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Times of Lore (NES) artwork

Times of Lore (NES) review

"Times of Lore for the NES is an example of addition by subtraction in a port. The PC/Apple versions took too long to get between towns, and monsters were too lethal and numerous. Futzing with the admittedly innovative interface was a handicap in fights. ToL for the NES tweaks the world map to create shortcuts and also makes townspeople harder to kill by mistake. The result is a satisfactory, if bland RPG. "

Times of Lore for the NES is an example of addition by subtraction in a port. The PC/Apple versions took too long to get between towns, and monsters were too lethal and numerous. Futzing with the admittedly innovative interface was a handicap in fights. ToL for the NES tweaks the world map to create shortcuts and also makes townspeople harder to kill by mistake. The result is a satisfactory, if bland RPG.

It's one that avoids number crunching. A candle replacing a hit point counter, experience and levels don't exist, and gold's largely to buy food or special items that unlock dungeon entrances. The A and B buttons to navigate between pictures for talking, giving items, reading scrolls, and so forth. With text reserved for conversation, ToL has a storybook feel.

In your quest to solve the murder of High King Valwyn, you pick one of three fighters--balanced, strong, and fast--and start in the all-purpose Big Central City of Eralan. Entering buildings pops the roof off, and certain townsmen tip you off to somewhere else, usually far away--the world being 1024x1024--and you'll hear a tone. Roads between the towns mean it's hard to get lost, but scenery repetition is minimized compared the the PC, where the world is sixteen times bigger and no more detailed.

So exploring the edges of a world, or walking around unbridged rivers, isn't so bad. The forests have no blind-alley mazes, so forgetting one person in a string of critical chats isn't too inconvenient.

Talking around triggers in-town quests that rely on stealth and not fighting prowess. Early on you must sneak past several guards to find a valuable scroll, and often it's easier to run by enemies than fight them. They're numerous but thankfully devoid of missile weapons. Better yet, they're stupid, pausing before attacking. It's also easy to time a dagger or axe throw at someone running perpendicular ahead of you.

Forgetting to talk to someone, or do so again if you got killed, is probably the biggest barrier to winning. With relatively few important NPCs, trial and error can get you through. Eventually fetch-quests leads to fights, which aren't tough. You have slots for five magic items: blue and green potions which heal halfway and fully, and scrolls, including the red, which destroys all enemies. While you can only have one of these at any time, dead enemies drop them frequently enough that you can save up with minimal strategizing. Red scrolls don't work on special enemies, though. For them, a quest item provides the quick kill.

The only really tricky parts are save-game passwords, though you shouldn't get killed much, and two sparsely populated dungeons, where stepping on pressure plates in the right order opens up passages. Some plates are traps, but not as bad as the PC, and teleports add some mapping challenge. The final confrontation leaves several interesting pages of story that I wish they'd frontloaded into the game.

ToL's just too linear, though a giant in the mountainous regions holds a magic ring, and people who replay the game or remember the PC version may skip chat-quests to get speed boots or a magic axe that boomerangs. It's too bad more obscure corners didn't house fun optional quests or items.

ToL could never be a blockbuster, as it doesn't have the depth or challenge. You don't even get to see much in the final combats--the enemies are a bit bigger but hardly intimidating. It's a respectable story with interesting characters, and the picture-style controls give a better fantasy feel than text blocks in other RPGs. Still, the NES version adds little to the PC version--but it affords far fewer frustrating deaths.

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (December 24, 2009)

Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.

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honestgamer posted December 25, 2009:

I wanted this game so bad when I was younger, based on a single screenshot in Nintendo Power that looked awesome. I talked later to someone who worked at the magazine around the time and he joked that back in the day, they referred to the game in the office as "Times of Bore." When I finally got it off eBay and played it for myself, I paid relatively little and found myself feeling grateful that I hadn't wasted the money on it as a kid.

Your review didn't make the game sound exciting, but it did make it sound better than the experience that I had with it. I've actually been meaning to go back to this one and to give it more than the cursory glance that I originally did once I purchased it, so maybe I will sometime soon. Thanks for writing up an interesting review for it!
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aschultz posted December 25, 2009:

Thanks for the feedback! It's great to know a review of mine is legitimately useful. I really got bogged down in the PC version, and it's kind of ironic that dumbing down an origin game made it better--after all, Ultima V suffered when ported to the NES. I remember racking my brains trying to beat the final dungeon in the PC version--then I realized I could heal a character just sitting there for 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit this sort of anecdote in the review without seeming self indulgent. Also, I'm not sure how playing the PC game may've ruined the NES experience for me.

I tried to find something to make ToL interesting, but it's not. Overall, there's nothing *wrong* with ToL. It just does little to distinguish itself. Hopefully my maps on GameFAQs will be a help too if you really just want to plow through the game. It's a good game to play when there's nothing better. It was another one of those NES completion project games nobody got around to, and another game I had more fun writing maps for than playing.

I noticed your screenshots & I would recommend fighting the giant--it's the one exciting moment in the game.

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