Wizards and Warriors
My girlfriend had this past weekend off after dealing with unruly customers for several days in a row. Being the holiday season and all that, it frays nerves and she rightfully wanted a day to just hang around the house and really, well, do nothing. It seems the older one gets, the rarer those days become. I had the ‘regular Nintendo’ set up in the living room from the night before, when I had a late night session of Castlevania. I woke up the next morning to the inspiring soundtrack of Wizards and Warriors. I forgot how enjoyable this game is, and truthfully hadn’t really played it in years.
Wizards and Warriors was released in 1987 under the Acclaim brand, but was actually programmed by Rare. Yes, Kuros is a product of the same company that later created Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country. The game puts you in control of Kuros, a wandering Warrior who has decided to enter the realm of Elrond, in which lies the great Castle Ironspire. The Castle is the home of the Wizard (the game should probably be called Wizard and Warrior) Malkil. Malkil is just a generally bad guy who has imprisoned ‘the princess,’ and whose evilness has cast an evil spell over the entire land of Elrond, wreaking havoc, causing creatures to become evil, that kind of thing… Save the princess, and stop Malkil. Easy right? Not.
Over the course of your platform hopping/enemy cleaving adventure, you’ll encounter a cast of sometimes barely animated creatures who wish to cut your trip short. Damn those bees! What’s with the stationary bird shooting at you? You’ll need to grab colored keys scattered around each level, which unlock various treasure chests of the same color, containing gems or such magical items as a cloak of invisibility or a potion of levitation. Some potions will give extra speed or extra jumping height. Some items are kind of useless (invisibility means, invisible to everyone, even you, the player… ugh.)
Graphically, Wizards and Warriors still holds up, almost 25 years after its release. Kuros looks great and is easily identifiable as a proverbial knight in shining armor. Many of the enemies seem to move like they were props in a middle school drama club play, except with no strings attached to them. Kuros’ attack animation makes him look like the Star Wars Kid, and he walks with the poise some supermodels would die for. When you die (and you will, often) try to imagine an invisible tickle monster, tickling Kuros to death. What’s the deal with all the princesses in bikinis, strung up from the ceiling? I think Malkil had some fetishes that he wanted to work through. And why doesn’t Kuros untie them before leaving for the next stage, anyway?
A good test of video game music is to actually not play the game, but have it on as background noise while doing something else. Wizards and Warriors passes that test, easily. Actually it’s one of the most enjoyable NES soundtracks, but as time passes, it tends to be cast aside, or just forgotten altogether. Later in the day, and several days later, I still have the music in my head. The fact the Minibosses covered the song says quite a bit.
With infinite continues, picking up RIGHT WHERE YOU DIED, minus points, you WILL beat this game… eventually. It’s a good thing, since there’s a metric ton of enemies that seemingly come out of nowhere in order to kill you. Kuros is pretty easy to control, and a bonus is that he actually attacks just by walking or jumping. Say what? Yup. Think of Joust. Walking along, you can kill an enemy if they touch the tip of your sword. Jumping is controllable in midair, unlike an earlier game I mentioned, Castlevania. This allows you to discover hidden rooms and land on some tricky platforms. Some of these platforms are difficult, even without baddies trying to kill you.
So my girlfriend did beat the game after a few hours and some struggling with the dreaded “bubble stage,” she found several princesses, and defeated Malkil, along with his soul ghosts. One could play for points, trying to die as few times as possible, but this playthrough was solely to beat the game. As a way to relax and unwind, Wizards and Warriors excels. Just wildly wave your sword and hope it hits some birds. Rescue some princesses, defeat Malkil. Give Wizards and Warriors a Fair Shake.