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Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord (Sega Master System) artwork

Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord (Sega Master System) review

"I have to say that I did enjoy playing Miracle Warriors. There are certainly some flaws with the game, however, many are minor with the only real unforgivable flaw is the horrendous UI that keeps the player concentrating on about 35% of the screen while in the overworld. I don't really mind the grind times, nor do I mind that Miracle Warriors, for the most part, stuck to a very generic RPG formula for its gameplay and storyline. "

Quick Info
Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord is a Sega Master System (SMS) one player role playing game (RPG) developed by Kogado Studio for a Japanese home computer, then ported and published by Sega for North America later in January 1988. The game is one of the first 8-bit console RPGs translated and released in North America, coming before even Phantasy Star on the SMS or Dragon Warrior on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Miracle Warriors features good visuals and outstanding music while strongly keeping to the standards of the Japanese RPG with a linear storyline and long grind times.

Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark LordMiracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord

===> Visuals = (noticeably good) 8/10
While not overwhelmingly impressive, the look of Miracle Warriors still stands out as being pretty decent for its time.

> Graphics and Presentation - 8/10
Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord features some pretty colorful, artful graphics for a game of its time. Indeed, the graphics of the game were a noticeable focal point for the developers with the user-interface (UI) prominently displaying a "Character / Contact Screen" which is basically a portrait of the action going on in the game at the moment. Contrary to most RPGs at the time, this allows the player to view his or her party travelling through the land with a semi-dynamic landscape moving behind them. When speaking to characters or battling monsters, everything is highlighted at the center of the screen in the vibrant, relatively detailed visuals the game delivers. While this may cause some issues, it does accentuate the visuals. Another positive point to the graphics comes in the variety. The different party members that the player can recruit all have their own unique, individual, look. On top of this, the enemies that the player can encounter and battle throughout the game are all unusual, original monsters. They have different character models and color schemes associated to them. Palette swapping is rarely seen in this game. All things considered, Miracle Warriors looks great...but also gives the player an assortment of visuals contributing to an overall favorable impression of the graphics.

> Animation - 3/10
The animation in this game is pretty much absent...during battles (probably the best time for cool animations), the most you can really hope for is the flashing of the screen. While not necessarily out-of-line for RPG's at the time, the fact that the majority of movement in the game is done by the background rather than your characters certainly does take away from the overall visual effectiveness of the game.

===> Sound = (musical miracle) 8/10
The music in Miracle Warriors provides many memorable melodies.

> Music - 9/10
The soundtrack really stands out for this game, becoming one of its strongest suits. Almost all of music in the game serves to not only enhance the environment or action on the screen, but also ends up being quite enjoyable to listen to as well. Oftentimes, I'd find myself still having the overworld or battle themes stuck in my mind long after playing. The awesome soundtrack is so great that it even helps to cover up some of the game's flaws. Indeed, the catchy tunes tone down the tedium of some of the grinding required. So, instead of muting the game and putting on the latest musical craze, many gamers will find themselves turning the volume up and enjoying the 8-bit tunes provided by Miracle Warriors.

> Effects - 2/10
The effects in this game are more painful to the ears than anything else, detracting from the otherwise beautiful sound present in the game. The pitiful effects end up being mainly beeps and screeches that sound more like a computer farting or dying than the effect they are supposed to represent. This ends up greatly lessening the game experience rather than adding to it.

===> Storyline = (unoriginal) 6/10
Not necessarily ground-breaking or inspiring, Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord basically features the relatively simple storyline of kill the bad guy.

> Concept - 7/10
The backstory tells of a hero named Iason who unwittingly opened the Pandora Passage in his youth, unleashing the Dark Lord Terarin. Later, after training with the White Monks and having magical equipment bestowed upon him, Iason defeated Terarin and re-sealed the Pandora Passage. Afterwards, he made a prophecy of the Dark Lord's return and four heroes who would rise up to defeat her. The game begins with Terarin having been unleashed upon the lands and you being a hero descendant of the legendary Iason.

