Tag Archives: terrible

FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

Everything is painThis game is cursed.

I’ve told this story elsewhere, but I own this game because I made a very poor decision as a child. I saved up my allowance for weeks, finally scraped together a little over ten bucks, and decided I would purchase a “used” videogame from the local rental hut. Mega Man 4 was available, but I decided that, since I had already played and beaten that game, I would pick up Wizards and Warriors 3, a game that promised three different “classes” for Kuros. Maybe, like my beloved Final Fantasy, I would have a fun time with these JRPG elements. I didn’t. I got the game home, played it for maybe a half hour, and returned to my mother sobbing, begging that we return the wretched game that literally made me cry. My mother did no such thing, and I learned a very valuable lesson about never trusting Rare Ltd. ever again.

Of course, since I had a whole twelve (or so) NES games when I was a kid, I played W&W3 continuously (bad blood is still allowed to be fresh blood), and did eventually beat the game. Now, some decades later, I decided I would share my W&W3 skills live on a stream, and showcase the misery for all to see (and to find out how much of a game I hadn’t played in years was still stuck in my head). And I did play through the game on a stream last Friday night with some very special guest stars (or the usual guest stars), and a good time was had by all.

But this game is still cursed, so, naturally, the audio got messed up, and the recording is pretty much just my microphone. It’s the whole of Wizards and Warriors 3, with me occasionally agreeing to comments that can no longer be heard. In one particularly surreal bit, I ask BEAT for a rundown on the indie rap scene, and then, a few moments of silence later, I agree that that sounds very interesting. It’s almost as terrible as Wizards and Warriors 3.

So, in lieu of having a video of my complete playthrough, we’re going to claim that that was a “live exclusive experience”, and here’s a consolation list of reasons Wizards and Warriors 3 is terrible.

This is a supremely glitchy and ugly game

That's not how you treat a ladyRight off the bat, practically everything is wrong with Wizards and Warriors 3. Animations for characters don’t seem to make any anatomical or kinetic sense. It’s impossible to visually distinguish between antagonistic and helpful NPCs (protip: they’re all appalling). Kuros (our hero) occasionally takes a moment to flash some leg at the audience. No part of this game is coherent, and it’s immediately apparent to even the most casual viewer.

What’s worse is that this game is swarming with glitches and things that may or may not be glitches. There are “gatekeeper” invincible monsters that can stretch the length of the screen, and… are they supposed to do that? It… doesn’t look like it. Similarly, it’s easy to push any NPC off the edge of the world, and giggle as they fall into oblivion. In fact, if you shove an opponent off any platform, and said foe isn’t already using their “jump” action, they will fall forever, presumably eventually perishing somewhere near the Earth’s mantle. I saw that happen on an episode of Batman once, and it looked… unpleasant.

Everything, practically from the moment you press Start, seems to be fragmentary, and the punch line is that, apparently, the game is unfinished. According to some sources, Zippo Games completely sold out to Rare Manchester during development, and most of the staff wound up quitting thanks to an overwhelming feeling of “you used to be cool, man.” Wizards and Warriors 3 was thus rushed out the door, and slowly made its way to the hands of poor, uninformed children. Thanks, Pickford Brothers (the original folks behind Wizards and Warriors), you’re on the list!

Your HP or your GP

We don't serve your kindWizards and Warriors 3 is a game not unlike Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest or The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. You have a large area to explore, and you can access newer, more interesting (lie) areas through acquiring intriguing (also a lie) upgraded abilities. It’s a Metroidvania! And an insult to that entire genre! But what really separates W&W3 from the Metroidvanias of today and yesterday is that there is no way to save. There are also no passwords. There’s no level select code. There’s nothing. You have three lives, you cannot acquire more lives, and there are no continues. Even if you Game Genie your way into additional lives, the game isn’t even programmed to display a life counter value greater than three. And once you’ve spent those three lives, you’re right back to the beginning, even if you spent the last four hours of your life attempting to make progress.

(Do you understand the tears now?)

Your only options are the limited meat items scattered across the map, or spending every last cent you find on food from various shops so you can keep Kuros’s health topped off. But you also need keys, because treasure chests and (mandatory) doors always seem to be locked. So you’re forced to either budget for an indefinite amount of damage that could leave you stuck back at the title screen, or blow your cash on those keys that you’re probably going to need to progress anywhere. How does a first time player make the decision between forward progress keys or saving progress with a pile of meat? I know what I did, which is demand that this game be traded for Mega Man 4 this instant. It didn’t work out.

