Sunday, June 10, 2012

Game 10: Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord (SMS) - Final Rating

Combat is very basic. It always comes down to an equal exchange of blows. Both sides have a chance to dodge attacks, but there aren't any spells to enhance combat. Items take the place of spells, but they're limited to damage, silencing enemies, and healing. It's easy to know if you'll win or lose after the first hits.

Enemies are definitely challenging, and sometimes overly so. The ones that can sleep-lock the party are just plain unfair. Using stones to silence them isn't guaranteed, and the cost doesn't balance out. The final battle in particular demands a lot of preparation and planning to win if you haven't gained extra levels.

Gaining levels do give a small bonus to attack and defense, and more importantly a bump in HP. The difference between levels isn't very noticeable though, and you may not notice the increase in damage. Each level becomes longer and longer because gaining experience is based on either damage inflicted or a set amount each hit, and has little to do with the enemy you're fighting. In other words, you always gain the same amount of experience throughout the entire game. Having only one character able to gain experience from attacking each turn slows things down to a crawl.

All of the enemies are unique to this game, and I don't think I saw anything resembling a goblin or orc. It's interesting to note that this and Phantasy Star maintained a unique set of enemies that are refreshing even after playing through multiple RPGs. Rewards for each enemy is all over the place, one will give 300 Guilders while another in same area gives 2,000. Later on, the enemies in dungeons only give a small number of fangs.
Rating: 4
Items from battle are rare; rarer still is the game telling the truth. The potion heals, it doesn't resurrect.
I really don't expect much from older games, so I hope everyone understands this section is going to be very low for the majority of games over the next few years. Experience is gained by each hit landed, and gaining enough experience raises a character's HP, attack, defense, and the amount of exp. necessary for the next level.

Individual spells don't exist. In fact, spells are only used to unlock certain areas, or to recruit the companions. Nothing about the companions is customizable, but you do get to pick the name of the main character. There's no equipment options, and the experience will be the same for all players. Controls are good enough, although they seemed to stick some times. This may have been due to using an emulator, so I'm not going to knock it for that. With the lack of pretty much all options, this area is the weakest for the game.
Rating: 2
At least there are a couple of screens to check out the characters
The main quest is the only quest available here. It stays in clear view, and the next step is usually hinted at by the random travelers and merchants the party can talk to just in case it's been a while since you received the actual directions (which aren't usually repeated). There are a couple of treasures on the side, but I wouldn't really call them side quests.

The only riddle I can come up with is the scroll that gives directions to the final dungeon. It was a bit unclear where to start, but really it only makes sense that it was on the final continent. Any other place for the final dungeon would open up the possibility of early discovery.
Rating: 3
I think this is the only puzzle in the game
One thing that made the above puzzle so difficult was the lack of location information. I found out that Medi's town (home town?) was where I needed to start from, but I found no dots to connect between this clue and the actual town I needed to start from. In every other case, the hints from the random NPCs and towns were enough to lead me in the right direction.

The story maintained the same straightforward story about getting to the seal of the dark lord. There aren't any twists to this plot and no way to influence the story.
Rating: 3
The elders of each town will only talk to you if you donate some money to the town
There are a couple of optional items that make the game a bit easier. One is the mask that illuminates the dungeons 1 square. There's also a helm that allows the party to see messages on the walls of the dungeon. Only two messages exist, one shows a hidden crystal that increases the visible area once again. Also, there's a mantle that's supposed to reduce encounters with weaker enemies, but it only works on enemies that I'd never see anyway unless I visited the first continent.

The inventory fills up well enough, although there is room for more. By the end of the game it's pretty obvious there isn't anything more to find, which is nice for a sense of completion. The economy is a little bloated, although I still felt there I could run out of money if I wasn't careful about my purchases and picking the most rewarding fights.
Rating: 5
My inventory before completing the game
The graphics are better than anything I remember seeing on the NES, so it's sad there weren't more RPGs on the SMS. Music is catchy, and sound effects are fitting. The dungeon music was actually a bit familiar. If anyone has heard this before and could place it in another game I'd appreciate it.

Exploring the world map is interesting, and finding the various locations is rewarding. Especially when those locations aren't mentioned in anyway. It doesn't happen enough for my taste though, and the viewing window is a 5x5 tile, which is extremely restrictive. The huge portion of the view that shows the party seems like it'd better be used to show more of the world. It would be nice to have some more variety in dungeons and towns.
Rating: 3
One of the hidden squares; the only obvious ones

Final Rating: 20 (33%)

As an early RPG, it stands up well as a game, although it's rather shallow in comparison. I enjoyed it, but it's not going to make any list of games to play again. I wouldn't really recommend the game to anyone, there are better ways to spend your time. It was good for the time, but even Phantasy Star is better.