Perhaps this is not the most innovative story arc created for a game, however, it is least the story gives the player a sense of the importance and grandiosity of their adventure. Also, early games never really had enough memory to carry out drawn-out, complex story lines or mystery and intrigue anyways.

> Storyline Progression / Character Development - 4/10
The story doesn't really advance much nor feature any twists. As such, there is not much progression made past the basic quest you are given of "defeat Terarin." Similarly, the character development of your hero and your party members is absent. The game manual's description of your party members ends up being about as much character development as you will get.

Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark LordMiracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord

===> Gameplay = (very standard RPG) 5/10
Miracle Warriors doesn't really feature any unexpected or original additions to the basic 8-bit RPG formula...expect longer grind times, basic battle commands, standard equipment, and a linear game progression.

> Controls and User-Interface (UI) - 2/10
The controls for this game are basic and operate as intended. You will find yourself using the Directional Pad (D-pad) to move or select menu commands, and using the buttons to execute or cancel a command. The user-interface, however, features one of the major design flaws with the game...which is the abhorrent overworld display. The bottom half of the screen is filled with your party's experience and health bars while the majority of the upper portion of the game screen is filled with the somewhat static "Character / Contact Screen." This leaves the player staring at a tiny 5x5 grid in the upper righthand portion of the screen for most of the game to navigate where they are going. The unfriendly and ill-constructed UI really suffocates any sense of scale and prevents the player from learning the landscape and becoming involved in the world of Miracle Warriors. Needless to say, this detracts heavily from the overall experience and is easily the worst flaw in the game. The only real positive from the UI choices made is that the experience and health bars (instead of the more standard numerical displays) do look much nicer and are a bit ahead of their time as far as design choice goes.

> Battle System - 4/10
The battle system in Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord is the standard, turn-based, one featured in many RPG's...with a couple of small deviations. Firstly, there are five commands available in battle. They are: "ATTACK", "RETREAT", "TALK", "MAGICAL", and "SPELL". While this may seem like an interesting slew of choices that are slightly different from the standard "ATTACK", "RETREAT", "MAGIC", and "ITEM"...don't be fooled. The majority of the game you will only utilize the "ATTACK" and "RETREAT" commands. Despite having two commands ("MAGICAL" and "SPELL") that make it seem like a magic-centric game, you can actually cast zero battle magic. "SPELL" is utilized all of once during the game and "MAGICAL" refers to using magical items that you have found or bought. "TALK" is actually an interesting command as you will sporadically encounter people in your overworld travels that you can talk to for hints / clues instead of combat. While this offers an interesting dynamic in the game, it is underutilized outside of the beginning zone for the player. The final point of note with the battle system comes with the actions that you can take during the turns. First of all, you are only allowed one action per turn (normally) before the enemy takes an action. While this may seem logical, it is actually limiting as your one action is only performed by one party member. So, even though you can have up to four people in your party during your adventure...only one party member acts each turn seemingly defeating a lot of the purpose of having the party. Also, using "MAGICAL" lies outside the normal rules of the turn-based system, letting you use as many magical items as you feel like each turn...this makes magical items quite valuable even if they lack strength. Overall, the battle system's foundations are very standard-practice and many of the differences from the standard end up being negatives rather than positives.

> Design - 5/10
Miracle Warriors does have some noticeable flaws in its design, however, the core of the game remains very standard which prevents it from becoming unforgivably broken. Perhaps one of the more marked aspects of the game is that it is very grindy. Oftentimes, you will not go more than a couple of steps before experiencing a random encounter. While this is great if you are trying to grind your level up, it is extremely annoying if you are actually trying to get somewhere. On the other hand, there are definitely encounters in the game that are quite difficult and require a bit of leveling out of the player...which perhaps provides a bit of reasoning behind why random encounters are so seemingly frequent. There is also a sort of reputation system in the game that awards the player "character points" for defeating "bad" monsters while subtracting "character points" when the player defeats "good" monsters. If the player goes below zero, then many Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) in town will not speak with or help the player. This system is mainly relevant early in the game when the player will frequently encounter many friendlies that they can use "TALK" on rather than "ATTACK". Later in the game, however, the sheer number of baddies will drive the player's "character points" high enough to make the system irrelevant.

