizard has is its wonderful music. The title screen’s theme sets the tone perfectly and each of the five areas in the game has their own distinctive tune that plays throughout. If you are lover of phenomenal video game music, this is certainly one that you’ll want to break out the Walkman and record the entire soundtrack onto a cassette.
My biggest complaint while playing was the absence of an in-game map. This game is huge and with so many dead ends and places that need a revisit you’ll certainly need to make your own map with lots of notes. With a world so expansive and full of depth, there is no valid excuse not to include a map. This is just one more issue that keeps Legacy of the Wizard out of the same league as the Zelda series. I don’t want to have to draw my own map or consult the manual to learn about each item and character.
Despite the many faults with Legacy of the Wizard, this game still does a lot of things right. This game should take even the most skilled players months to conquer so you certainly will get your money’s worth if you decide to purchase. If you’ve gone through both Zelda games and are a fan of medieval fantasy, this game should be up your alley. This Pak offers a great challenge, incredible music, secrets to discover, and lots of critical thinking. I only wish they had spent more time updating and improving some of the features that NES gamers have begun taking for granted over the past couple years.
Legacy of the Wizard Review
- Graphics - 5.5/105.5/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 6.5/106.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7.5/107.5/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
This is the second large adventure game that Broderbund has put out this year, with The Guardian Legend releasing earlier this spring. Both games have some similarities, with Legacy of the Wizard adapting the fantasy theme as opposed to a Science Fiction. I’m hoping for more solid titles from them in the future.