Magic Sword is an arcade beat-em-up from early 90's Capcom. They went on to make other (better) medieval-themed beat-em-ups like Knights of the Round and King of Dragons, but this one was a good start. I played it in the arcade a couple times as a kid and it was fun, but I didn't get very far. The Super NES port is easier, so we'll see how I do.
First, a look at the box art. The North American box art features a big American buffoon protecting a hot woman with his big American sword. That demon looks horrendous.
The Super Famicom box art is considerably better, with all of the characters represented. We also get a cameo appearance by Igor from Young Frankenstein.
"I'm in disguise" he says when reached for comment.
One very notable thing that drew me to this game early on is that you can choose what stage you're going to start at...mostly. There are 50 altogether, each a floor of this massive tower. Each of the selectable floors are right after a boss floor.
This is a pretty standard beat-em-up. It takes place on one plane of movement (rather than letting you move in and out of the background) and involves some jumping, but not too much. For the most part, you just need to be aggressive with your slashing as you proceed from left to right.
Another cool thing about this game is the variety of NPC allies you can get to join you (one at a time). Here's the archer/amazon, the woman from the cover. She's the first one to appear, and unfortunately one of the weakest. She fires arrows from a distance. You can level up your NPC allies by collecting items, which turns them into potent attackers.
Here's another ally, the aptly-named "Big Man". He throws axes and does a lot of damage, but he's slow. Essentially the reverse of the archer. This game would be exponentially cooler if it allowed two-player co-op and had a character select, but alas neither of these are the case. You've got to play as the hero no matter what, and the allies have to be CPU-controlled. They follow your lead pretty well, at least.
The first boss is the first of many Manticores... though technically I think this is a chimera. Manticores are similar though. I need to brush up on my Dungeons and Dragons monsters.
Victory gets you TONS OF GOLD.
...and a sword upgrade. This is the most important part; each boss upgrades your sword. I'm guessing that skipping levels and starting at a later floor is a bad idea because you'll be stuck with the starting weapon at first.
The ninja joins the "party" as I fight bears. The ninja is fairly decent, using throwing stars to unleash damage at range.
Something I really like: Between floors, the hero has something to say, and it's different every time. Here, he tells his mysterious ninja buddy that it's important to be safe and have fun. Also, don't do drugs.
What the? Moai statues? When did this turn into Gradius?
A fearsome foe draws near: The Ball and Chain Trooper. They have more reach than most enemies, so caution is needed. This would be a good time to mention the magic meter: In the lower-left, there's a meter that fills up as you don't attack. Hold off on attacking for a second or two and it'll fill up, which causes your next slash to send a fireball at the enemies. It's an effective distance attack, though you have to forego it if you're doing rapid-slashing.
The tower gets more hellish as you move onward. Here, our heroes brave jets of flame.
The Gold Dragon is an admittedly impressive boss for 1990. The arcade version of this game pre-dates the existence of the Super NES, meaning that this was created during the era of the NES. Wow.
Here's a shot of the magic fireball I mentioned before. The ninja's shuriken wave is also visible.
I've heard of slaying the dragon, but this guy is taking it to a whole 'nother level.
The ninja backstabs our hero with shurikens! THAT PEARL-HARBORING JUDAS! I KNEW IT WAS A BAD IDEA TO- oh, nevermind, ally attacks go through you without doing any damage. Well, that's a relief.
The next ally I stumble upon is Igor the Sorcerer. He attacks with the Circle weapon from Space Megaforce, only he can launch it at enemies at will like Wood Man's shield. Very good character here, and a keeper...with one exception.
Ally characters are acquired by opening the doors in the background; chests on the other hand usually contain heals or gold (points). Sometimes they're traps, however, and the frequency of this increases as the game goes on.
Some of the floors are extremely short. This one has the exit on the first screen. I figured something was amiss, especially considering the before-level message was that "the royal knight is imprisoned on the next floor". So I proceeded past the door into the level itself to see if I could find the royal knight in question.
Here he is. He was behind the sole door on this floor, and he's AWESOME. Hands-down the best character in the game, and a worthy replacement for the sorcerer. Too bad I never got to check out the bomb-throwing Thief or the undead-scorching Priest... or get more use out of the earlier characters in general. This is one of those games where it's better to stick with the character/powerup that works once you find it.
The next boss is wearing a unicorn horn on his head. Big E, is that you?
He transforms into another Manticore. I said there'd be a lot of Manticores in this game. I think this is around as far as I got in the arcade version as a kid, floor 12 out of 50. I also vaguely remember jumping ahead to later levels and not faring too well.
The Knight is a pretty rad character, which I mentioned already. He attacks by throwing spears, and as he levels up, he throws an array of spears that fan out a bit and do severe damage to everything in their path. With three of them firing at once and traveling through enemies to hit other enemies beyond, it's a bit like a Spazer/Plasma beam combination if this were a Metroid title.
Unfortunately, magic fireballs don't open chests from a distance. That'd certainly help for avoiding traps...
More importantly than all of that, check out a sample of the music (arcade version). This game has a kickass soundtrack.
"The Demon Pits"...because we can't say Hell.
Interesting. That isn't like Final Fantasy, though the white mage is strong against undead both there and here.
Next floor gives us some purple, which is an unexpected dose of pastel colors. I'm almost halfway to the top of this tower and haven't encountered any major resistance...yet.
Nowadays we have people complaining about occasional framerate dips and calling game developers liars, but back in my day all we had was slowdown...and we were cool with it. Makes it a lot easier to dodge when it happens. It's like bonus Matrix-time.
Fun game, a lot better than I was expecting it to be. The two later Capcom medieval beat-em-ups are still superior by a good margin, but this one's a lot easier and a good introductory point...not to mention a simple and fun game to put a little time into.