Next up are some even older games, but first I'll be cutting a few from the list.


  1. That was interesting. Other than Chrontendo's short look at the game (I'm pretty sure he actually looked at a couple versions, but that this was the best...?), I've never even heard of it. Although I enjoy reading about games I've played, learning about obscure games is, perhaps, my primary draw to this.

    1. I really need to take some time to go through Chrontendo again, especially since I've been playing games he's already reviewed. I'm interested to see what he has to say.

    2. IIRC, he basically gave a quick mention of the ohter versions and gave a rather short look to the SMS port.

    3. Was this in an RPG retrospective, or part of the Chronsega series?

  2. Chronsega volume 4 along with phantasy star.

  3. I've got a question: Why did you give 3s in so many categories when the text trashes them? For example, puzzler? (I normally ignore the numbers and just read the text, so I will admit, I've not paid much attention to your scoring system).

    1. Honestly, I'm not sure the scoring system is working out. I'm getting most of the games clumping around the 20s. It's less how much I enjoyed the game, and more how well it meets an ideal for an RPG. See here for the post. I adjust +/-1 based on personal enjoyment, but largely it's determined by those areas.

    2. I'd give it two ratings then: How much of an RPG is it, and how much did you enjoy it. Since you seem to have a system that describes if it is an RPG well, it seems a shame to abandon it.

    3. More or less the scoring has been inline with my enjoyment; my only reservation being that the scores are currently all clumped together. I'm hoping in a couple of game years that we'll see an upward movement.

  4. I started playing this game at the beginning of lockdown (late march) I'd actually played this game once in 2010 got quite far then never played it again, so it was kind of unfinished business for me.
    First of all, I was really impressed with the music, for it's time it is pretty top notch, the game was very dated and simple as i'd remembered, but the last RPG i'd played through before this was Dragon Warrior for NES so this was actually a huge step up, even the graphics seemed fresh in comparison. I spent months on this game, probably about 6 months in total, I didn't play it often as the constant grinding and being stuck got to be a drag sometimes, but i understand that's how older RPG's work, they had to make games artificially longer back then, so constant grinding and cryptic puzzles was always a given. It would be worse if you shelled out $70 for a game and breezed through it in a weekend! I was stuck so many times, there were no indicators really, you can't enter a certain cave without a character having the right armor etc..I recall being stuck for a month and then backtracking, checking all the old dungeons for something you may have missed then 'OMG I FOUND IT!' a chest I passed early in the game! That feeling of relief that you're no longer stuck, only to become confused as what to do next about 15 minutes later! There was a patch of desert, a single square in some mountains, I knew to check this and lo and behold you could enter, great. But finding the last monuments was a chore, I never understood the scroll, waay to cryptic, but I had to complete this game, so I started in the desert and pressed the button on every single square from right to left until I found them, the enemies being difficult here made it more frustrating as you'd end up having to run back to town to heal and buy all the herbs again, being repeatedly put to sleep by a giant worm just dragging this out further, when I finally found the final dungeon I was so so relieved. I went in there full health and maxed out with every magic item, I was determined to get this over with, i didn't hesitate anywhere, no mapping, I just rushed through as fast as possible looking for stairs/final boss. I found the chest of herbs to my relief as I was running low, I got everyone up to 2/3rds full and then randomly met the boss. She seemed way to strong, my calculations had me thinking this was hopeless and i'd have to level up and come back again which could take sevral hours, but I stuck it out anyway, just to see how far off I was, I used every magical item, I thought of those ressurection potions I had hoarded up, i let my main character die and tried to ressurect him...and was horrified to see this didn't work! I ended up just having Guy left, and those potions got him back to full health where I was able to deafeat her and finish the game, this was such a relief! I didn't know about those false stairs until I read this review here of yours, so i'm also very lucky to have not found them!
    Overall, I think had I played this in 1988 I would have thought it was amazing, but yes, Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star came out round the same time, Zelda was out by now, and the bar had been raised for RPG's by this point, so it was obviously quickly forgotten. Also being a very early console RPG it has many elements that later RPGs learnt not to do (IE - one party member attacking at a time etc) and because of this it often felt like playing was a chore. The animated screen with your party was a nice idea but offered little, I don't think I worked out what its purpose was (or the fairy that follow you) but most likely probably to make the screen look much more attractive than it would have been with just a grid and a cursor. Still a nice looking fun game for its time, with a great soundtrack, and i'm glad i played through it and finally got closure, but I probably won't pick this up and play it again.