Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Lord of the Rings (Super NES, 1994)

Originally Posted: September 2010

Back in ye olden days of 1995, I played a little SNES game called Lord of the Rings Vol 1. This is hands-down one of the worst games I've ever played. Still, I went against my own best interests out of blind love (wouldn't be the last time) for the source material and played the hell out of this game. I never finished it, though. I reached the final dungeon and quit because it's a complete maze.

...wait a minute. "First Action Adventure RPG with real-time combat"? Ever heard of Secret of Mana, jerks?

Regardless, I totally hit this game up just to finish what I started long ago, and I got some screenshots in the process. The game uses a password system, so I found a password to skip to the final dungeon - albeit with underpowered characters - and went for it. This game may be awful overall, but the final dungeon is quite respectable. It's like the developers put all their energy into the Mines of Moria.

It took me maybe an hour and a half to do the final dungeon and finish the game, using maps extensively. Without maps... my God, that may well be one of the nastiest dungeons in gaming history.

Here we see the bastards responsible for this atrocity of a game. I hope you people are proud! I hope you're real proud of all the death you've caused!

Here we see Bilbo talking about his eleventy first birthday. ENGLISH MOTHERFUCKER! DO YOU SPEAK IT!

The title screen sports the Balrog, the game's final boss. I always thought there should be multiple Balrogs in the actual LOTR story. Perhaps a few guarding Mordor itself. Not that it matters with this damn game that ends 70% of the way through Fellowship. Were they planning to do five more Volumes?

This game's FOURTY-EIGHT* DIGIT password screen reminds me of that scene in Ghostbusters where the guys are climbing endless flights of stairs and getting increasingly exhausted. Would a save system have killed them?

* - Or if you're a hobbit, tenty-four eight

The password I use to get back to the final dungeon is...weird. Frodo has decent (if a bit low for this point) levels and his best weapon/armor. Gimli is a massively overpowered level 52 (and the game's murder-machine even without high levels, as he swings his axe in fast-forward). Aragorn and Sam are both level 17-ish like Frodo, and Pippin/Merry/Legolas, already the game's weaker characters, are all at level 1. Er? Well, whatever. I'll make it work.

Here's Hobbiton, land of the hobbits. Or as they are commonly known these days, halflings. The all-seeing eye of the Tolkien Estate sees all, lawyers at the ready.

I traverse the land on my way to Moria. I'm thankful to not have to play the rest of the game again, let me tell you. See Legolas right there? One of the game's 5482 glitches and problems is that Legolas doesn't do anything. Indeed, even after equipping him with his one weapon, he never, ever actually attacks. Seriously. This also means he can't level up.

You know who I'd like to "level up"? Arwen and Eowyn. Preferably simultaneously.

The Barrow Downs have this cool fog effect, which may well be the best thing the game does graphically. Check out Gimli kicking some Barrow Wight ass over there! You see that shit, Legolas? You see that shit? You got nothin' on the G-Man! You don't even attack!

Too bad I can't trade Legolas for a character who actually does something, like famed flamboyant farmer Tom Bombadil. That guy could totally nuke Mordor any time he felt like it by singing a song, but instead he just prances daintily to and fro through the dew-frosted meadows, waiting for a prince to sweep him away.

Our heroes take a moment to enjoy shrooms. You can't tell me that this crew wasn't high for most of their journey. I don't know why else they wouldn't think to take a couple horses. Or better yet, The Eagles.

Here's Bree, the crossroads town. Anyone who has played Lord of the Rings Online knows what a huge metropolis this is in that game. In this game, it's basically the pub and nothing else.

Crossing the green fields of harmonium on the way to Rivendell, as our heroes continue to walk...and walk. This is a zen experience.

Rivendell, much like Bree, is incredibly underwhelming, but we get a glimpse of the final character... Gandalf.

Boromir is SOL in this game. Sorry brah, we ran out of space on the SNES cartridge and couldn't fit you in. Had to have room for Legolas who can't attack anything. It's like having the Dalai Lama as a party member.

Lothlorien... that's where this game ends, not even at the end of Fellowship. I think it's pretentious that they put "Vol 1" in the title... like they really were expecting a series out of this endeavor.

I actually wouldn't have minded seeing a few more of these, just to see how they handled things as they progressed. Out of curiosity.

