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The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) artwork

The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) review

"Leap off that steed and cast away that shining armor. It's time to take the hot sands, to don a turban and wield a scimitar with deadly grace. Leave behind those fantasies that have been final for fourteen games or those quests of the dragon kind, and delve into The Magic of Scheherazade. It's a wonderful RPG that maintains the sword and sorcery feel, yet changes the setting all together. It's not set in a world like medieval times, but more akin to Arabian Nights. With much t..."

Leap off that steed and cast away that shining armor. It's time to take the hot sands, to don a turban and wield a scimitar with deadly grace. Leave behind those fantasies that have been final for fourteen games or those quests of the dragon kind, and delve into The Magic of Scheherazade. It's a wonderful RPG that maintains the sword and sorcery feel, yet changes the setting all together. It's not set in a world like medieval times, but more akin to Arabian Nights. With much to explore and a great challenge factor, The Magic of Scheherazade is an adventurous quest and an unforgettable experience.

Welcome to Arabia! The land is not quite as arid and desolate as people tend to think. It's such a land of fertility and serene beauty that it's difficult to believe that it's in peril. The magician Sabaron has kidnapped your love Scheherazade and banished you to the realm of the mundane where you will work banker's hours, fall asleep by 9 PM, and forget that you were ever a powerful magician. Now it's time to turn the tables. The time spirit Coronya has just reminded you of who you are, and it's time to leap through that magical portal of time and back to the world you once knew. Your quest will have you battle demons and travel time, talk to trees and meet mermaids. It's a wild and often quirky ride.

Powerful warriors dig compensation. This must the reason why they ask you to choose a different class with an emphasis on a certain phallic object. If you want a bigger scimitar, you can be a fighter. Want a better wand? Best be a magician. If you don't feel like compensation is for you, then you could be a saint and suck at fighting all together. The three different classes are not hard set. For mere coins you can change classes, and believe me, you're going to need to. Different parts of the game request that you become different classes. For instance, there is a character that you need to recruit in chapter four who's too afraid to help fight the boss, and will only leave his house if a brave fighter escorts him. A tree wishes to give you her first fruit, but only if you're a saint. Different circumstances also call for different classes. It's better to level-grind as a fighter, but best to fight a boss as a magician.

Once you've selected your class and talked to all the townsfolk, you can head out into the forbidding world full of lush vegetation and crashing waves. You're not in Hyrule, but it sure looks like it. Cartoony insects keen hither and yon with pincers ready to clamp on to any novice heroes. They're the least of your worries. Go deeper into the brush and forest and you'll be assailed by bandits, hunted by man-eating fish, and even hounded by the grim reaper. It may sound perilous, but that's why you have your trusty scimitar and wand. With a few strokes those bandits' heads hit the ground, and with a flourish of the wand that reaper disappears.

Unlike Zelda, you gain experience. Ending lives means bigger rewards for you: new spells, a stronger scimitar and/or wand, and more HP and MP. But your advancement doesn't stop there. Hidden throughout the game are different more powerful weapons. These bad boys aren't just laying out in plain sight or waiting to be purchased at a weapon shop. You really have to dig for them. Some can be gained by going to a magic academy hidden in the towns, but others wait for you in convoluted caves whose ingresses are hidden from the human eye, or deep within palaces devoted to demons summoned by the black hand of Sabaron himself.

A true warrior can stand up to these demons and send them back to the 8-bit hell from which they came. However, in most cases only a magician can properly stand up to these beasts. They require timing, strategy, skill and patience. The demons are not simple foes. Most of them lie just outside your reach, and only the projectiles fired by your wand can effectively damage them. You might think that level-grinding and weapon-seeking alone will win the battle, but that is not so. Each chapter has a cap of five levels. This was a genius decision by Culture Brain. It means you can't just grind for your victories. This means that fighting a demon like Curly will lead to a knock-down-drag-out. Curly has six arms, moves back and forth a high speed, fires projectiles, and can recover her own HP. This can cause her limbs to grow back. Precision timing and fast magic are what the case calls for, and even then you will want to rip your hairs out. It only makes the victory that much sweeter.

Not having to spend so much time grinding means more time playing and advancing. With the large levels and dungeons, you're going to need it. Every chapter has two overworld maps to explore, a demon's palace, and side areas. This is where the game derives much of its challenge. You don't get a map when walking into a cave. You have to feel your way around, check every corner and avenue and make sure you didn't leave anything valuable behind.

It is while exploring that you will bump into challenging random encounters. The monsters of this land have learned to ban together and form squads and regiments. These special formations, usually consisting of two certain enemies, can put their magic together to execute devastating special spells that can wipe out your party in the blink of an eye. Turnabout is fair play. You, too, can enlist the help of special characters and ban them together to hit the enemy formations where it hurts. Recruiting the robot Gun Meca and the magic eagle.....thing.... Kebabu creates the formation LIBRA. This group is strong against an enemy force called Air Squad. Bringing LIBRA together gives you access to Moniburn, a powerful spell that turns all of your opponents into rockets and shoots them into space where they explode and die.

Scheherazade never takes itself too seriously. This is an Arabian-themed fantasy game where you can recruit a talking shrimp that lives in lava, a translator robot, a thieving squirrel, and a creature that looks like an eagle head with wings that asks you an important question when you first meet her: Would you ever pick up a girl from a hamburger shop? Say yes and she won't join you because she only travels with gentlemen. God only knows what the original Japanese text said.

The Magic of Scheherazade is an enchanting and adventurous RPG with a great challenge factor. It kills the grandfathers of NES RPG, the legendary Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. Unlike Final Fantasy, Scheherazade is evenly-paced and isn't bogged down by slow, lengthy trudges from one point to the next. It also isn't padded out with long bouts of grinding like Dragon Warrior. It addresses the issues of both games and still maintains a great challenge factor. It even throws in a little Legend of Zelda for good measure, and while it doesn't kill that title, it certainly keeps up with it. The Magic of Scheherazade is one of the best RPG's on the NES. It's one that only a few remember, because only so few have played it.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (January 14, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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