Review by Bjeatles

"Underrated due to challenge, creativity, and not being a role-playing-game."

Art & story minimized. 5/10
King's Knight, released in the N.E.S.'s mid-life, is a unique, original, creative, old-school, 8-bit, fast-paced, real-time, hardcore, top-down, vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up. Despite the role-playing style pixel art, this is all but role-play. SquareSoft downplayed the story and opened up the action. The hardcore pace may have better matched a theme other than high fantasy. Final Fantasy fans may not appreciate the simple story about several individuals who walk through fantastic places destroying everything in their paths. The compulsory one-second title and game-over cut-scenes are the most notable interruptions in otherwise nonstop violence.

Game-play hard at first but fun and beatable. 7/10
King's Knight is infamously hard among role-players, yet easier than any console shooter of its time among gamers. The difficulty stems from player-characters starting almost powerless. With enough caution and aggression, however, even early attempts are survivable. Once finding enough power-ups, the rest is as game-breaking as the Contra shotgun. It is fair and never cheap, and features a refillable health bar when one-hit kills were standard for years to come but disappointingly no continues, lives, or saves. Thanks to above-average hit detection and controls, with practice, it is easier than most 8-bit games and beatable without emulator features like save-states or slow-motion.

It features almost too much variety. The multiple playable characters with separate levels equate to an automatic stage-select, an unexpected nonlinear feature. The game is over only when all player-characters die rather than one, so every man for himself may advance to his ending, unlike most games with more than one player-character. Playing only a favorite character is impossible without the others dying. Destroying terrain uncovers myriad power-ups, power-downs, and even foes, forcing the player to balance greedily destroying the world for power against cautiously killing the many minimally-animated sprites onscreen simultaneously. It keeps the player on the move with no one side or corner of the screen statically offering more safety than another, giving way to truly full-screen action. The thoughtful placement of game objects deepens play, requiring more thought and general mindfulness than most shooters. Each obstacle is unique sometimes to the point of harsh unpredictability.

Replay inbuilt. 6/10
The intentionally iterative play could benefit from randomly generated levels. Everything is the same every time, causing monotony even before finding the optimum path. Within this linearity, however, is enough variety and fun to justify replay. It would have greatly benefited from continues, lives, and saves.

Recommendation casual fun as a novelty and for 2D shooter fans. 7/10
If difficulty is an issue, use emulator save-states and perhaps slow-motion. If only into role-playing, use imagination. This game would suit a portable platform.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/10/11

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

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