Games I Don’t Think Anyone Remembers: IronSword: Wizards & Warriors 2

Time for another entry in this occasional blog series. This time, I’m talking about…

IronSword: Wizards & Warriors II was a game released on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1989 (and two years later in Europe). This was one of three sequels to Wizards & Warriors (the others being Wizards & Warriors III: Kuros: Visions of Power (NES) and Wizards & Warriors X: The Fortress of Fear (GB). (Oh look, they didn’t label the fourth game IV, they labeled it X for some weird reason.

Anyway, I remember playing the first two Wizards & Warriors games a lot when I was a kid. I never beat either of them because they’re both difficult games, but that’s because the game mechanics don’t work that well, but I’ll get to that later.

The first thing to notice is the box art. It’s the only video game box art that I know of that featured Fabio. There’s Fabio, with fire and volcanoes in the background. Just using Fabio in the first place is sort a WTF moment. Then there’s the actual game, where the character you play as, Kuro, is always in silver armor, so you barely even see his face. What? You don’t really play as Fabio? The box art lied toe me…

You play as the knight Kuro, who is on a quest to battle the elemental lords, collect the parts of the IronSword, and eventually defeat the evil wizard Malkil in a battle atop IceFire Mountain. You start at the base of a mountain, and visit various regions.

As you play, you’ll notice a pattern to how these stages play out: each domain has two areas. In the first, you have to find some Important Item to give to some animal guardian (not an enemy, just some NPC who you must appease in order to progress). Give that Important Item to the animal guardian, and you can pass to the next area, where you have to find a spell scroll. Once found, you can defeat that region’s elemental, claim the next fragment of the IronSword, and proceed. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

I mentioned earlier how the game mechanics are kind of broken. By that I mean they don’t work well. To defeat enemies, you have to stab them with whatever weapon Kuro is carrying (usually a sword, but you can get an axe at some point). Jumping on enemies doesn’t work, instead that damages Kuro. In fact, most everything wants to kill Kuro. Everything in the game, including the ground, wants to kill Kuro. (This is one of those games where you take damage from falling too far) Kuro has a health meter, and this drops surprisingly fast as you attempt various stages.

Sometimes you get spells, which are usually projectiles that fall in lazy arcs. These are tricky to aim, and are usually slow.

In the first Wizards & Warriors game, you had to collect a specific number of gems in each area in order to pass to the next. You still have to collect gems in IronSword, but this time they act as currency, as there are shops in practically every area. You can either buy weapons and armor, or food (which recovers health). You can also play a game of chance: you have four cups, and you have to guess which one a skull will fall into. If you’re playing using an emulator, this is a great point to use save sates.

In each stage, you’ll collect keys, these are used on treasure chests. Most of these have treasure, but others have weapons, armor and spells. Typical RPG fare, but here you have it in a platformer. This gets a bit annoying when you need to find the boss-killing spell, but can’t find a key anywhere.

So the gameplay in this game might not work that well, but what I remember most about IronSword is the music. David Wise, a well-known Rare composer back in the day (he also worked on Pin*Bot, the Donkey Kong Country games, and, more recently, Star Fox Adventures). IronSword has an excellent soundtrack. It’s worth trying to play through this game for the music alone.

IronSword doesn’t have a save system, but it does have a password feature. You see, kids, back in the day, not all games had a battery or whatever to allow for save files. Instead, the game would give you a password that you would use to resume progress should you shut the game off.

So there you have it, another game I don’t think many people remember.

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