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Legend of the Ghost Lion (NES) artwork

Legend of the Ghost Lion (NES) review


"Maria's parents never came home. Rather than crying about it, Maria grabbed an ancient spear containing the spirit of an African warrior and embarked on a mission to find them. Her odyssey nearly ended when she fell off a bridge into an icy river. Some might argue that she drowned and what she's seeing in Legend of the Ghost Lion is the afterlife. But is it heaven or hell? What kind of afterlife is packed with fairies, cuteness, goblins, werewolves, moderately useful spirits that inh..."



Maria's parents never came home. Rather than crying about it, Maria grabbed an ancient spear containing the spirit of an African warrior and embarked on a mission to find them. Her odyssey nearly ended when she fell off a bridge into an icy river. Some might argue that she drowned and what she's seeing in Legend of the Ghost Lion is the afterlife. But is it heaven or hell? What kind of afterlife is packed with fairies, cuteness, goblins, werewolves, moderately useful spirits that inhabit random objects, and billions of loaves of bread?

It's an afterlife that tries to change things up a bit and almost succeeds. Think of it as RPG purgatory.

Yes, purgatory, the realm of mediocrity. Here you not only fight every enemy from every other RPG (from goblins to werewolves), but you happen upon many of the same cliches: go there and fight a goblin to get a crown. Go here and talk to a witch. Even the presentation looks familiar. Overhead view combined with a redundant-menu-summoning A button and NPCs that do the pee-pee dance... It's Dragon Warrior with a light sprinkle of sugar.

To battle the forces of familiarity, Maria's only got her measly dagger, her wits, and her spirit friends. Maria's taken a Pokemonish approach to battle. That spear she nabbed before the game isn't a weapon. She can use it to call upon the African warrior Moja to stomp the holy hell out the random beasties. Along the way, you can find other items to summon spirits, like a rapier that summons a nearly-worthless elf, a crystal with a giant, an axe with a dwarf, or a slug that summons a slug (...). Each spirit acts as another party member, except they only hang around for a short period. Every command consumes some of their “power”, which is also used as their HP. They don't necessarily have to take a massive amount of damage to “die”, but can whither away through overuse. You can have a few of them out at a time, but the tricky thing is that summoning one uses a turn.

So you and your African badass, your giant slug, and your also-worthless halfling have felled the nasties and it's on to the spoils. You are awarded a handful of rubies.

...And?

...

That's it. You get no experience for winning battles. They serve only two purposes: to drive the challenge and to allow you to rake in the dough. Once you've purchased all you need, battles become pointless and do little more than soften you up so you can waste resources. You can try to run away, but that usually results in you losing more HP (renamed “courage”) and MP (renamed “dreams”) than you might have had you fought the battle. Plainly put, battles aren't rewarding enough and become a nuisance after you've gotten halfway through the adventure. It's saddening, because the battle system is so solid that it shouldn't feel like a nuisance to play it. Instead, you've got to fight the same battles ad nauseum and apply the same strategy each time. Now and then you'll find yourself in a tough battle and the enemies will ravage you and your spirit friends. Just remember, grinding won't save you.

The only way to level up is to explore, explore, explore. Only then can you find the Pieces of Hope that raise your levels (renamed “hope”), as well as your courage and dreams. Bear in mind that the encounter rate is sky high and searching for more levels inevitably leads to lots of unrewarding battles and many loaves of bread consumed.

But at least you won't be using those loaves of bread wandering around in a complete stupor. You get plenty of clues, though not always obvious ones. Ghost Lion's world is mostly linear and easy to follow, though there are a few extra areas and quests that are off the rail like a pyramid or a ruined castle, both of which you have to sail to. While a linear flow may sound like a downer in an RPG, it works for the old school. Better that than bumping around in the dark with scant clues, and the only information you have is either vague or mistranslated.

I first played Legend of the Ghost Lion eons ago and enjoyed it. Replaying it now, though, I couldn't even finish it. I got bored of it about two-thirds in and quit. Mostly, it's the repetitive battles, the lack of different or creative enemies, and the lack of a leveling system. Ghost Lion is a vanilla RPG with loads of cliches. The few African references they made were welcome additions, and it's a shame Kemco didn't expand more on that. An African-themed RPG would have been something fresh and worth experiencing. Instead, we're left with a mediocre quest.

Rating: 5/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (June 07, 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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honestgamer posted June 07, 2011:

Terrific review, and probably fair to the game. I got this game new for $5 from EB Games when I ordered something else and I've never regretted it. I even went through and figured out the HP for every enemy, back in the day. Wrote it down on a sheet that I hope I still have somewhere... though now people just ROM hack for that info, I guess. Anyway, I think you did the game's stellar battle system better justice than a lot of reviews ever will and really communicated why someone might consider this a noteworthy title in some respects. I keep thinking that someday maybe I'll play through this one again. Thanks for reminding me!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted June 07, 2011:

Thanks, Jason!

EDIT:
Sorry, meant to write more, but it's difficult to do on a cell phone.

I actually didn't play this one as a kid, but early in my college years. That was when I had a really odd schedule where I was technically a full time student, but only went to school three days a week. This game, Radia Senki, and Forever Kingdom were the main ones I went through. I enjoyed this much more the first time I went through it, but going through it now I just couldn't finish.

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