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.
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.
If you enjoyed this Times of Lore review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!