Tag Archives: wizards and warriors

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!

I still have nightmares…

FGC #158 Family Dog

So innocentFamily Dog is… too real for me.

Family Dog is a Super Nintendo game, but before that, it was an animated series, and even earlier than that, it was an animated “short” showcased on Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories. The “original” Family Dog of that program was directed by Brad Bird and written by Brad Bird and Tim Burton. I realize that I don’t talk about my movie tastes much on this blog, but let it be said that “animated short by Burton and Bird” is a phrase that makes me more excited than a rabbit injected with Trix. I liked 90% of Tomorrowland, so combine that guy with the man that gave us Beetlejuice, and I’ll be there with bells skulls on.

The original Family Dog “episode” is fun, if not exactly all that interesting. I can see how the novelty of “animation for the whole family” (and not just the kiddies) was something people would notice in the pre-Groening days, but in a post Simpsons universe (and, reminder, Brad Bird worked on that show, too, and even directed Krusty Gets Busted [aka the premiere of the devious Sideshow Bob]), it just comes off as fairly quaint. This was before even the wave of “marginally mature” (aka gross) cartoons like Ren and Stimpy, and, when you’re applying Looney Tunes thinking to your typical sitcom family, you do get something at least remotely remarkable.

The Family Dog TV show was in the works for a number of years, but it finally materialized shortly after The Simpsons became a nationwide phenomena. Unfortunately, my beloved Bird was not involved, but it was a perfectly passable animated sitcom. The titular family dog was prone to a bit more slapstick and lesson learning than in his premiere short, but it was still a generally gentle (again, think early Simpsons era, when Bart was a “bad boy” for speaking ill of cow reproduction), classic sitcom. Here’s the Wikipedia description for episode two of the show:

“When the Binsfords take a trip to the zoo, their pooch tags along and causes plenty of trouble.”

VrooomSee? Typical, dumb sitcom crap. I ate it up as a kid, but I reviewed an episode or two before writing this, and, yeah, I can see why this show only hit eleven episodes (even if the official excuse involves overseas production or some nonsense. Sure, blame all your problems on Asia).

So, because Family Dog, ya know, existed, it received a SNES platformer. It worked for Tim the Tool Man Taylor, so why not use a character that practically already exists in pixels? I actually played this game as a rental back when I was a wee Goggle Bob, because I liked the show, and Super Castlevania 4 was probably already taken that week. I don’t recall getting past the first world, and I know this because I would definitely remember seeing what came next.

Now that I have gotten that far, I’m probably going to remember it until the day I die…

Before we go any further, I want to note that I like animals. As a point of fact, I like most animals more than most people. I’m not a misanthrope (well, completely), I just see animals as a lot more pure than human beings (dogs very rarely want anything more than food and pets), so when one is suffering, my absolute first instinct is boundless sympathy; meanwhile, I see a ten year old with a cough, and I assume it’s because the kid secretly egged my house last year. It’s completely irrational, This is why I live with dustbut I absolutely go out of my way to make sure a dog, cat, or even pig is comfortable before I address the creature’s owner. I also very rarely give my human friends belly rubs.

That said, the first world of Family Dog is mostly around-the-house comic mischief. Billy Binsford, the brat of Dog’s family, attempts to harm Dog, and it’s your job to steer the mutt away from danger. There are other hazards, like naked cats and bouncing balls, but your main goal is to simply make it to the right side of the screen without Billy perforating the pooch. Bounce on couches, collect bones, and avoid the vacuum. That thing sucks.

And, yes, Family Dog is in danger the entire time, but it’s Itchy and Scratchy style danger. It might involve some kind of stylized ferocity, but it’s pretty much the definition of cartoon violence. I’m sure there are some dogs that have been seriously injured by cats, but when I see something Tom & Jerry-esque happening, my first thought isn’t of the real world. But that all changes after the initial areas…

Family Dog has apparently been bad…

So he is asked to go for a ride.

This seems like fun!

Wait a tick…


Yes, Family Dog is left at a kennel for the crime of attempting to survive a destructive child, and it’s a prison-esque hellscape. Yes, there are still a few cartoony elements, like bulldog footholds and doberman pinschers in guard uniforms, but, by and large, this whole area is made to be far too real. The goofy music of the earlier stages is gone, and now it’s just the drip, drip, drip of leaky pipes and the barking of other inmates. Family Dog, who looks like a random mess of triangles and cylinders, is met by realistic looking dogs with very realistic looking teeth. The only escape is by freeing other captive animals, literal jailbirds, and then plowing past the barbed wire fence that surrounds the building.

I’m not going to lie, even if I didn’t have affection for animals, I would be disturbed by this area. The difference between the opening area of the (mostly) loving home of Family Dog and the Ughchilling penitentiary of the second area is night and day. Maybe I just have more psychological issues than I care to admit, but a fear of abandonment is a universal anxiety, right? You wake up one day, and everything you love is gone, and you’re left alone in an unfamiliar hostile environment… that’s Hell, right? We agree on that? I want to say Dante wrote something about this…

I really don’t think this has a place in whacky 16-bit platformer. I just reviewed a game that featured “Heck”, and that level barely registered as spooky. Here, it’s downright petrifying.

After you finally escape from the pound, the final world is basically just “outside”. It’s supposed to be an unnerving forest or something, but it’s a level very much like the early areas, and its aesthetic seems to be inspired by the similar spooky forest of Amagon. Then you’ve got some random branch hopping straight out of Wizards and Warriors, and… you’re done. Back into the arms of your loving family.

That abandoned you.

And required you to survive trial upon trial just to force your way back into their family unit.

Screw you guys, I’m never looking at this game again.

FGC #158 Family Dog

  • System: Super Nintendo. Genesis kids are probably more well-adjusted as a result.
  • Number of Players: One is the loneliest doggy.
  • No treasure hereSalt in the wound: Family Dog’s only offensive maneuver is a powerful bark that will repel enemies after way too many hits. And you’ve got a limited count that can only be increased through powerup acquisition. Wow, this is a lot like Amagon.
  • More from Brad Bird: We never got an Iron Giant video game, did we? I want to say that could have been really, really cool, and completely against the theme of the movie. I’d be okay with that.
  • Did you know? Scott Menville voiced the homicidal Billy Binsford on Family Dog. Given Billy’s one consistant character trait was his overwhelming disdain for animals, it’s amusing that Menville also played Captain Planet’s Ma-Ti, aka the kid with the monkey. I evidently like Menville facts!
  • Would I play again: Go to hell.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol Encore! That’s a mouthful, which is just great for a mouth glued to a microphone. Please look forward to it!