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Wizards & Warriors X: Fortress of Fear (Game Boy) artwork

Wizards & Warriors X: Fortress of Fear (Game Boy) review


"I love side-scrollers, and someone knew this. I was duped, led astray, and the rest of it. I would gladly take on any Castlevania adventure (even The Adventure), The Legendary Axe, hell, even a rusty bladed generic Rastan mission. But X (may I call you X?) doesn’t deserve my hack and slashing skills, nor does it deserve yours. More importantly, our hack and slash skills are unlikely to measure up to this evil cartridge's challenge. "



Welcome Kuros, I’m sure you already know of Malkil. He’s the one behind all this. You’ve got to kill him, you know. Never mind that you’ll likely never even get close, just try your best. Don’t ask me why Acclaim gave this game the suffix “X” as part of its name. Don’t confuse this with Final Fantasy X or any such epic. It’s not the apex of any massively popular Squaresoft Role-Playing Game series; it’s not a movie on rails. It’s worse - an action-adventure on rails.

I love side-scrollers, and someone knew this. I was duped, led astray, and the rest of it. I would gladly take on any Castlevania adventure (even The Adventure), The Legendary Axe, hell, even a rusty bladed generic Rastan mission. But X (may I call you X?) doesn’t deserve my hack and slashing skills, nor does it deserve yours. More importantly, our hack and slash skills are unlikely to measure up to this evil cartridge's challenge.

Immediately, the mockery begins to the tune of horribly simplistic music, at once cheerful and depressing. Think of that happy music they played at amusement parks, but imagine no rides anywhere to be seen. Ugly rolling hills serve as a background to the foreground of vapid platforms for you to jump to and from. Namco programmers were likely brought over to design the snapping piranhas that bear more than a passing resemblance to that famous yellow chomping circle we all love. But were programmers used at all in the design of the jumping? The game asks so much of our jumping abilities, but gives us little in the way of control of the same. The walking scrap heap that is Kuros cannot slash while jumping (why the hell not?) and is often arbitrarily unable to properly land his jump, falling unceremoniously on his armoured ass. Not good when the landing pad is a moving platform creeping evilly downward and off the screen.

Arbitrary could be a good theme for X. See, enemies can vary in the amount of damage they take. The boring bestiary includes dog-faced soldiers bearing shields (useless) and swords (equally useless - these guys are of the ‘drain’ school of damage, more on that later), big bats, and those aforementioned flying fish - well, they don’t really fly so much as leap up and down and force you to pull off some moves from Master Higgins' repertoire that seem completely out of place here. Anyway, all of these foes can be killed with a single stab from your wobbly weapon. However, at times they may absorb as many as four stabs with your sword, depending on their mood and what time of the month it is. Perhaps O.J. would have been a better choice of hero here, because not knowing how many cuts it will take before 'enemy A' dies on any given encounter is annoying.

Exacerbating this problem is the fact that your enemies all use the ‘drain technique’. They don’t hit you once and take a heart from your vitality gauge. They walk through you and suck the life from your pathetic ramshackle body as long as they’re ‘inside you’. How stupid is this? Picture it: a ‘soldier’ marches toward you, and only seconds ago, you just took out his brother with a single press of the attack button. You confront this newest threat with confidence in your chest and mash the button twice, just to be sure. It doesn’t work. He proceeds to, as they say, stomp a mud hole in your ass and walk it dry. You had full energy, but now you’re dead, although you played it safe.

These concerns make X very difficult, five-level quest or no. You’ll be lucky to get to the fourth level. There’s a cheat available to give you six lives rather than three: use it to no avail. Because if the normal enemies are draining on the spirit, your will to persevere will be all but crushed when the bosses make their similar but far more damaging ‘pass throughs’.

There are a few things to like about X. Some of the bosses are large and well drawn. The second stage Skull Head is notable; he is over half the screen high and his jaw seems to unhinge as it opens wide to accept you, or disallow your entrance, like a porn star, while mini-skulls float about with some velocity. Also, not all the music is as bad as the first level's carousel accompanyment.

But probably the best element to be offered by X, is the treasure chest (and accompanying key) hunting. In some areas you will not be able to proceed if you don't find a key and the appropriate chest containing the ''Boots of Jumping''. I found that gameplay element to be very Metroid-like, and that can only be a good thing. However, aside from the boots, there is nothing special to be found - only a cape to provide invincibility and a vial to provide vitality.

I tried very hard to like Wizards and Warriors X. After all, the cart belongs to my second favourite genre of game - God knows I tried. But I assure you that if you were there when the game told me “Sorry your quest has ended here” for the hundredth time, you would hear me exclaim aloud, “don’t be! I’m not!” No matter how desperate you are, stay away.

Rating: 2/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)

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