IronSword, the sequel to Wizards & Warriors, hits stores just in time for Christmas. I thought highly of the first title released two years ago and have been excited to play the follow-up, particularly due to the stunning graphics featured in Nintendo Power. IronSword has plenty of competition with other fantasy-themed games such as Willow, Shadowgate, and Battle of Olympus all arriving in stores this month. No matter which of these Game Paks you purchase you should be in for a good time!
Once again, you play the knight Kuros battling the dark wizard Malkil, who has taken over the four elements: Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth. You must explore each realm and vanquish each elemental monster. The action is quite similar to the original game. Each level is self-contained, but these areas are large and you’ll want to take time to explore every corner. There are many items that you simply cannot afford to overlook. You start off with only weak armor, but as you progress and open treasure chests, you’ll eventually upgrade your armor, helmet, and sword. This is one of those strange games, like Kid Icarus or Bionic Commando where the beginning of the game is the most challenging part because you are so weak starting off. The levels are full of jewels, keys, health, magic, spells, and secret items. It’s crucial to have a stockpile of keys on you, as you need them to unlock the treasure chests.
The game’s combat and action will surely have mixed results. Like the original title, you seem to jump into the enemies with your sword, rather than swinging it at them. You can parry your sword, but it is rarely useful. After playing action games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, the odd swordplay takes a bit to adjust to. All of the areas have an endless amount of creatures, most of them diving right at you. As you get stronger, it’s easy to deal with them, but starting off certain ones knock out a huge portion of your health.
Jumping from platform to platform is a main portion of the game, and this can be a royal pain. You must be even-tempered to play this game, as I found myself having to take a break several times. It’s hard enough with the barrage of tornadoes, eagles, and flying piranhas all after you, but many of these platforms have slopes. If you fail to perfectly make the jump, you’ll hit the slope and slide backward, sometimes down to the very bottom of the stage. This can be infuriating at times.
New to this game, the levels have inns, in which you can purchase, keys, health, and more. Also new: the realms each have an animal guardian. After finding a special item in the stage, the guardian will grant you passage to the second part of the realm. Hidden in this portion awaits the elemental boss. However, it is critical that you locate the corresponding spell before entering the boss room, as it is not possible to damage them without the spell. This was an annoyance of mine, as I found the boss in the first two realms before I discovered the magic spell, and I got sent back to search for it. The first game was challenging, however it had an endless continue system, and when you died you started exactly where you fell, which made it far too easy to complete. This game has a more traditional approach; you get three lives and two continues. However, it does have a password, in which you can continue at the start of the level you ended on. I appreciate the change as it blends the difficulty.
The things in IronSword that are going to turn heads are the beautiful graphics and incredible soundtrack. The game is very colorful and features beautiful settings spanning the different elemental zones. Starting off we are treated to a very cool map outlining the Land of Sindarin and all the areas that we’ll be traversing through. The animal guardians and elemental bosses are huge and can take up over half the screen. I loved the animation and the character given to these. The common enemies are creative, each zone has its own theme of monsters, and there are over 30 different types. All of these look outstanding and the graphics put so many other Nintendo titles to shame.
The soundtrack is composed by David Wise, who has already done the music on about a dozen other NES titles, notably the first Wizards & Warriors, Marble Madness, and R.C. Pro-Am. Throughout the game, the music has an eerie feel to it that fits perfect with the tone of the game. The title screen music and the inn theme are some of my favorite pieces so far on the Nintendo.
The action in IronSword is quite good, but will no doubt alienate and frustrate some gamers. The presentation is top notch, notably the character designs, music, and environments featuring some of the very best graphics I’ve seen. The Wizards & Warriors series isn’t quite in the same league with Mega Man, Castlevania, and Zelda, but IronSword is a game well worth your money and time.
IronSword: Wizards & Warriors II Review
- Graphics - 9.5/109.5/10
- Sound - 9.5/109.5/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
If people aren’t talking about the graphics, they’ll surely be discussing the cover. Instead of going with traditional art, Acclaim hired male model Fabio to pose shirtless. Fabio is best known for being the cover model on your mom’s latest romance novels. I’m curious whether this will help or harm sales.