Combat is optional and/or obligatory

DorkThere are three main areas to Wizards and Warriors 3 (huh, wonder if that was deliberate): the castle, the town, and the underground. Kuros also has three corresponding forms: knight, thief, and wizard. If you remember to always wear the appropriate disguise in the right area, you won’t have to fight a single random “monster”. Okay, that isn’t exactly true, as there are these floaty green dudes in the underground that will kill just about anybody, and there are a few birds that are absolute dicks, but other than that, the game pretty much plays by the rules. This means that, despite Knight Kuros’s kickass flying axe, you pretty much never need to use any combat skills in W&W3.

Except for the boss monsters.

The bosses are mandatory, and, aside from a really simple knight and worm, all of them follow the same pattern of “stand on top of Kuros at all times”. Assuming you’re not ready for these bosses (and why would you be? You literally don’t have to fight any other thing like these creatures in the entire game), you’re likely to lose some of those precious lives the very minute you open their boss doors. Oh, and never mind that you get stuck with the supremely underpowered thief class for a couple of those battles, because you apparently can’t change forms while inside a room. You’ve got limited resources, and very aggressive bosses. That is not a good combination for anyone that actually wants to enjoy this game.

Oh, and the “upgraded” form of the worm boss is… two worm bosses. That’s just lazy.

The best part of the game is also the worst

Comin' atcha!The very reason I bought this game at all is the advertised “guild” factor. Kuros can adopt different personas, and wield magic as a wizard, or swing around a giant key like a Sora thief. This is good and right, and adds some much needed diversity to the Wizards and Warriors formula (which previously only saw a hero that could jump, swing a sword poorly, and occasionally become invisible). And, since this game is a metroidvania, the acquisition of new “ranks” in these guilds/costumes means access to new areas. Also, acquiring a flight ability, no matter how dreadfully slow, is always a good time.

Unfortunately, to earn any of these skills, you have to complete guild challenges. This always involves fighting a random boss somewhere in the world, collecting a statue, returning to the guild with said statue, running through an obstacle course of dubious graphical fidelity, and then fighting another boss. Each of these challenges is exactly the same, though with increasing difficulty through the ranks. And when I say “difficulty”, I apparently mean “we just made the platforms smaller, and threw in a couple of practically unavoidable traps.” Since these obstacle courses reset from the start every time you fail, this means the average player will spend something like 70,000,000 hours attempting to jump between moving platforms over either poorly rendered spikes (thief challenge) or absolutely nothing (wizard challenge). After clearing all of these challenges, actually being impaled is more fun than dealing with the magical doors-directly-to-spikes again.

There’s a hateful inventory system, too

Way to go, prezThere are key items in Wizards and Warriors 3, and you may only carry four at a time. Under normal circumstances, this would just be annoying, but could actually lead to some decent gameplay moments. You must stay on target with one task or another, and attempting to collect everything on the map in one go is discouraged. That can be okay. Regrettably, in this case, the game is still a glitchy mess, so it’s entirely possible to get four random key items, and thus be unable to pick up a fifth item that you actually need to progress to unload said four random items. For an easy example, it’s very easy to get guild statues out of order, but it’s impossible to challenge the guilds with said statues out of sequence. Got the golden thief statue before silver, and need that (golden) key to get rid of the rest of your crap? Sorry, you’re screwed. May as well reset. Back to the beginning, again.

What’s more, a number of key items exist exclusively for the benefit of wise men that provide such useful information as “kill the dragon” or “you need to go in the giant, imposing door to reach the final boss”. Thanks, guy, I really didn’t need to run all over Piedup with this stupid rosary pendant to learn that valuable nugget of information.

This dragon is stupid

Look at this daffy thing.

Three heads are better than one?

The Bad Ending sucks

This ends poorlySo after earning all of the guild ranks, rescuing and lying to three princesses, conquering the dragon, and maybe bribing some old men into taking arbitrary trash off your hands, it’s time for the final boss. Malkil, Kuros’s eternal rival, has conquered the strangely vertical town of Piedup, and sits on the throne in disguise as the king. Before the final battle, Malkil offers Kuros a choice: fight to the death, or join together, and rule this hamlet in tandem. Should Kuros choose to join his antagonist… he is vaporized immediately. Game over.

