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Old 08-01-2012, 03:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Curious About Legacy of the Wizard?

Ages ago in a kingdom forgotten by time, the Drasle family lived peacefully in a cabin by the forest. They were a family of woodcutters who held an important duty. Generations before, a dragon threatened the kingdom and all of its inhabitants until a member of the Drasle family sealed it away to an underground dungeon. The dragon, Keela, has slumbered there for many years. But, there are now signs that it is awakening. Before Keela can recover its full power, the current members of the Drasle family must carry out their duty and slay it.

To perform this deed, the five family members - Xemn, Meyna, Roas, Lyll, and Pochi - must work together to recover the Dragon Slayer. For only the Dragon Slayer can defeat Keela and only the Drasle family's son, Roas, may wield it. It won't be easy to find, though. The Dragon Slayer is entombed deep within the dungeon, locked away to those who do not possess the four Crowns. Each Crown is protected by dangerous traps and powerful beasts and it will take all of the Drasle family's cunning to overcome them. So, before the situation worsens they set off on their quest.

A family that slays together, stays together

Legacy of the Wizard (LotW) is a fairly complex adventure-platformer even by today's standards. There are five playable characters with varying abilities, with each one being able to perform unique actions. Xemn, the father, is the game's warrior. He can wield the glove to push blocks in a multitude of directions, has high attack power, but cannot jump well. Meyna, the mother, is the game's wizard. She can use the wings to fly, the rod to toss blocks, and the key stick to open doors with magic. Roas, the son, is the game's knight. He is severely limited in the beginning of the game because he cannot use special gear for deep exploration. He can use the Crowns and the Dragon Slayer, though, making him necessary for completing the game. Lyll, the daughter, is the game's miner and high-jumper. She can wield the mattock to break blocks and has the highest jump stat in the family. Finally, there is Pochi, the game's friendly pet monster. Pochi is a basic explorative tool because it is invincible to monster attacks.

That's a lot of gear

Sadly, none of this is explained within the game. If someone were to play this game without the aid of the manual (available here; search for the game and click the "M") its difficulty would rise exponentially. Allow me to further explain. When you start LotW you are placed within the Drasle family's home. After you have chosen a character to play as (grandma and grandpa are not playable, unfortunately; they are only there for password duty) you leave the house and start exploring. Now, exploration within LotW is a daunting challenge even with the manual. But, without its aid a player will be completely lost as to what does what.

Discovering the use and purpose of each item will require a considerable amount of trial and error (the Key Stick, Rod, Power Boots, and Gloves) while others will require just plain luck (the Crowns). Additionally, the player doesn't even have a clue as to what their quest is! They are completely in the dark and much applause goes out to the players who completed this game under those circumstances. For those who did play this game with manual, at least they were given a basic understanding of the game's quest and items. That knowledge doesn't exactly make the game easier, but it is better than stumbling in the dark.

Pity those who played without this

Legacy of the Wizard's dungeon is massive enough and punishing enough in its own right, but the player also has resources to look after. Besides keeping track of their health level, players have to keep watch on their magic meter. If it's depleted a player may no longer attack until they use an item or rest at an inn. Enemies are good about dropping magic potions, though, much to the chagrin of players looking for keys or money. The game has a tendency to drop whatever it is you need most at the moment, which makes the collection of money and keys difficult if you are not at full health and magic. So, it is better to farm keys and money close to home and then venture into the dungeon when sufficiently stocked.

A good supply of keys and money will definitely come in handy in the dungeon. Outside of their basic use, like opening doors and paying for a night's rest, keys are needed to open all-important treasure chests and money can be used to buy items and gear. This portion of the game is very much like Metroid, because players will spend much time in the dungeon searching for important tools. At least LoW allows them to buy all the important stuff (minus the shield, Crowns, and the Dragon Slayer) if they have the money. In addition to that, players will also need a good supply of patience.

