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Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II (NES) artwork

Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II (NES) review


"The first thing you should know is that everything on the box of Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors 2 is an utter lie. Judging from the cover, most people would be expecting to play as a manly hero with a big sword and washboard abs that make shirtlessness a viable option. Let me warn you now; such a character does not exist anywhere within the confines of this cartridge. For those who enjoy making impulsive purchasing decisions, this may be a discovery that would infuriate the most ..."



The first thing you should know is that everything on the box of Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors 2 is an utter lie. Judging from the cover, most people would be expecting to play as a manly hero with a big sword and washboard abs that make shirtlessness a viable option. Let me warn you now; such a character does not exist anywhere within the confines of this cartridge. For those who enjoy making impulsive purchasing decisions, this may be a discovery that would infuriate the most sanguine of all individuals.

And yet, I continued playing anyway, in the vain hope it would calm my rage.

According the aforementioned box (who is known for being a damn liar), the evil wizard Malkil has returned, and possessed the Four Elements. His causing trouble in such an ostentatious fashion provides the impetus for once-retired Kuros to resume his hero ways, and seek out the fabled Ironsword, whose ferromagnetic composition is like kryptonite to capricious wizards. Now, this Kuros person is by no means as virile as his artistic depiction would suggest; indeed, in his quest, he sports a full suit of armor to protect his delicate hide at work, giving one the unfortunate impression of a fellow who places practicality over mackiní style.

You might think, with a title like Ironsword, the most prominent feature of the protagonist would necessarily be his ability to swashbuckle. This is not the case. Upon the first minutes of play, youíll be surprised to learn that Kurosís swordsmanship skills are in actuality his most ineffectual quality. While pressing the ďAttackĒ button technically causes some sword movement, and perhaps a slight shift in footing will occur, good luck hitting anything. Often, youíre better off waiting for the foe to fly into the tip of the blade, which works for some reason. Effectiveness of attacks can be improved using sword upgrades from the inn--obtaining these, however, mostly entails you gathering gold fromÖ battling enemies.

Fortunately, if youíre looking for cash, there is also Bones, a simple and addictive game of chance that can be found at all of the ridiculously convenient inn locations. Itís sort of like pachinko; a skull is dropped through a brief series of inclines, and you wager on the cup it lands in at the bottom. More than a few times Iíve found myself spending hours scrapping together loose change from fallen foes only to blow my wad in one go like some shiftless hobo. Since thereís usually a diamond sword, an extra life, or poultry on the line, itís a strong possibility youíll feel the same way.

But maybe thatís because the main quest gets to be somewhat tedious.

You could probably guess from the story, but a rote formula emerges from the gameís level-making. Search an area for a Golden Item, which somehow permits entry to an elementalís realm. Somewhere in that realm lies a treasure chest containing a magic spell that constitutes that elementalís sole weakness. This magic elemental weakness spell invariably leads to certain victory.

(I donít get why they would leave those things around! In a chest that can be opened by any key in the game, no less.)

Kuros, with his sword skills not to write home about, does try to make up for that with his extraordinary ability to leap mountainous cliffs in a single bound. Because his very first task is to scale a mountain, this undoubtedly comes in handy. In fact, for better or worse, most of Ironsword consists of scaling places. Okay, so some people are the type to climb Everest because itís there, but othersÖ arenít going to enjoy an early morning commute when thereís the prospect of falling off the road and having to start from the beginning. Old NES games like this one also tend to have that slight sense of imprecision in the controls, too, so youíll have to deal with that if youíre not used to playing old NES platformers. Thankfully, this was before freefalls to the ground caused damage.

In addition to his exorbitant mad hops, they say magic is on his side. Beyond the spells used for the sole purpose of beating one elemental and no other, youíll be able to find someÖ quirkier magic out there. One spell causes a geyser to eject from under our hero. Others can turn foes into poultry, or turn them into coins. In general, itís spells like these that make you wish you could shoot a damn fireball already.

Yet seeing as the road to Malkilís unbelievably inaccessible lair happens to cross through several distinct biomes, the game does garner some fairly impressive scenery. Each level has a distinct atmosphere to it, from the cloudy peaks of the Wind Realm to the burning sensation that permeates the Fire Cave. The elementals themselves, too, have quite the visual presence, even if Waterís consists a bar of soap someone dropped. And the music is charming, as well; Ironswordís haunting, yet occasionally jaunty main theme would not be inappropriate for humming while in the midst of slaying a dragon.

Frankly, Iíd imagine they could have just as easily done like in Mega Man and allowed the player to choose what stage to start at. Their structures donít differ all that greatly from one another, and the learning curve almost exclusively comes from trying to work out the controls. (Climbing mountains gets old, after all.) There is a password feature available, which helps to some degree, but naturally it assumes you were willing and able to make it that far in the first place. Also, the passwords themselves are always some absurd chain of letters that are too easily misspelled in the process of dictation, and nobody wants to waste time dealing with those.

Ironically, in the end Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors 2 turned out to be an experience that makes a person want to cut something. (Please refrain from playing in a room with sharp objects.) Admittedly, I had forgotten why I was angry after a while, but some people think poultry is a form of sedative.

They should have given him a bow.

Rating: 4/10

disco1960's avatar
Community review by disco1960 (December 01, 2007)

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