March 13, 2013

[Game 033] Sword of Hope (GB - 1989)

The only Game Boy RPGs I ever played as a flesh-child were the Final Fantasy Legend series and Final Fantasy Adventure.  This was probably due more to local availability than being a FF fan (though I am that as well).  Most of the GB titles that I'll have to do I had never even heard of before (other than Pokemon).  I was fully expecting for these nosebleed games to just be monochromatic Dragon Quest clones, but Sword of Hope surprised me.  It is essentially a RPG/adventure hybrid, utilizing the same interface used in games such as Shadowgate and Uninvited on the NES.  The same techniques used in those games are viable in SoH as well.

Including punching everything in sight.

The similarities don't end there, however; much of the music and sound effects are ripped from Shadowgate.  As all these games were published by KEMCO, I guess that's not too horrible.  The main difference in SoH is that there is no pixel hunting (can you imagine that on a Game Boy?) and the inventory items and actions available are far fewer in number.  This makes for an exceedingly easy exploration endeavour and I was expecting the RPG battle segments to be just as effortless.  At first, it was.

Then, it wasn't.

While the combat options are limited to the standard melee attack or spell casting, the combat system itself is a chaotic whirlwind of pure awesome.  Instead of the two sides (hero vs. enemies) just exchanging blows with one another, monsters of differing types will often attack each other.  As each round passes, there is a chance that a new monster will enter the fray (e.g. the above screenshot started with just the goblin).  This is rad enough in itself, but SoH increases the madness by making magic a lot more volatile than in most games.  When an attack spell is cast, there is a chance that it will hit the spellcaster as well (or in addition to, if it's a spread spell).  This includes monsters that cast spells as well.  Oh, and sometimes monsters will reflect spells back at the caster as well.  I've already had one instance where I cast a fireball spell only to have it critical fail and hit me for a bunch of damage and then the monster reflect his portion of it for even more damage (resulting in death).  Just stick with melee attacks then, you say?  No dice, some creatures are very resistant to melee damage and would take five times as long to beat.  Though I'm enjoying this insane, frantic battle system now, I'm sure Future Shen will be quite fed up with it but fuck that guy.

Uh... yeah, I meant to do that.

So as you may have noticed above, I didn't get to name the main character and am stuck with the heroic name of Theo.  Now, I may just be a product of the eighties, but for the life of me I cannot picture anyone else other than this guy:

I've tried hard to envision myself in the lead role, but whenever his name pops up on the screen I end up thinking about Huxtables so I've decided to just roll with it.  Anyway, Theo's main quest involves getting the titular sword so that he can destroy the dragon who has corrupted the king and turned most of the people into trees.  The sword is in the possession of one of three mages who have sealed themselves off into their own respective domains.  Theo must find the three keys in order to visit each mage.  I've only been playing a few hours and already have two of the keys so this may be a real short quest.  With the low number of actions, items, and screen interactables, it's pretty hard to miss anything and there is no reason not to exhaust all options on every screen.  The developers seemed to be aware of this; there are numerous tongue-in-cheek moments while exploring.

One of the many fakeouts.
An animal's what??  The
tension is unbearable!

Now, Theo better get a move on and explore the next area before his dad has a serious talk with him about all the D's he got on his report card.