Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not-So-Classic Classics, Volume 1

160px-Magic_of_ScherezadeBack before video games became a multi-billion dollar franchise it was easy for underrated  games to slip through the cracks. Not even the expert journalists at Nintendo Power could cover every single game released, what with  needing the magazine space to cover the several hundred Mario spinoffs that came out every six months. Therefore, when The Magic of Scheherazade came out back in 1989 no one really took notice, which is truly a shame because the game basically whipped The Legend of Zelda’s ass on every conceivable level.

Okay, here’s the premise: Scheherazade, the famous Saudi Arabian concubine-cum-princess, has been kidnapped by the evil wizard Sabaron. If that weren’t evil enough, Sabaron also summons the demon Goragora for some God-forsaken reason. It’s up to a plucky young hero to rescue her by traversing the overworld of the ancient Middle East while finding items to unlock dungeons wherein he will fight monsters. Oh, don’t mind that smell in the air; it’s just the scent of rip-off.

The thing is, The Magic of Scheherazade took nearly every Zelda convention one step further. For instance, in a stunning act of innovation the game featured both real-time fights and turn-based combat. In the turn-based combat the hero could team up with two other adventurers who could combine their powers to unleash powerful spells. The hero could also buy backup mercenaries that would take damage for him. In real-time battle the hero could fight using either a sword, dagger or rod, the strengths of which were determined by the hero’s class. That’s right; this game was basically a beautiful marriage of Final Fantasy and the aforementioned Legend of Zelda.

Plus, the game introduced an array of systems that were completely original for their time. I mean, Solar Eclipses? That’s cool no matter how you slice it. Essentially, the game can be viewed as a fansub of Zelda, in that the basic skeleton is present but the mechanics have been tweaked to accommodate a far more esoteric crowd. I mean, let’s be honest: Arabian adventures have never ranked very highly on American game lists. Even so, everyone who enjoys a romp through a fantasy world would be hard-pressed to find a game with more on offer. Well, that’s what I would say, if this were 1989.

Look, just check the game out. It’s not out on the virtual console yet, but I’m sure the intrepid can manage to find the game somewhere.