I'd buy that for a dollar... or 50

It has been said before, but Legacy of the Wizard is not easy. While its platforming gameplay is quite easy to grasp, the game makes serious demands on its players in regards to the navigation and the combat. First of all, enemies will come at the player in all directions, either randomly or in patterns. Some meander about in lazy paths and are easily dispatched, while some run and jump - quickly - after the player. Others will fly from off-screen and through walls to latch on to the player like a Metroid and stay with them as they run and jump. Luckily, the game allows attacks to be fired in eight directions, which is good protection if a player is quick enough. It won't be much help if the player is in the middle of a jump, however, especially when they are doing tight platforming on single square blocks.

The game most definitely takes advantage of situations like that because it knows a free hit when it sees one. Of course, the player could jump off the block, but they will most likely take damage anyway from falling too far. Additionally, they could fall off the screen which could be disastrous depending on where they are in the labyrinth, as they'll be sent to the screen below them. The game isn't completely evil, though, as it does allow players to jump on enemies like they were platforms. Players are also allowed to walk on spikes as long as they hold up while walking left or right.

You can't hear it now, but Yuzo Koshiro did the music

Another tricky detail players need to be wary of are false walls. Legacy of the Wizard is filled with these little nuisances. They might obscure an important passage or conceal spikes. They might surprise players as a collapsible bridge, lead them to a dead end, or interfere with important jumps. Then there is the aggravation over the game's push block puzzles. Xemn, the keeper of the glove, has to solve many of these puzzles in his portion of the dungeon (there are four areas each suited to a different family member). The process of moving a block is both complicated and unintuitive, but can yield some interesting results if a player works at it. With the glove equipped the player activates it with the A button. That is the same button that is used for jumping and, yes, it is as cumbersome as you think it is.

While moving blocks with the A button isn't an issue it becomes increasingly difficult when you have to push blocks in one of the eight directions. The game has the player jump, press the direction they want the block to go while in mid air, and then touch the block. It doesn't matter if the block is above, below, or adjacent to Xemn, he can push it all the same which can cause trouble from time to time. Often times, the player is subjected to the hassle of taking the glove on and off to move around blocks to avoid moving the wrong one. At least the developers placed ladders at intervals during these puzzles, which allows a player to leave the current area to reset the puzzle when they mess up. It's too bad the game wasn't as considerate about the bevy of annoying enemies hounding the player's back while they do these puzzles. And should the player die while doing this, or any other task, they are sent back to the cabin and all unsaved progress is lost.

These are a common sight in Xemn's zone

There is one final detail about LotW that can really throw players for a loop. Outside of some serious trial and error, the player really has no idea what gear they will need to complete a given area and capture a Crown. Unlike Metroid or Zelda, where the player has everything at all times, LotW only allows players to take three items into the dungeon. This adds a whole other dimension of danger and aggravation to the quest because players will often have to forgo taking restoratives, a return crystal, or a stat booster. And even if they do get the loadout right, touching a Crown will immediately start a boss fight. The bosses can be quite difficult without the right gear and it will take several tries to take them down. Of course, that means that players will have to redo everything to get back to that point.

This brings up an unusually tricky problem; If a player needs certain gear to reach the Crown and certain gear to fight the boss, how do they do both? When a player rests at an inn they can swap their gear. After a failed boss attempt the player will know where the best inn location is before the fight, and they can take a quick rest and grab the gear that will ensure success. Once a Crown is obtained the player is transported home where they can get a new password and prepare for their next outing.

Inns are pleasantly abundant

Legacy of the Wizard is not for the impatient or quick to anger. Whether it is the game's insistence on tight pixel-perfect jumps, hidden passageways to necessary areas, rapidly respawning enemies, or hidden enemies (like mimics) that can kill almost instantly, there is so much that can get on a player's nerves. Couple that with the game's enormous dungeon, challenging traps and puzzles, and trial and error gameplay. In the end, Legacy of the Wizard may not be as fair or as balanced as the other adventure games in the NES's library. But, for those who can look past the game's unrelenting challenge it does present an adventure worth taking.
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