Here's the entrance to Moria. It's pretty nondescript. They missed a great opportunity to have a tentacle monster boss here, too. The Watcher or whatever it was called.

The Mines of Moria were built by dwarves... but then they were turned to evil. See, this is what Lord of the Rings as a world does brilliantly. Deep, dark places, where angels fear to tread. Middle-Earth is a treacherous place.

As for this game... Moria is the only good thing about it. This dungeon is freaky as all hell.

Time to finish what I started long ago.

There are five Gateway Gems in this game that unlock Moria, and one of the big objectives is to get them all. The funny thing is, you don't actually need to get them, because due to a glitch Moria unlocks on its own after a little while. Hilarious!

Legolas leaves for a bit and rejoins in the depths of Moria. Thank God, I don't think I could have held off the bad guys without him any longer.

There's Gandalf, who finally joins the party in the second-to-last room of the game.

Can I just say, this final dungeon was a tricky, difficult challenge, and even with maps it took a lot of brainpower to get through it. Kudos, Interplay. It's unfortunate that, most likely, only a few players even got to this point.

The drums kick in, and it's time to get the hell out of here. This is one of the more iconic moments in the saga, and the game actually manages to convey a bit of that.

Some super-weapons are found here, but they're hilariously bugged-out and actually reduce your attack power...usually. They're supposed to quadruple (or so) said attack power, but instead they make the attack power counter roll over so your power ends up lower. Which might explain why the final boss takes about 10,000 hits to beat: You were supposed to have these super-weapons for the fight...and they don't work.

Gandalf's character portrait is bad-ass. I thought so as a kid when I saw this game in Nintendo Power.

And actually, I owe a lot to this game...or at least NP's coverage of it. Reading about it there got me interested in swords/sorcery type games, which got me interested in RPGs. It also got me to read the Lord of the Rings books, and by extension a lot of other great books.

As a boss-thusiast, I bring you an extra large picture for the final boss, the Balrog. The animation on this thing is pretty sick, even though it only has one attack.

10,000 or so hits later (no, seriously, it's a lot, and it's possible your attacks don't actually damage it unless you let Gandalf die first) I win the day. I was proud, and would have celebrated if I hadn't spent most of the fight hiding Aragorn behind stuff while the CPU-controlled Samwise jabbed the Balrog to death somehow. I got involved when necessary. Would have done more, but the game bugged out and wouldn't let me use healing items during the fight. Or maybe that's a feature.



The fight took so long that I was starting to think it was glitched and couldn't end. So I'm pretty thrilled to see the Bridge of Khazad-Dum now accessible.

Victory is mine. It's an unfinished game from my childhood, finally overcome. Now I can stand tall and shake the heavens. NOW I AM A MAN!

Frodo sings a song about the dead Gandalf. What about Legolas, Merry, and Pippin, who all got one-shotted by the Balrog? WHERE ARE THEIR SONGS, DAMN IT?

The Eye of Sauron is still looming large. It's obvious they were planning more games after this one (at $60 a pop!)... nothing ever came of it, though, due to how incredibly bad this one was.

The credits, letting me know it's officially over. Yeah, they used real people to motion-capture the characters in the game. The game does have its cool points, like the graphics and music.

And that's it. It's good to take a moment and finish something that bested you in your youth. It's like having a midlife crisis where you have to go out there and catch that marlin that you never caught. And the marlin is like "who the hell?"



    Wow. I did not know this game existed. Thank you, Jericho, for making me aware of this strange Lord Of The Rings game.

  2. The elves can protect you? How the hell are they going to protect you if they never attack!

  3. I hear the PS2/Xbox game is pretty good, if a bit cookie-cutter.

  4. I am playing this game right now. The dungeons are way to dark and confusing...

  5. Best of luck to you on that one. If you finish the game, that's quite an accomplishment. The glitches and poor design make it so much more difficult than it needs to be.

  6. funny review! made me chuckle. i've never been able to get past a few minutes of this game.

  7. Thanks for reposting this! LOTR Vol. 1 is a deeply flawed game, but I've always been fond of it, partly because the music is great.

    1. + the music, I got to the Balrog and ended up giving up because it took so long to kill him even with Gandalf dead.

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