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The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) artwork

The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) review

"I might not know everything about the gaming world, but I am pretty sure that an Arabian Nights tale concerning a time-traveling warrior collecting a wacky assortment of allies to save a bunch of princesses from evil sorcerers and misnamed demons (the Hindu Kali will never live down being mistaken for the Three Stooges' Curly) WHILE occasionally planting seeds to grow money trees in a world where solar eclipses happen every few minutes is RetroWeird."

If I had more time and wasn't so damn lazy, I'd start my own website. I'd call it something like RetroWeird and do nothing but celebrate how utterly strange games could be during the 8- and 16-bit generations. Some of these games were great and some were horrible, but they'd all share one thing in common -- bizarre moments that make players wonder if programmers were locked in a room with a couple sheets of acid and told they couldn't leave until the game was completed. People could wonder why Nintendo created the Kuribo's Shoe power-up when it was only used in ONE level of Super Mario Brothers 3 before pondering how, in roughly 742 Mega Man games, Dr. Wily never could figure out that making each of his robot generals particularly vulnerable to the weapon of one other wasn't the best of ideas.

Magic of Scheherazade would be focused at some time on this site. I might not know everything about the gaming world, but I am pretty sure that an Arabian Nights tale concerning a time-traveling warrior collecting a wacky assortment of allies to save a bunch of princesses from vile beings such as a demon possessing the moniker of one of the Three Stooges WHILE occasionally planting seeds to grow money trees in a world where solar eclipses happen every few minutes is RetroWeird. Especially when the game can't seem to decide if it wants to be a Zelda clone or a JRPG, so it just mixes the genres together.

WIthout the RPG elements, this game wouldn't have been particularly strange. Your goal is to rescue Scheherazade, her father and a few other princesses from the evil wizard Sabaron -- who's also planning to summon one of those world-destroying demons. The boss Kali being mistakenly named "Curly" is sort of an amusing goof, but most of this game is pretty tight.

There are five chapters to the quest. In each one, you wander around a small world fighting bandits, bugs and the like while visiting towns to find allies, buy items, heal and change classes. The latter is an interesting addition to the monster slashing. As a Fighter, you're great with the sword weapons; while the Magician's skill is with the rod weapons. The Saint sucks at both, so it becomes the useless class that winds up being necessary to fulfill a plot requirement or two. As a Fighter, you'll carve your way through most enemies with ease, but the ranged attack of the Magician's rod makes them the smart choice when you know a boss fight is coming.

To reach the main baddie of each world, you'll have to find a time door to either go back or forward in time in order to find the help you need to either access its palace or damage it when you finally get there. Said "help" might not do all that much, but it is mandatory. If you didn't recruit the cowardly duck Rainy (more RetroWeird fodder) in the fourth world, you'll never be able to fight its boss as that fellow is needed to make it vulnerable. Much like the greedy Mustafa is necessary to show the true form of another boss or how the genie Faruk has to be found so you can go underwater in the first world to reach the fortress of that lackey of Sabaron.

It's good that so many of your allies have uses related to the finding and killing of bosses, as otherwise, I'd have to guess they were included in the game solely to pad its length with RPG battles. Just imagine if you were playing The Legend of Zelda and while you were running around killing Octoroks and whatnot, you'd randomly get thrown into Dragon Warrior-style battles when moving from one screen to the next. That happens in Magic of Scheherazade and it happens often enough to get a bit tiresome.

When I was younger, I loved it. Console role-playing games were kind of a novelty then. I can't remember exactly when I bought this game compared to others, but at most, I could have only played a couple Dragon Warriors and one Final Fantasy beforehand. All I knew was that I liked those games and thought the addition of some of their elements into another sort of game was a fantastic idea. Ah, the joys of youthful ignorance. Now that I've played countless RPGs, this sort of thing comes off more like a waste of time designed to pad the length of a game that could otherwise be beaten VERY quickly by a player who knows where to find allies, time doors and other hidden necessities.

At least the RPG elements are well done (even if they can add to the Weird Factor, considering that robots are among the foes in this ARABIA-THEMED game). You can pick any two of your allies to join you. It doesn't always pay to simply pick your best two buddies for every fight, either. Some monsters team up to form special squads of foes. If you pick any two guys, the fight could be a tough one; but if you pick the proper formation to combat that squad, you'll get access to a special group attack that decimates them quickly. So, I guess you could call this part of the game a well-executed waste of time!

Much like the various activities related to the frequent solar eclipses. Plant a seed in the earlier of each world's time periods during a solar eclipse and it will sprout into a tree that gives 500 coins. Also, each world has a special magic spell that can only be cast during solar eclipses that does things like temporarily remove the damaging properties of deserts and snow or summon a mosque so you can change class wherever you're at. All of these things can be useful, but none are essential. They're just things to do if you want to waste a bit of time to make things easier.

However, not all of this well-executed stuff comes off as unnecessary. You gain levels by killing enemies, both in the Zelda-style action screen and RPG battles. However, grinding will NOT become a factor as you can only boost your character five levels in each world. At the point, you stop getting experience and really have no choice but to confront the boss and move on in your quest. That's pretty smart, as it keeps things operating at a pretty respectible level of challenge from beginning to end.

That's why I found myself coming back to Magic of Scheherazade in 2011 -- it combines weirdness with efficiency. The weirdness caused the game to stick out in my mind -- it's hard to forget watching one ally shrieking at another about his love of money while your party is taking a magic carpet ride from one world to the next. But the well-executed gameplay is what makes this more than just a curiosity. Some aspects of it strike me as unnecessary fluff, but even those are handled with competence, which wasn't a given back in the days of the NES. This isn't a must-play blockbuster title, but it is pretty good entertainment for adventure fans.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 30, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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