Saturday, March 17, 2012

Game 4: Willow (NES) Final Rating

Before we get to the full rating--in case anyone is curious how the game measures on the scale--I've included the RPG scale here because the game actually gained a point overall.

Willow - Rating(12 RPP)
1)  - Character advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters, customize characters
2)  - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
3)  - Items and equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4)  - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
5)  - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6)  - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve

The point gain came from the descriptions for each item. It's an interesting addition, but it would be better if it were available to read in the menu as well. On to the review...

Willow is small, but he wields a big sword. The range of his swing is pretty forgiving, making landing hits very easy; of course, this is also true for enemies as well. Many times I wondered how an enemy even hit me, as I was sure Willow was out of range. There's not a lot of time between vulnerability either, so many times one hit turned into two or three before I properly reacted. Bosses are the worst offenders, and Kael wins first place. Strangely healing items are disabled during these battles where they'd most useful. Fortunately, the cheap hits are spread far enough apart not to overwhelm the experience.

There's no deep strategy as MP is best saved for healing, and many enemies are easily killed by continuous swings or hitting their weak spots. A variety of enemies are introduced throughout the game, but many are recolored to indicate a higher difficulty. One sword is used on magic wielding enemies, while all others are only effective against normal enemies. This gives our first taste of a weakness dynamic; however, it's gone a bit too far here since there's no choice involved when selecting a weapon, it's either right or wrong. Each weapon has a level requirement; if not met, swings are slowly executed. It's not difficult to compensate for this, but it really doesn't add anything to the fun. By the middle of the game, combat becomes stale. Other than the bosses, no new enemies are introduced.
Rating: 4
Face Eborsisk, the two-headed dragon... one head at a time
In case you didn't know, you play as Willow. There's no customizing his appearance, and while the sword and shield aren't present when one isn't equipped, they all look the same readied. By the end of the game it's necessary to be close to max level to ensure you have enough MP for Bavmorda, and gaining the couple extra levels to max out really doesn't affect much. Experience is only gained through defeating enemies while magic spells are acquired from chests or taught by NPCs. There's no way to customize Willow into anything personal. Controls are handled well, except for when getting stuck on corners.
Rating: 2
Most enemies are just as big as Willow
Most goals are clearly defined when speaking to all NPCs, which is necessary as there are many hidden triggers for certain events. However, there are a few glaring omissions where you're left to wander around until you find the proper place. I don't know what's worse, the NPC you need to return to later, or needing to enter a previously barred area to find an item. There are no hints for either. Other puzzles have no hints, but the solution is fairly simple to figure out by trying every combination of magic.

There are a few side quests available, and the rewards for them are beneficial. Also, some magic is optional, although not very useful. Don't expect any branching solutions here, and trying to skip ahead will only mean the NPC you need isn't there yet.
Rating: 2
I don't remember the game telling me the slime avoids monsters, but I got it eventually
Oh the NPCs, why do they like to hide so often? The conversations will change based on some events, but the last full village we find is the second one. Kchil spoke of his village, but we're never able to visit. Everything is geared towards getting us to the end by the time we leave Dew. It's almost as if the designers ran out of ideas for the world, or maybe they attempted to follow the movie too closely. Many events of the movie are at least paid lip service even if their impact on the game is negligible. Immersion is often broken by these elements and the constant wandering around aimlessly looking for the next trigger. The player isn't an active participant of the story, but merely pushed along a certain path.
Rating: 2
I don't believe there really is a village
There are a good number of items, swords, shields, and spells to collect on this adventure. Not all of them are on the beaten path either, so searching every corner is necessary to get everything. Items are passively used, but the manual and game suggest otherwise. Inventory isn't an issue as there's only one of everything in the world and no shops. Everything is found in chests or given to Willow. The best weapon or shield is obvious as shown by increasing the proper stat; spells don't have obvious descriptions, but the only mystifying one is Renew (which apparently turns some enemies into weaker monsters). When receiving an inventory item, a short description is given, but a number of times it only hints at its use.

Collecting all items is obvious as every slot is filled; however, swords, shields, and spells stop short of the bottom. Knowing if you missed a piece of equipment is possible if you pick up a later one, as a previous slot will be empty; this doesn't work for spells or items though as they're more or less randomly placed. Getting the password for the game is only available after dying. Having everything doesn't make the game any easier, and you're still in for a challenge.
Rating: 3
Couldn't come up with three more spells?
The music is enjoyable, but the graphics are a little washed out for my taste. Maybe it's my TV though, as the screenshots seem to have more color. Sound effects are missing for swinging or stabbing the sword through the air, which seemed a little odd. Everything goes well together, and the final town's devastation is evident by the abandoned and boarded up houses. The caves repeat the same layout quite often depending on the number of exits from the screen. Wall color changes based on which cave you're in, but in a single cave there's no telling where exactly you are. There aren't any really interesting sites to see, and even the final boss room is similar to all others. Exploration doesn't feel as open as it should because of the event triggers that much be tripped before the next area opens. With NPCs only appearing after certain times, exploring is most often futile by having to do it again.
Rating: 4
Best view in the game
Final Rating: 17 [28%]

Now this score may seem low, at least it did to me at first, but I think it deserves it when compared to other CRPGs. It offers the least of any aspect so far, and while it's a solid action game, the story and interaction aren't up to par. Still, there's a certain charm to the game. Maybe it's colored by my past experience with it, but I enjoyed it this time around. If you plan on playing it, then I suggest you do so while keeping a walkthrough handy unless you enjoy canvasing the countryside multiple times.

For those that want to take a look at the game and missed my playthrough. There's always the speedrun of this game located at Speed Demos Archive. It'll last about 1 hour 40 minutes.


  1. This sounds reasonable. I think it would deserve a slightly better score as a -game-, as I remember it being fairly fun and interesting. However, it's hardly a great (or even decent) JRPG by virtually any standard.

    1. I agree, the points I disliked most had to do with moving the plot together. The game probably would have been a lot better without a pesky thing like that.

  2. "Willow is small, but he wields a big sword."

    This should have been the tagline to the film! Gold!

    1. "This should have been the tagline to the film! Gold!"

      Willow 3: The Revenge

      This time it's personal.

      Willow 4: Electric Willgaloo

  3. I believe Renew's main purpose is to change you back from being transformed into a pig.

    1. This is what I thought too, but you can't cast any spells while in pig form. Other people say it will transform some monsters into weaker ones (slimes maybe), but I didn't try it out myself. Seems kind of useless.

    2. Ah, I see, it's like the 'spell ' magic from Zelda 2, which I do remember being a little useful in getting to the Great Palace.

    3. Yes, similar, but I think the Zelda 2 spell is more useful. I didn't find any enemies susceptible to it in Willow.