Greetings, players! It is I, your friendly Dungeon Master, otherwise known as Matthew. I remain locked away within the depths of Questicle's own Temple of Elemental Evil, but have no fear! For soon the ancient and eldrich magicks needed to escape and enact my vengeance shall be at hand! And then we'll see just how well Sega Does! MWAHAHAHAAA!!!
You know, it's not much of a secret, but early attempts at converting PC games to home consoles were usually poor. Once in a while a decent port from the PC would show up, but for every Sim City on Super Nintendo came dozens of crummy RPG's, most of which carried the Dungeons & Dragons license. That's a shame, because anyone whose sole encounter with D&D stems from the garbage ports on the NES likely has a poor perception of what D&D brings to the table. The game world can be so much more than ugly poop brown color palettes and horse jumping simulators. D&D games can be captivating, magical experiences that stick around long in the memory. The kind of games that keep fans talking decades later. The kind of games you want to play again the moment you finish them.
Well, I think we've got something special for you today to help change your minds on both D&D games and PC-to-console ports. So come along, friends! Let me take you to the days of high adventure!
Ohhhh... crap. Nevermind.
Yep, I *totally* remember the epic battle with giant hornets from the Chronicles trilogy.
PUBLISHER: Pony Canyon
DEVELOPER: Atelier Double
GENRE: Action RPG
RELEASE DATE: 1992
The world of Dragonlance beckons! In this Japan-only sequel to Heroes of the Lance, players are once again set loose on the realms of Krynn, tasked with guiding the legendary companions of yore on an epic quest to save the world from the evil Verminaard. If you're a nerd for the books, the plot here is essentially the second half of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. And if you're not boned up on the lore, well, let's assume we're going to kill a bad guy because... reasons.
On the surface, Dragons of Flame bandies an action RPG aesthetic not too dissimilar to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. You'll navigate overworld maps, battle swathes of enemies on 2D action screens, and occasionally enter larger dungeon areas to find keys or treasure. But while Zelda II is analogous to a classy Hollywood feature with appropriate production values, Dragons of Flame is like a low budget direct-to-video knockoff with Treat Williams and Lou Diamond Phillips at the top of the bill. (Or maybe I should say a disappointing animated film with Lucy Lawless as Goldmoon? Hmm...)
Some of the mechanics from Heroes of the Lance were tweaked to make Dragons of Flame easier to play, but a pinch of sugar can't disguise the bitter taste. You're still looking at the same fugly set of graphics and character display taking up half the damn screen. Still hearing the same dull sound effects. Still fighting the same annoying Draconians who throw Hadoukens at you and back away when you approach. The magic system remains as poor as it was in HotL, requiring you to pause the game in the middle of battle and navigate clumsy menus to find the spell you want. It's a sin the developers failed to replace the spellcasters' physical attacks with magic spell attacks, because let's be honest - there's no way in the Abyss that Raistlin and his nonexistent strength can take down a troll by hitting it with his staff.
Which reminds me: since when did the all-powerful Raistlin Majere resort to lobbing puny Magic Missile spells at bats in order to survive anyway? That's like Darth Vader picking up a blaster pistol instead of wielding the dark side of the Force. Gandalf using morning breath to fell an orc. Chuck Norris KO'ing someone with anything but a roundhouse kick. Hulk Hogan beating someone with a finger poke. These things just don't happen.
So while Dragons of Flame isn't the worst D&D-based game to show up on the NES, it's hardly going to ignite your interest in the Dragonlance setting, nor will it compel you to pick up a bunch of oddly shaped dice to play games of make-believe with strangers. I think the best I can hope for with this review is that it might get you to check out The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All. Treat Williams was a treasure in that one.
3 Bigby's Interposing Hands out of 7
TASSLEHOFF! YOU'VE CREATED A TIME PARADOX!
Matthew Conway talks THAC0 and the Vancian magic system on Twitter at: @Mattaconda