Quality Control – Willow (NES)


Get Willow for the NES from eBay
Get Willow for the NES from eBay

Well, my latest Quality Control column is ready, and this time I have video and audio ready. Excellent! I still shall, of course, have the text recap, for those who are at work and can’t listen to the video, or what have you.

The Premise:

Willow, a little person, must use all his skills in swordplay and magic to free the land from the grasp of the dark queen Bavmorda.

The Good:

This is a decent action RPG in the vein of Ys, with pretty good control. The graphics are alright for a NES game from this era, and sound isn’t totally awful eather, though I don’t recognize any of the music from the film.

The monster design is alright, and the monsters who shoot flame and other missles at you do have a discernable pattern, and the “bullets” are slow enough that if you spot the pattern you can avoid them. Also, upgraded weapons and armor come fairly regularly, and as the game is from a top-down perspective, it doesn’t run into any of the problems encountered by an Action RPG like Faxanadu.The Bad:

Ultimately, with most enemies combat consists of mashing the attack button repeatedly, and occasionally casting a healing spell – nowhere near as deep as the combat in, say, Legend of Zelda. Yeah, Legend of Zelda‘s combat wasn’t ultra deep, but it mixed things up fairly often.

The Ugly:

There are little to no similarities between the plot of the game and the plot of the movie. Willow’s combat skills in the film basically consist of the occasional spell, with Val Kilmer’s character – Madmartigan, and the character of Sorsha tending to do more of the heavy duty combat work. In the game on the other hand, it all rests on Willow’s shoulders, with no supporting characters in the cast to fight along side him. For that matter, the whole bit of the film’s plot with Willow, a farmer, fighting to protect a child, is dropped entirely. Admittedly, it’s a lot to expect a deep plot in an RPG for the NES, but the “bit” I just mentioned is the whole point of the film!

Additionally, the game doesn’t have a save option, using a password option instead. Now, when you die you don’t lose your items or all your experience levels, but your XP is dropped down to the start for your character level, and you re-spawn back at the town you started the game in. This wouldn’t be a problem if there was an in-game map. There was a map in the strategy guide in issue 9 of Nintendo Power, but it’s pretty inaccurate, and you’d be better off hunting down a map from GameFAQs or another site.

The Verdict:

This game is okay, but it’s not great. I cannot, in good conscience, reccomend paying more than $5 for this game (including shipping). If this game ends up on Wii virtual console, give it a shot, and if you find it at a local video game store with older NES games, feel free to give it a shot. But otherwise, I’d reccomend giving this game a pass (unless you want to pay the shipping and handling to get it through eBay).

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