Review by purifyweirdsoul

Reviewed: 03/02/04

An RPG for real men.

Back in the day, it meant something to finish an RPG. Telling your buddies that you finished a late Final Fantasy means...well, you beat a game that nine year olds can plow through with little trouble. NES RPGs are an entirely different story--they're tough. There is no love story, if much of a story at all. You die, you curse at the screen, you cry, you slam your head against any/all hard surfaces in your room...but, if you're like me, you like it that way. RPGs nowadays are walks in the park--cinematic graphics-fests where the teenaged dude and chick fall in love and $@&#. Not that I don't like some of them, mind you. But I digress.

Yes, Dungeon Magic is one of the hardest. But is the difficulty worth it? Is there fun to be had amidst the insane challenges? I will present the facts and the reader can decide.

Graphics (8/10)

I like this game's graphics. The entire game is first-person, like Wizardry or any given FPS. The graphics are rather good for an NES game, in my opinion, and equipment actually showing up on the character model in the lower left is cool. The palette is pretty varied, as well, and even though it's easy to get lost with most areas looking the same, it's to be expected from an 8-bit game. It could have been top-down, yes, but that would have made it another Dragon Warrior.

Gameplay (7/10)

DM has unique and interesting dungeon-crawl gameplay. You have magic, weapons, armor, items and inns in towns, an overworld and several dungeons/caves/towers to explore. It requires a bit of strategy, as well, since you can only pick one of the five schools of magic at the beginning and sometimes it is to your advantage to sneak past enemies rather than fight them all.

There are a few problems, however. The map spell cannot be used in towns, which are ironically hard to navigate. Shops, inns and wizards' houses are identical to empty, winding rooms that lead nowhere. There are no signs. All you can do to find out where what is would be to trace your steps and use the compass. I don't think this was intended to make the game harder, as getting around a town really shouldn't contribute to any such thing. More of a flaw, this. The townspeople will annoy you to no end, repeatedly telling you the same things over and over as they tend to magically jump in your way.

Difficulty (9/10)

This HARD. Hard like a teenager in the girls' locker room.

If you go back to town to save halfway through a dungeon, the enemies respawn...negating almost everything you've done there. The weakest enemy in the game can kill you with one hit at the start. At level 16 (pretty much the highest) and with the best sword and equipment in the game, you deal single digit damage to the near-300 HP final boss when he can deal 120 back to you faster than anything your character can dish out. Attack magic is powerful, but it, like 90% of all other magic, uses your HP as MP. You have to FIND where to go, wander around aimlessly until you happen upon what you have to do next. The hardest non-boss enemies in the game give you TWO experience points and little else, though you must fight through hordes of them regardless. You will, often, wander into areas you shouldn't yet go to and accidentally lose a day's work of playing. Your reason for not saving was so that there'd be no enemies to worry about, yet you should have. And you give the game over screen all sorts of verbal and physical obscenities.

So yes. Hard. I recommend you apprentice in Faerie magic first, as you can cast the ever-useful map spell. It makes things easier, but not by much. And speaking of have to figure out the combinations of runes for the spells yourself. Or just die trying to cast something you thought would work after wrongly arranging the runes in a pinch.

Music (7/10)

Music's cool. Nothing special, and there's not much of it, but I like it.

Replay Value (5/10)

Nothing's randomly generated and of course you don't get any sort of New Game+ or extra features, so playing it again would be solely just to prove to yourself you're still badass.

Overall (8/10)

Dungeon Magic is the Contra of NES RPGs. You love to hate it, it pisses you off when you die and lose an hour's work...but hey. Easy is boring and a man needs to confirm he doesn't outright suck at video games (as it's hard to tell if you do or not with newer releases).

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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