Hey, kids! Wanna play a video game? How about a 2-D action game where you’re fighting an army of evil robots using only your ability to jump and shoot a handful of different weapons? It’s fun and exciting and there’s no messy swimming in water stages! You even change colors every time you switch weapons! Sounds good? Okay! Let’s play The Krion Conquest.
Oh, I’m sorry, were you thinking of something else?
The Krion Conquest was released in Japan at the tail end of 1990, and saw release over here a month later. Also, I’ll note that Mega Man 3 had a Japanese release date of September, 1990, and Mega Man 2 was released in ’88. Just a fun bit of trivia that has no bearing on anything. Back to our star, The Krion Conquest had something of an auspicious beginning, as it was originally conceived as a licensed companion game for 1986 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime, an anime that has its own bizarre history of being thoroughly dejapanified in its American HBO release. Second aside aside, Vic Tokai wasn’t able to obtain the license, so Dorothy from Kansas became Doropie (sound it out) the magical kid. Yes, obviously, The Krion Conquest is known as Magical Kids Doropie in its native land, because marketing is very different across cultures.
Magical Kids Doropie has one of those plots that is simultaneously convoluted and simple. An evil mechanical army has taken over the world, and Boy summons the magical witch girl (is that redundant?) Doropie to save the day, as there weren’t any blobs handy. Doropie is effective because alien robots have a natural weakness to magic, kryptonite, and the rays of a red sun. However, it all takes a turn for the worst when Boy is captured by Evil Queen, who uses her hostage to manipulate Doropie into unsealing great evil powers. So, to be clear, Evil Queen had the foolproof plan of amassing a robot army that is invincible to everything but magic, thus forcing a magical girl to be summoned as a counter, and then using that same magical girl as a key to unlock further power beyond the invincible robot army. Glad that all worked out for her. Or it doesn’t: Evil Queen is eventually thwarted when Doropie invades her space base (!), rescues Boy, and, I don’t know, I guess Doropie hit the universal off switch for the robots.
Again, this game was originally based on The Wizard of Oz.
Almost all that story nonsense was cut from the American release, though, simply retaining the opening cinematic of Boy summoning Doropie, now renamed Francesca. Oh, I’m sorry, you’re asking where the title comes from, then? Evil Queen’s army in the Japanese version is known as the Akudama Empire, while here it got translated to the cooler sounding Krion Empire, thus, The Krion Conquest, because women can’t headline NES games. A magical girl adventure creeps a little closer to being Blade Runner, and now we’ve got a game that… I don’t even think Nintendo Power gave the time of day. That can’t be a good sign. Another bad sign: because the localization team (alright, probably one guy) did not give the tiniest damn, all the giant stylized A’s prominently featured across this world(A is for Akudama Empire) now no longer make a bit of sense.
But you didn’t come here for stories or alphabets, no, you came for some of that grand ol’ NES gameplay magic. So, let’s see what our little witch can do! Menu, tell us what we’ve got!
- First option is the stunningly bland “Normal” attack. This is a traditional tiny “bullet” that can be charged to a larger, slightly more effective fireball. Just thinking out loud here, but it did predate the chargeable Mega Buster.
- Then we’ve got Fire. Never use Fire. Fire is a screen clearing phoenix summon that, in complete contrast with myths and legends, drains half your life on use. I don’t think there is ever once a situation in this game that needs every enemy dead that quickly, so just keep your health and shoot around randomly like a proper witch.
- Freeze is the appropriately named ice power that will freeze enemies in place. According to the developers, this was supposed to turn enemies into useable platforms, but that was too hard to implement, so… it doesn’t. Just temporarily pause enemies that would die in three hits anyway. Another completely unrelated fun fact: Metroid was released four years earlier.
- Ball might be the most interesting offensive option, as it allows Fran to bank magical yellow balls off walls and into enemies. Couple this with the fact that Fran can fire directly up (or more like an oblique upward angle for this item), and Ball can pretty much hit any enemy, anywhere, though is compensates for its metal blade-like efficiency with the raw damage output of a slumbering newborn.
- Shield creates a motionless bullet wall that is an insult to the very concept of a shield. This was another weapon that was supposed to have a dual purpose with falling horizontally and then becoming a platform, but, nope, that didn’t get implemented. Most disappointingly, the exact same Shield is occasionally utilized by enemies, and it’s a lot more useful for robots that don’t have to move an inch.
- Broom is the best of the lot. Broom isn’t an offensive spell, though it does allow you to use your (unchargeable) Normal blast while it’s in use. Broom creates a broom platform that can then be steered left, right, or up for some excellent platforming avoidance. This Faustian bargain here is that entire sections were made from brooming around, and the best the designers could come up with was rows and rows of deadly ceiling/floor spikes. Unlimited mobility must be punished!
It’s nice that Francesca has infinite power for all these “secondary” weapons, or she might be in quite a pickle with all these Krion Empire robots hopping around. Individually, these big-eyed bots aren’t too much of a hassle, but they have a tendency to lump together very easily, and then swarm just in time for some stationary, shielded sniper to pick the poor witch off. Fran’s small reprieve is a lack of knock-back on enemy impact, but that’s balanced with the aforementioned plethora of spikes and pits across stages.
There there’s the bosses. The Robot Masters… no… that’s not right… hm… they all have number designations, right? These “Mighty Numbers” come from the poor side of boss design, where it’s completely standard to zoom around the screen in some invincible but generally boring pattern, and then putter about waiting to be hit before launching back into that same pattern. Repeat for far too long. My kingdom to never again have to kill time dodging continually while waiting for the one time I can use the fire button. For a more modern example, please see Hyrule Warriors. Strangely, the final bosses seem to abandon this model for some more pleasing continual, active dodge ‘n fire, but it comes far too late in a game that isn’t even really that long. Good luck getting past Mighty Number One and his ability to turn into a living laser!
And that’s Krion Conquest in a nutshell. One little witch girl against the world (of robots). Give it a go sometime, and marvel at how your instincts will tell you that something familiar/good is happening here, while you conscious shouts out in horror at the dreck that is the actual game. It’s magical.
FGC #46 Krion Conquest
- System: NES, though apparently there’s a mobile phone port in Japan for that legion of Doropie fans.
- Number of players: One magical girl. They could have at least thrown Boy a bone here, but, nope.
- Difficulty: This game could be simply NES action difficult: scary at first, but you’ll learn all those traps and patterns eventually, and then kick some ro-butt; unfortunately, it was not to be, as the NA version scrapped the “continue” option, so good luck getting through the entire game on three lives and maybe an additional four 1-ups.
- So, did you beat it? Yes, but with an infinite lives cheat so I wouldn’t have to start back at Level One every time Francesca exploded into little balls. Did I mention that? Witches, upon death, burst into little circles that fly off in eight directions.
- Mega predictions: The Krion Conquest also has a flashing “ALERT ALERT ALERT” screen before every Mighty Number, and then throws up a dossier with a “message for you from your friend’s (sic)”. Unnecessary/uninteresting “warnings” and insipid dialogue before a boss fight? Maybe Francesca can see the future, too.
- Did you know? Apparently, the game was initially going to be titled “Francesca’s Wand” in the US. I’m almost certain that if I stop typing right now, I won’t make a masturbation joke.
- Would I play again? The only way I would possibly go back to flicking Francesca’s wand would be if the entire Mega Man franchise had to be abolished to appease some capricious space deity, and all we were left with was The Krion Conquest. Even then, I’d probably rather play Castlevania.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Maximo! From ghost to glory, let’s get our Fall on with a visit from our good buddy, Death. Please look forward to it!