Review by Cecil255

"Iíve played hundreds of games, and this one is the absolute worst."

OVERVIEW:

This is the game that's missing everything: King's Knight. An utter failure on every level. It is quite astonishing how Square failed to capitalize on every potentially good concept and turn this game into a complete mess. It is overflowing with glaring faults plagued with awful gameplay. But, more on that in a bit.

I first bought this game over a year ago in a classic game shop while on vacation in Texas. I already owned just about every game I ever thought I'd want on the NES. I was mostly just browsing to see what kind of collection they had, maybe get a good bargain on a game for a friend.

Then, this game caught my eye.

The game had a very impressive cover with great hand-drawn art. A knight, a princess, a dragon, and…. Square? Wait, what is this exactly? Why have I never heard of it? Five dollars? “Hey, this could be a great diamond in the rough”, I thought. But, something did not feel quite right.

When I finally got home to play, this horrid game could not hold my interest for more than 1 minute. I didn't know what the hell I was doing. So, I just forgot about it. A few months later I was popping in some old games and tried it again, I honestly could not bear to try again after my first death because of how much of a turn-off it was.

And so I let it sit, never selling it because I generally do not part with a game until I feel I've given it a fair chance, or better yet – beaten it.

Now that I have a Wii, I have noticed that this game has come out for the virtual console. I figured there was just something I was missing, so I figured now was the time to see what this game was all about. This game is the embodiment of pain, suffering, and sorrow.

GAMEPLAY:

“Now, what's the most important aspect about any game? Well... Being able to ******* play it!”
– AVGN

Sometimes this game feels like it is literally unplayable. The first level abruptly begins with your knight moving along in the auto-scrolling vertical overhead world of King's Knight. The first issue with this game is that you only use one button 99.9% of the time, and that's the A button. You use the B button a grand total of 3 times in this game. There is no strategy whatsoever involved in how you develop your attack method.

You can only fire straight up, and you always only fire single projectiles. No lasers, no bombs, no real magic, it's hard to make out what each character is supposed to be firing.

Ok, so most shooters do not allow you to manually fire at different angles, but there's one big difference. In no other shooter are you fighting so desperately to clear out landscape in your way as you trudge along.

Almost every piece of landscape in King's Knight is destructible. This is where it makes it so annoying to not be able to fire any other direction. If you're not careful and don't leave yourself a way out out, you can get trapped and will be killed once the auto-scroll sandwiches you. The entire time you're playing the game you mashing the fire button to clear out land so you can get powerups. Which brings me to the next horrendous issue with this game:

The powerup system is terrible. You can play this game for hours and still have a hard time understanding what the icons mean.

There are up and down arrows to fill and take away health, respectively. The down arrows outnumber the up arrows about 5:1. Down arrows often surround pickups that are vital. What's that egg on the ground? Oh, that's the attack bonus. What's that square with a bunch of lines on it? Oh, that lets me jump? ‘Cause it's shaped like a spring and springs bounce, makes perfect sense.

And then there are elements, which are necessary for beating the game. Collecting each of the 4 elements will let you cast spells in the final level. Don't get excited, it's not near as interesting as it sounds. The elements are arbitrary symbols that in no way reflect what the spell does. Collecting 4 triangles might let you explode statues or allow you to turn into a dragon… good luck finding out what they do and when you're supposed to use them.

If you miss a powerup or two, you're going to have a very hard time getting as strong as you need to be. And, to get all of the powerups you have to work your butt off to find out where they're at and either memorize their location or go online for charts or video of where you need to uncover them all. Moving around the narrow passageways and focusing on blowing up scenery instead of monsters makes the game difficult. It doesn't take much at all to kill you and it is very hard to maneuver around.

Speaking of maneuvering, the faster your character gets, the more slippery movement becomes. It feels like you're on ice. Just lovely when trying to avoid a screen with fireballs all over the place that take off a quarter of your life!

Finally, the jumping is very odd. If you do get enough powerups that allow you to jump, you can push against mountains and such to jump on top of it. The same thing happens with water but it is REALLY annoying. When you're transitioning from land to water, it sucks you right in. At times you'll be trying to get out and it will keep taking you back in, and sometimes you're just jumping back and forth trying to get out. This is most noticeable in the final level where there is lots of lava you're jumping in and out of, and there are projectile EVERYWHERE. You cannot fire effectively while in the air and while you're jumping more and more enemies come on screen to kill you. By the time you finally get a hold of yourself, you're flooded with enemy fire.

GRAPHICS:

The first enemy you encounter is a mystery to me which serves as a good indication as to the game's graphics. Bland. Uninspired. Sometimes annoying. The enemies have no life to them, they just mindlessly move around. Your sprite walks quickly in place no matter what you're doing. It's so dull and generic. In the final level there are statues everywhere that shoot balls of energy – and they just sit and stare.

Not much else to say, another huge annoyance is the message screen after a character dies. It will give the death message but the character that died is using its 2 frames of animation with a joyous look on its face, just as they do before a level starts… Ugh…

SOUND:

Similar to the unpleasant first encounter with the graphics in this game, the first audio you hear after you press start to begin the game is ridiculously awful, see if you can find it online to see what I mean. The tune that plays throughout the vast majority of the game is very bad too. It consists of a short, boring riff that has its key changed a couple of times and then continues to loop endlessly. The music that plays when you're in the cave is forgettable and just as bad.

As for the sound effects, there's not many. Every character has the same sound effect when attacking. When you disintegrate scenery, there is no audio cue whatsoever. The sound that plays when you take damage is a high pitched squeal, and when you take your death blow it's the exact same squeal.

THE CAPITAL FAILURE OF KING'S KNIGHT:

Besides all of this garbage, we really haven't gotten into what makes King's Knight a truly awful game.

Square blundered on the RPG elements of this game. Interesting, huh? The idea for this game is good and they really got it wrong.

You see, you can actually continue in this game. You probably would never know this unless you got some outside information, because when you get a game over you are taken back to the title screen.

Anyhow, the point of an RPG is that you're supposed to get stronger over time. Not in King's Knight. If you choose to replay a character's stage you are right back at square one, weak as can be. If you fail to do better than your last attempt and you do not retain your previous level of power.

This issue could have been resolved in one of two ways. First, they could have had the decency to let your character stay as strong as your best attempt on that level. Or, better yet, LET THE CHARACTER KEEP ITS POWERUPS. That would have made this game infinitely better. It would have made much more sense to the character to return to the level and only attain powerups that they have not found yet.

After you've attempted to beat all 4 levels, you are taken to the 5th and final stage. What's really dumb is that if one of your characters are dead, you cannot beat the level. Well, even that wouldn't be that bad but the game allows you to play with an incomplete party just so… I don't know… seems that Square was very misanthropic at the time and wanted to do everything in their power to make you question your sanity.

To top that off, there's not only no save or password feature, but if you ever press start on the title screen without continuing (which is easy to do since no Continue options shows up as noted, why couldn't they have 2 selections and have it defaulted to Continue at game over?) you will instantly begin a new game, losing any hard work you've done.

By the way, this game is stupidly difficult, especially if you are attempting with no outside help. Poor control and the chaotic nature of the game does not help at all. One good sign that they didn't put much quality control into this game is that the sub-bosses and boss are laughably easy.

If some of this doesn't make sense, it's because it doesn't. You can't know what a tangled mess this game is until you've actually played it. King's Knight makes Hydlide look like a coherent masterpiece.


Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 09/29/08

Game Release: King's Knight (US, 09/30/89)


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