Legacy of the Wizard is the only game in the Dragon Slayer series localized outside of Japan. LotW was originally titled Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family and was released on the Famicom, MSX and MSX2 systems along with the NES in the United States by Brøderbund. It was release din Japan in 1987, the NES port came out in 1989. This is an open world dungeon exploration action-RPG game, and could be likened to what were later called “Metroidvania” type games in recent years. This game follows the adventures of the Drasle family, a family of woodcutters descended from a great wizard destined to defeat an evil dragon that was returning to life after a number of years. You will end up using and needing all members of the family to explore the underground dungeon, as only certain members can get to some areas and use certain items. You’ll buy items and shops scattered in the dungeon along with finding some in treasure chests along with finding health and magic restoration items and inns to restore all your health and magic. Saving the game involves a long password of random letters and characters, something made infamous back in those days on the NES where writing one character down incorrectly locks you out of your progress. Thankfully most of us have phones with cameras now so we don’t have to write anything down.
Your family includes Xemn, the father who’s tough and strong and can push blocks, the mother Meyna who can fly and use magic, Roas, the son who is the only one capable of using the Dragon Slayer sword, lyll the daughter who can jump really high. Then Pochi the family pet who monsters cannot harm and is a lovable ball of destruction who smiles as he murders his own kind. Going through each part of the dungeon requires one of these family members and you’ll be looking for one of the 4 Crowns. Finding a Crown result sin a tough boss fight. Finding all 4 Crowns means Roas can find the Dragon Slayer sword and fight the evil dragon Keela.
So this was actually one of the first NES games I owned when I got my system in uh…1989? I saw it on QVC and it looked lots of fun! Playing it often I really didn’t know what I was doing, even with making scattered maps and notes. Really wishing Nintendo Power did a feature on this. This game is really a hidden gem once you sit down with it and I’m glad I picked this game up again in the past year and finished it. I think between when I was a kid and now I can think things out more with games like this, not to mention looking up maps if I get really stuck enough. Very special thanks to the amazing Therenesance for giving me the motivation to give this game another try so many years later, and big congrats to Hungrygoriya for recently playing and finishing this on stream!
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: For a late 80’s NES title the graphics are pretty colorful. Heck, take a look at the castle in the background before you go into the dungeon for inspiration! All of the tiles and patterns in the dungeon look different, but until you step on them you can’t tell if they’re real or an illusion. Your family members all have their own color scheme and look when you choose them and they put on their Dungeons & Dragons cosplay to go explore the dungeon. You’ll spend most of your time shooting at, avoiding, and trying to use monsters as stepping stones too. All the monsters in different parts of the dungeon look different, from ogres, flying lizards, rock people, cat girls(?), to something that looks like Frankenstein’s monster sucking its thumb (wth). The boss monsters are in their own special part of the dungeon and pretty large in size. Large amounts of monsters on some screens will cause screen flicker, which can cause you to take unwanted damage cause you didn’t realize something was there.
The music is quite whimsical. The tracks in this are from Yuzo Koshiro and Mieko Ishikawa. Outside the dungeon you’ll have happy charming music, going into different parts of the dungeon trigger different tracks ranging from dark and forbidding to whimsical. Boss fight music will trigger a rush as you try to fight the boss off before it kills you. Family members using their magic, restoring life or magic, collecting keys each have their own sound effects. The more annoying effect is when you’re taking damage either by enemies or floor spikes.
PLAY CONTROL: Everyone controls the same quite easily jumping, pushing blocks, using magic. You may find yourself stuck trying to navigate riding on monsters over areas as you take damage (unless you’re Pochi). Moving blocks with Xemn can be tough and you’ll find yourself pushing a block where you don’t want often and cursing till you get used to how his glove item works. You’re gonna find yourself stuck trying to jump to ladders and trying not to take fall damage more often than you may like when you get deeper into the dungeon.
CHALLENGE: Remember i said this game was hard? I wasn’t kidding. Majority of this game is pure exploration, mapping, and trying not to die. This game really needed some feature in Nintendo Power. I dunno how I would finish this as a kid unless I came across a number of passwords. This is one those games you would have had to pass along notes with friends on the playground with, which reminds me of when I played Shadowgate as a kid. At least now we have gamefaqs, websites with amazing looking maps and strategywiki. Game gives you no clues as to where to go for the 4 crowns, and the manual just tells you the basics on what all the items do. Game over means all the way back home and trying again, only way to save any progress you might have made is warping home with a crystal and getting a password from Grandma.
The block puzzles for Xemn can drive you bananas, and I hate block puzzles personally. Messing up means resetting the room, or resetting your NES depending how deep into a room you are, if you don’t throw your controller first. Remember, this was before save states folks! One area you may run out of magic to use an item or run out of keys to progress, and find yourself dead from invisible enemies if you don’t realize they’re there. Boss fights can be hectic as you try to do more damage to them before they kill you, until you learn the pattern and find a spot where they can’t hurt you, and you can’t use healing items in boss fights either. Though the boss fights and dragon fight trigger a neat life bar for the boss and for you. After finding the crowns you can take Roas out and use a crown to warp to different areas by touching a painting of the Princess throughout the dungeon to find the Dragon Slayer sword, but that takes more trial and error too.
So in short, I do recommend this if you love dungeon exploration and puzzle solving with little help and lots of trial and error. The music and graphics are decent enough, though you may find yourself dead too often before you can get home to find a password to save your progress. Google searches provide lovely maps and advice, and here’s a link for a full color dungeon map: full dungeon map.
I’m gonna give this 3.5 out of 5 Pochis!
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