Every gamer has that one game from their childhood that consumed their youth. The game you remember playing over, and over, and over again, each time scratching and clawing your way just a little further along. That game where you memorized every inch, every trick, every power-up, and every problem area like it was the back of your hand. It’s the game you will always have the most pride for having beaten, and the one that holds a special place in your heart. For me that game is Wizards & Warriors.
I rarely see Wizards & Warriors come up in any discussions, and I find that a little hard to understand. It’s a game with great level design, great gameplay, and is addictive as any game from that era. With a well-paced progressive sense of difficulty, paired with sightly and memorable levels that help you feel as though you’re actually moving through this world, W&W is a game that I believe holds up today along side any of the great NES games.
Consisting of eight varied levels, each is a unique experience jam-packed with different adversaries and hazards. Each level works almost like a maze you must fight through, and to help along the way are power-ups that come in handy at different times, depending on the situation. These potions don’t come along often, and while powerful, don’t last long either. But you never feel as though you are missing out with the lack of help because the game is just really fun to play, and it is designed to be challenging through design, not cheapness… well, except for one instance.
There is a point where you need you jump into a narrow crevice to get the key to open the door to the next level. The power-ups are randomly generated by killing enemies…so, no potion, no getting in that passage. Believe me when I tell you I must have spent hours just jumping back and forth to get a new enemy to spawn in hopes of it dropping the required potion. It’s absolutely infuriating. But honestly, that is my only fault with the game!
One other small issue is the inclusion of a time limit. W&W is a challenging enough game that does require some planning through the stages. Game designers of that era seemed to believe that you had to put a limit on people’s fun. Why would you punish someone for taking too long to find their way through the puzzle you designed? It’s not like it had anything to do with the story, say, solving a puzzle or maze. It’s just a strange sadistic relic from a bygone era…
I finally beat W&W one Thanksgiving day. I knew I was getting close as I had mastered all but the last level. In anticipation of my accomplishment I threw a tape into my VCR to record the whole endeavor. I remember being yelled at to join the family for dinner, but I didn’t want to leave the game. Eventually I relented and rushed through dinner so I could get back to the game. I still have that tape to this day, with a nearly forty-five minute section of paused nothingness before my glorious victory!
For what amounts to a fairly basic old-school NES platformer, Wizards & Warriors may not be for those who like to play old games for an easy romp through 8-bit nostalgia. No, this is a game that will definitely take some time to figure out and beat. But I assure you, when you do it will be one of the best accomplishments of your retro-gaming experience!