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The Chessmaster (SNES) artwork

The Chessmaster (SNES) review

"I really suck at chess. I just don’t seem to have the right sort of brain for it, and when I think of playing chess I am bitterly reminded of childhood games where spectators would all suck in their collective breaths and loudly declare “awww, you shouldn’t have done that” after each move I made. "

I really suck at chess. I just don’t seem to have the right sort of brain for it, and when I think of playing chess I am bitterly reminded of childhood games where spectators would all suck in their collective breaths and loudly declare “awww, you shouldn’t have done that” after each move I made.

But I like this game, because of all the features that make the game friendly for right-brained idiots like myself. The teaching mode, adjustable difficulty level and in-game advice from the friendly neighborhood Chessmaster are all great, but most important is the UNDO button which lets you go back to the moment right before you foolishly maneuvered your queen right into the path of an enemy bishop.

I don’t want to give the impression that Chessmaster is some sort of dumbed-down lite version of Chess for beginners only, because that isn’t the case either. There are 16 modes of difficulty and the computer is actually smart. It plans ahead, goes on the offensive, forces you into tricky corners. Fiendish. It decimated me in the Beginner 2 level, but I’d imagine more accomplished (and intelligent) players will find some challenge in the other 14 levels as well.

The display is a green (or light blue) and white checked board with the standard white and black game pieces. While not exactly ugly, it is a little lacklustre all the same and I would have enjoyed having more options to customize my display. As it is, there is a choice of only two sets of playing pieces: the default Staunton pieces and a Fantasy set where the pieces looked like little medieval people. I avoided the Fantasy set, which I found to be a little bit tacky (I objected to the choices of orange and mauve as the main colors) and had more than a passing resemblance to certain characters in early 80s DOS games.

As for the board, it can be viewed in either 2-D or 3-D perspective, both of which are good except for some minor blocking issues in the 3-D mode where certain pieces can get obscured by other ones. There is also a War mode, which is an interesting-looking stylized view reminiscent of the kind they show in newspapers.

The sound in Chessmaster is mediocre, not that one should care overly much about sound in a chess game. There is one musical theme, a totally out of place funky number that really destroys your concentration. Thankfully you can turn it off, and I did. The handful of sound effects are, again, rather boring but get the job done well enough. There is a little fanfare when you take an opponent’s piece, and a dramatic “dun-dun-DAH” when one of your pieces gets taken. Check and checkmate also have their own sounds.

That pretty much sums up the game. The only other thing I can say is it would have been nice if something more spectacular happens when you defeat your opponent (since I do it so infrequently…). There’s also a two-player mode if you get tired of challenging the Chessmaster all the time. The tutorial and advice options make this a friendly game for newcomers to chess, and the high AI of the computer makes it a challenge for competent players as well. I recommend it whole-heartedly.

alecto's avatar
Community review by alecto (January 19, 2003)

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