Otherwise, there aren't many outstanding talking points regarding the design of the game. Equipment in the game must be repaired, however, the player can acquire a blacksmith to travel with the party, negating this irritating mechanic. The overall world design allows for a sort of natural progression while still encouraging some exploration and, for finding the last dungeon, a bit of listening to the clues given. The encounters, although frequent, are at least (aesthetically) unique enough as to prevent total boredom. Even with the many flaws apparent in the game, Miracle Warriors' basic adherence to the standard RPG formula with a couple of positive points like the reputation system help to keep it from tipping into the abyss of being a poorly designed game.

> Fun Factor - 5/10
If you are a die-hard RPG fan that enjoys grinding, chances are that you will enjoy this. The best rewards in the game come from the sense of accomplishment in defeating an enemy boss after a long grind up through some levels in preparation for the epic battle. On the other hand, the grindy, linear fashion of the game may be off-putting for others.

> Replay Value - Low
If you beat the game there is little reason to play back through it other than for fun or nostalgia.

Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark LordMiracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord

===> Reviewer Opinion = (sticking to the standard worked) 7/10
I am, admittedly, a huge fan of RPG' I am a bit biased here, but I have to say that I did enjoy playing Miracle Warriors. It had been quite a long time since I played a traditional, turn-based Japanese RPG. There are certainly some flaws with the game, however, many are minor with the only real unforgivable flaw is the horrendous UI that keeps the player concentrating on about 35% of the screen while in the overworld. I don't really mind the grind times, nor do I mind that Miracle Warriors, for the most part, stuck to a very generic RPG formula for its gameplay and storyline. I did think that it had surprisingly good visuals and a great soundtrack though.

===> Overall Impression = (forgettable) 6/10
Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord is one of the earliest 8-bit console RPG's to hit the United States...but its been forgotten in the annals of history. It failed to wow anybody by being a spectacular success or a miraculous failure. It did not introduce any new or innovative ideas or concepts to RPG's. It did not feature a transcendent storyline or striking characters. However, it did not do anything abysmally wrong either. Basically, Miracle Warriors fit the stereotype of 8-bit RPG's before there was even an established standard. In doing so, the game is playable, but fails to really bring enjoyment to anyone who is not already a fan of the RPG genre.


ThoughtFool1's avatar
Community review by ThoughtFool1 (October 17, 2013)

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honestgamer posted October 17, 2013:

It's good to see another review from you! I'm not sure there's much reason to break out ANY retro game for reasons other than fun or nostalgia... but I get what you mean. This game looks interesting. I probably would have liked it back in the day, but now I have too many other options vying for my time.
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ThoughtFool1 posted October 18, 2013:

Hey, thanks! I was glad to find the time to play through another game and write a review on it! I actually wouldn't recommend this game to anyone other than a die hard retro RPG isn't necessarily bad, but there are certainly better options to spend your time upon :)
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overdrive posted October 18, 2013:

To me, I think there are a lot of retro games that are worth more than nostalgia trips and, at least in my mind, are better than the stuff we get now. Not in the presentation, graphics, etc. obviously, but there are a lot of worthwhile games and most of them are faster-paced and can be finished more quickly than modern titles, making them great for people who might not have all these 100-hour blocks to devour new, long-winded, cinema-heavy games.

Not that this one seems to be on that level. I'd heard about it before and your review pretty much says what I'd heard about it. Decent in some ways, but kind of unnecessary if you're not a junkie for these games.

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