Review by xenodolf
Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone... and jams it into a laughing knight's chest!
Although a lot of people reduce Knights of the Round to "Final Fight with swords", this game is much deeper than that. A few years after releasing the sensation that was Final Fight to the arcade scene - Knights of the Round followed suit. Instead of bashing street punks and rescuing your daughter/girlfriend - you played as King Arthur attempting to stabilize his recently established kingdom. To separate it from the majority of beat 'em ups, Knights of the Round employed an experience gaining system that added a RPG-like level up effect to the game. Onto the review..
Although not as good looking as Final Fight 2/3, Knights of the Round had an impressive art style. The evil knights had detailed layers of armor, the power-ups were more advanced than simple hunks of meat, and the tigers had very visible testicles (who added those!?). The background environments were rather detailed, often with cozy mill wheels or creepy dark fields adding atmosphere to the game. The animation was solid, featuring enemies who flipped about acrobatically better than Poison ever did. While not perfect, this category is well above average.
Medieval trumpets and modern synthesizers weave together a fitting soundtrack for Knights of the Round. Some of the music was so memorable that I get hit with a wave of nostalgia every time I play the game. There were three different enemy death cries, and some of the baddies even laughing to bring out a personality. The battle noise is above average, with lots of rapid metallic clangs and smashed wood sounds ringing out quite often. I'm pretty pleased here, although the arcade version is much superior in the audio department.
Aside from one collection detection glitch that occurred to me and the often awkward blocking controls - everything is good here. No response lag, and the button layout is quite nice. Nothing really major is flawed in this area of the game.
One thing that has often bothered me in the beat 'em up games is how little help you have outside of your playable characters. No cops bother to help you out in Final Fight, or basically any other game where it is you against the (criminal) world. In Knights of the Round, you'll often see you fellow knights trying to assist you against the hordes of enemy soldiers - although they're always getting beat down. Saving these blundering ies of your's nets you some treasure that the rescued warrior drops onto the ground as he retreats. There are also time when they will appear on the edge of the screen and drop off treasure for you to collect. There's even a section where you and your knights invade a castle, although its a non-participating event. As opposed to the majority of beat 'em ups, where you could care less about killing everything that moves, Knights of the Round has quite the incentive. By collecting treasure (don't devalue it by attacking it accidentally), defeating enemies, collecting health when your life-ar is already full, and beating the levels quickly - you'll amass experience points. When you reach a certain amount of points, you "level up" and eventually gain better looking armor and weaponry. Although I am not sure if your fighting ability is upgraded as well, it is addicting to try and reach the final phase of each character's appearance. I am a bit disappointed that it isn't as deep as the earlier Capcom beat 'em up, The King of Dragons, but it works enough for me to enjoy. Another unique idea inserted into this game is the ability of riding on horseback in a few sections. This allows you to break through enemy defenses faster and easier, although you seem to a sitting target when facing more than a couple of foes at once. Overall, the game-play is fun and productive - and quite a breath of fresh art to a genre growing somewhat stale with clones and wannabes.
Replay value 8/10
To keep things interesting - there are three playable characters, each with different stats and upgradable costumes. Despite having no versus mode, or unlockable features - Knights of the Round ranks rather high in this category. I am constantly driven to go back and try to collect more treasure and kills to boost up my experience points and unlock the final character level. This game has a near monopoly of that kind of appeal, beaten only by the similar Capcom beat 'em up The King of Dragons. I probably play this game more than almost any other 16-bit beat 'em up I own.
If you're looking to escape the urban setting that so many beat 'em ups are involved with, here is a good start. The leveling up method and well designed stages will keep you coming back for more. This is one of my favorite SNES/SFC beat 'em ups, worth owning even though the arcade version is on Capcom Classics Collection 2 for the PS2/XBOX.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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