Review by Vegita
"Wonders abound as to where the title came from..."
I find it funny when games are named titles that have very, very little to do with the game itself. Such is the case of ''King's Knight'', an early Nintendo Squaresoft release. You take on the role of 4 different characters - The Knight 'Rayjack'', the Wizard 'Kaliva', the Monster 'Barusa', and the Kid Thief 'Toby' - as they attempt to rescue the princess Claire from an evil Dragon. Cliched at best, boring and carpal-tunnel-inducing at worst, yet it does have a conceptual edge. The humor comes into play when you look at the characters and story, and come to the realization that the Knight (possibly the one in question) is only 1/4th of the playable characters, and there is a notable absence of a King of any sort. See, it's funny! Eh? Eh?
''King's Knight'' was an attempt at the blend of RPG and Shooter genres, which, while an interesting enough concept (one that would warrant a look), came off as a haphazard collision of styles, creating an abysmal game that was too difficult to play. The requirement of near-meticulous memorization of the entire stages and a fast trigger finger just to survive is ill suited to my tastes, personally. Let us take a closer look, shall we?
Each of the 4 characters proceeds north-to-south along the landscape, in the standard overhead Shooter fashion. They each fire off projectiles to remove enemies that are in their way, as well as the destruction of the landscape before them - unearth various speed, power, defensive, and magical upgrades by demolishing the greenery sprawling (and crawling) before you. Each character has a lifebar that can be reduced by ''life down'' powerups or simply taking damage from enemies (be it from direct contact or from a dispatched volley of projectiles). Should the lifebar run out, or you find yourself pinned behind a piece of scenery at the bottom of the screen's scroll, your character will die. Progress through all 4 characters, powering them up, and they will gather together at the dragon's lair to combat the fiend.
The meat of shooter games comes from your ability to swiftly bound about the screen, destroying everything in your path. There is practically no ''swift bounding'' in this game, instead giving your characters the laborious task of blowing up everything he sees and hoping he finds an item of use in the rubble. Upon hopping into lakes, you'll find yourself slipping about as if you had stumbled onto icy ground rather into a wading-depth of water. Even after gaining a few weapon and speed powerups, your character is still rather sluggish, remaining easily out-gunned and out-numbered by his adversaries. If you fall into a hole (which can conveniently appear directly below you), despite all the powerups in the world you will find yourself immobile for a few brief moments. Not only are you unable to fight back at your enemies or avoid their attacks, but you can't even climb out of a waist-deep crater in the earth and avoid a crushing death from the scroll of the screen. You can run fast and jump on top of large rocky plateaus, but a simple hole can be the death of you. The tedium flows like wine, I'm afraid.
Another poignant problem purported by this production is that its own gameplay is shortsided in its attempts. The entire screen is chock-full of things that have to be removed (trees, rocks, enemies, bushes, etc), yet you can only fire 2 projectiles at a time. Upon powering your character up, they can take out 2 blocks at a time instead of one; however, you can still only fire twice, forcing you to continually mash the controller with the hopes of survival and the uncovering of an item increase. What's worse is that you have to find 4 special items to gain a magical ability for each character - this means you have to scour every level with all 4 characters, finding 16 magical tokens so that you can complete the game. If you do not find all 4 parts, then back you go for another jaunt through the ENTIRE STAGE. Add in the fact that all 4 players have to survive to complete the game (no easy feat, especially since the Knight is the only one that can consistently handle himself in combat) and you have a frustrating meshing of genres. I think it's rather humorous how a shooting game was made, and the emphasis of the game is NOT on shooting down your enemies but instead aiming for the areas AROUND them.
The game does make efforts for creating a simpler retread, though. Instead of retracing your steps ad infinitum, you can continue the game from any one of the 4 heroes, blitzing through their stages again in attempts to find more powerups and (hopefully) survive the trek. Unfortunately, you can only continue if one of the 4 characters survive - decent odds at first, and they only get better as your characters get more powerful. That is, provided you have the patience to continually play the same stage over and over until you can SURVIVE it. There is no change in the difficulty throughout the areas, nor can you increase the speed of the screen's scrolling to hurry the turtle-esque crawl of the game, so you are forced to memorize enemy and item locations until you can beat the game - and frankly, I'm not a fan of learning the entire layout of a game just so I can complete it.
The graphics are actually above-par for a game released in 1986. When compared to the likes of 1942 or Action Fighter (albeit a Master System game, but a game for a system of similar graphical capabilities), you'll find that the colorful landscapes carry a decent motif and style in their look. The sound can be irritating, sporting weird effects for your characters' attacks and the explosions of the countryside before him, but a lot of the roughwork is kept low-key. The music is standard fare, not much to write home about; however, it is rather catchy (despite its repetitiveness), so it doesn't rate badly in my book.
'King's Knight' could have been a great game. The concept was just fine, although replaying the same stages over and over gets old very quickly. Had the oft-muddy controls been any better, I might not have minded the repeated efforts; however, since it was frustrating enough to control, let alone having to play the same frustration over and over (and hurting my thumb in the process), I cannot rate this game highly. Squaresoft is known as an RPG company for a reason, and now you know why.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 07/14/02, Updated 07/14/02
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