In any other game (Dragon Quest comes to mind), this would simply be annoying. Oh well, that was the wrong choice, time to reload from the most recent save. However, W&W3 still only provides exactly zero continues and/or opportunities to save your progress. So it’s possible to battle through the whole game, reach the finale, and lose everything to one poor selection. This should be treated as a war crime, and, if more people had actually played W&W3, most of the Rare staff would be in jail by now.

The Good Ending sucks

Just bad all aroundAnd should you actually have enough health and lives to finish off Malkil the Happy Evil King, the ending isn’t exactly a reward. Kuros is sucked into a time warp (apparently a magical portal that Malkil can now summon at will?), and, while you’re assured that Piedup saw the return of its true and just King James, Kuros is never seen again. The obvious sequel hook is some manner of reverse Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and the concept of Knight Kuros becoming Laser Knight Kuros is a promising one. But we never saw another Wizards and Warriors, and the franchise seems to be all but forgotten.

Actually, wait. That is a happy ending. Rot in hell, Wizards and Warriors 3. You ruin everything.

FGC #325 Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was even ignored for the recent Rare Replay collection on Xbone. How bad do you have to be to be forgotten in favor of Digger T. Rock?
  • Number of players: I don’t even want to imagine a world where a two player experience was shoehorned into this nonsense.
  • Favorite Costume: Thief, with the crowbar, in the castle.
  • Regarding the stream: I am disappointed that the audio from that adventure is lost forever. I appreciate everyone that participated, and I had a really fun time recording it while playing one of the most loathsome games in my library. All that said, if you missed it, we spent most of the night recounting unrelated favorite tweets, so no big loss.
  • Say something nice: It is kind of fun to see how many NPCs you can “ride” and/or push off the world into oblivion.
  • smexyDid you know? Oh God, I just realized where I recognized the Pickford Brothers name from! These are the people responsible for Plok, too! And they worked on the worst Marvel/LJN games. It’s weird how these two are tangentially involved in a number of games that influenced my childhood… for better or worse (mostly worse).
  • Would I play again: I was amazed during my live playthrough at how much of this game is still second nature (I only really needed a FAQ to remind myself where that dragon was hiding). That said… God, I never want to see this thing again. The pain still feels fresh…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Rolling Thunder 2 for the Sega Genesis. I believe that is some manner of weather pattern? Is this a Weather Channel simulator? That might be fun. Please look forward to it!

Ugh
I still have nightmares…

FGC #017 Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy!The good, the bad, and the soul-crushing.

The Bad

Let’s get the most disappointing thing out of the way first: Dick Tracy for the NES is based on the 1990 Disney movie of the same name. Some of you are saying, “duh” here, and I weep for you, as apparently you are unfamiliar with the comic strip source material. Yes, Dick Tracy the comic strip featured hardboiled detective Dick Tracy hunting down the likes of Flattop Jones and Big Boy Caprice, it also featured a Dick Tracy that had a literal arsenal of sci-fi gadgets. And then Tracy became chief of police. On the moon. And then Dick Tracy Jr. married Moon Maid, who had a daughter named Honey Moon Tracy, who had magnetic hands.

Screw this Madonna crap, I want a game where you cycle through different Tracy family members and their amazing skills and battle crime on the moon. Only Honey Moon can slide across the ceiling using her marvelous magnetic powers! Game of the year!

Dick Tracy also had a sidekick called Groovy Grove at one time. Groovy’s mortal enemy was Dick Tracy’s 70’s moustache, and he eventually defeated his furry foe by tackling Tracy and shaving the thing off. Gentle reader, there’s an entire world of better Dick Tracy media out there, and it’s up to you to find it.

Also, don’t get me started on the print media nirvana that is The Jumbler.

Take that!The Good

Realtime Associates really tried to do something interesting with this game, rather than create yet another rote platformer based on a popular movie property. Dick Tracy plays like a real noir detective adventure. Tracy is taunted by villains, tempted by dames, and harassed by the chief, all before hopping into the Dickmobile to explore the city looking for clues. Evidence leads to more evidence, and then, finally, Dick Tracy busts the responsible crook. Rinse, lather, repeat for five stages, and, gee, I wonder if Dr. Wily Big Boy is the felon of the final stage?

Dick Tracy is also bound by being a good cop, so the player has to play along with all the “rules”. Tracy starts with a pistol, and you can find a tommy gun and screen-clearing tear gas, but you are forbidden from using anything lethal on unarmed men. There’s a super powered punch powerup that is fun to play with, but you better holster that gun when fisticuffs will do, because you actively lose health for every unarmed palooka you gun down. Maybe Dick Tracy wasn’t the game to make a statement about proper usage of weaponry in video games, but it does prevent the game from becoming just another Contra.

