Friday, June 10, 2011

Wizards and Warriors: A Knight's Tale...

First, I'll just get this out of the way: Acclaim was known for shitty games. With the exception of a small handful of games, Acclaim made some crappy games. Falling into the category of the "exception" is the Wizards and Warriors series. Wizards and Warriors was not a novel idea and produced no real innovations, but what it did was pretty good. It was also another entry in the ever growing resume of a little developer from the UK named Rare.

The Wizards and Warriors series focused on the exploits of a Knight named Kuros and his quest to defeat the evil wizard Malkil. The first game in the series is a traditional "rescue the princess" storyline that was the hallmark of most early video games. the difference was, well, there wasn't really anything that would differentiate this series from any number of 8-bit adventure games except that little bit of gloss from Rare. The strong platforming, solid controls, and driving soundtrack made all three Wizards and Warriors games good. The second game in the series, Ironsword, Kuros isn't looking to rescue a princess. This time the knight is searching for the pieces of the fabled Ironsword that will finally be able to defeat Malkil. To stop Kuros, Malkil takes forms representing Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water, and stands guard before each piece of the weapon. Another infamous factoid of this particular game in the series was the fact that Fabio posed for the cover art for Ironsword.

A major c hange came when the third game in the series, Kuros: Visions of Power, appeared. In this game, Kuros is operating in disguise for large portions of the game, and the gameplay is decidedly nonlinear. This is a major departure from the core basic platforming with minor item collecting gameplay that was the hallmark of the series to this point. Visions of Power was largely nonlinear, with players needing to search areas for shops, powerups and pretty much everything else. while it was a decent game, Visions of Power had a few small flaws that kept it from being great, namely the lack of a legitimate save feature. this wouldn't be a bad thing if the game wasn't twice the length of Ironsword.
By and large, the three Wizards and Warriors series didn't necessarily do anything new, but those three games did a plethora of things right. I sometimes wonder if the success of those games, combined with a few other games is what kept Acclaim around for so long, but whatever the case, Wizards and Warriors and it's sequels proved to be great moments in 8-bit gaming history.

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