Sunday, March 11, 2012

Game 4: Willow (NES) - Introduction

Many of these games feel like visiting old friends. I remember the week or two we had rented Willow; having watched--and adored--the movie, I jumped at the chance to play the game. Like many games during my youth, I don't recall with any accuracy if I completed this game. My memory of this is about as good as it is for Ultima: Exodus.
This is a cooler title screen

Willow is based off the film of the same name. The movie was a pet project of George Lucas that took over a decade to come to fruition (conceived in 1972, released in 1988). While it did make a profit, it failed to meet the high expectations a Lucas film had, and the planned trilogy was finished in book form. The story follows Willow Ufgood who finds a baby, tries to give it back to the big people, and gets caught up in a magical adventure.

From this beginning, two games were created by Capcom. An arcade game with side-scrolling action, and the NES a top-down action-RPG. It may be strange to see an RPG coming from a company best known in the US for the Mega Man series at the time, but their RPG legacy had already begun with Destiny of an Emperor (not yet released in the US), this game, and Sweet Home all in the same year. At the start of the year, Capcom had just merged with another company, and started using small development teams to create multiple games targeted at the NES.

There is a PC game, which we'll just ignore; please pay them no attention (I hear they're dismal). The review at hardcoregaming101 is much more detailed, so check it out if you're interested in knowing more.
Actual title screen
While the game was well received, there was no sequel in the cards for Willow. This I suppose may have been a combination of using a license that didn't continue in its original form, and a licensed game even in these early days was a red flag for many potential buyers.

Here's a handy recap of the Willow story from the manual:

It is a time of great turmoil to the world. Bavmorda, a former messenger from the Spirit of the Skies, has turned towards evil. Her plan is to rule the world through her twisted magics. Her force is incredible and her armies are unstoppable. She even dared to transform Fin Raziel, the messenger from the Spirit of the Earth, into a small animal. Bavmorda believes that there is no one that can stop her.

But she had not heard of the tribe of the Nelwyns. There had been a prophecy among these people that one of their tribe would help lead the world out of its darkest hour. The High Aldwyn, the wizard of the Nelwyn tribe, recognized Willow Ufgood as the chosen one. The adventure begins for Willow as he leaves his family and friends and sets out to stop all of the evil that Bavmorda has created.
Magic? I've never head of this before...
Wait... what? What happened to the Willow I know from the movie? No mention of Elora Danan? I tend to agree with with the review linked up that suggests Willow might have been a mostly complete game that only sought to take advantage of the film license by inserting familiar names and graphics. I guess I didn't realize the difference because in my young mind I was playing through Willow instead of watching it.

I don't think there are any games I'm particularly not looking forward to--even some of the bad have an  appeal in understanding where they went wrong--so to avoid repeating myself every introduction, I'll say for the last time that I'm really looking forward to playing this game.
Let's begin


  1. There I was wondering why you were about to play a side scrolling action game! Makes much more sense now.

    Never knew there was an RPG out there in console land.

  2. No worries, just a top-down action-RPG. I don't get back to side scrolling action games until Faxanadu. ;)

    I'm really looking forward to getting back to turn based RPGs though, luckily Dragon Warrior is up next.

    1. Hey, probably the only classic console CRPG that I've beaten. I'm looking forward to this one!

  3. I think that, when you do the initial post for a game, you should include its release date somewhere, much like CRPG Addict does.
    Also, Willow for NES was and is amazing; I've always theorized that the additional background material included in the game was from Lucas's original concept for the film, though there's precious little information on the game's development, so who knows.

    1. I think you have a good idea with having the game info. I need to put it in a list to remember to hit all the points, so check out the new introduction with Faxanadu and let me know what you think.

      Willow for the NES was a great game, and compared to its peers it offers quite a bit. That is interesting, but I don't know how close that relationship was when developing the game. Maybe if the books reference the Nail clan and that bird race, then that would definitely be a convincing argument. I've never read the follow up books, so I can't speak to that. It's a nice idea though.