It’s the tale of a benevolent detective in a city riddled with crime. What could possibly go wrong?

Ouch.The Horrible

Everything.

Tracy is in a city infested with criminals, and all he has is his fists, a pistol, his car, and, most importantly, ten slivers of health and zero extra lives. This is significant, as Dick Tracy is going to die a lot, oftentimes while just trying to parallel park, and then it’s back to the title screen, followed by possibly the first aggravating, unskippable cutscene in video game history, and then it’s back to square one on the case. Everyone in this city apparently hates Dick Tracy: snipers fill nearly every rooftop, toughs overrun every building, and guns come free with every third pack of cigarettes in The City. Dick Tracy is going to return to his desk with a jacket that doubles as a colander one way or another.

And this wouldn’t be so bad if the game was remotely “fair”. The previously mentioned snipers are effectively invincible, which I suppose makes perfect sense when your only option is to shoot out the window of your moving car, but it translates to “drive by a sniper, get shot a bunch”. Dick Tracy doesn’t have any amazing psychic powers (this week), but you better hope you do if you want to drive to even the first building with your health intact. The ruffians occupying the building/action segments of the game aren’t much better. Unless you want to creep along as Dick Tracy: Snail Detective, you will be shot repeatedly by hooligans with guns juuust off the boundaries of the screen. Tracy does have the ability to angle his shots up for enemies on a different floor, but it’s at the exact same angle his adversaries can angle down, so prepare to take another bullet to the brainpan.

GIVE ME A MAPReminder: Dick Tracy can receive ten hits, total, for an entire chapter. You can recover health by finding a first aid kit (good luck), and then entering the intuitive command B+Select. If you figured this out on your own, good job, Stephen Bloody Hawking. As an extra special “screw you” from the designers, if you are down to your last hit point, you can swing by any police department, and they will restore you to… two hit points. I wouldn’t worry about it, though, as you’ll just die on the car ride over anyway.

There is, at least, a password system that allows one to “continue” at the start of any given chapter, but this seems more like a concession to not including a save battery, and not something that is actually there to make anyone’s life any easier. You still have to continue every chapter at its absolute starting point with every death, as you can’t arrest a criminal with evidence you gathered through visions of another life where you were gunned down outside an accountant’s pad. The chief is just going to yell at you for that!

Dick Tracy: frustrating failure. I understand the movie itself is interpreted in much the same way by historians and number crunchers, so at least the game is accurate to its source material. Honey Moon Tracy? Please use your magnetic powers to wipe your grandfather’s digital legacy clean.

FGC #17 Dick Tracy

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, but there are other similar-but-different versions across other systems, including Gameboy. None are worth playing.
  • Number of players: One.
  • Look at that guySex Factor: Breathless Mahoney spends the entire game making really overt sexual advances on Big Dick Tracy, which seems so weirdly out of place in a NES game. Would this game be rated T nowadays? I don’t think we’ll ever know, as I believe releasing this thing on any given virtual console is outlawed by the Geneva Conventions.
  • Favorite Criminal: I’ve always been a fan of Littleface, but The Rodent really seems to have the best nickname of the bunch. Would you hire a guy who looked like a human rat? Crime was obviously the only option here.
  • My sense of direction is poor: My copy of this game came compliments of a neighbor, so I’ve never seen a boxed version of Dick Tracy for the NES. I kind of pray that the original game came with a map, because navigating The City is an absolute hell on top of every other terrible thing in this game. If this imaginary map had sniper locations marked on it, well then, maybe this game is only half-horrible.
  • Did you know? The Sega Master System version of the game was almost entirely action based, and you’d get penalties for shooting… windows, fire hydrants, and other inanimate objects. Not unarmed men. The value of life plummeted after the NES.
  • Would I play again? It likely won’t be the last time this happens, but this is the first game in the FGC that is just completely appalling to play. It’s entirely based on how easy it is to have to restart everything, but, unlike Ice Climber or Yoshi Touch & Go, this was just a bear from the first moments. This is a long way of saying “no”.

What’s next: Random ROB has chosen… Ecco the Dolphin. Ah yes, that should be a completely relaxing game and free of the frustrating death penalties of this past chapter. Please look forward to it!