Neo Geo Station - Magician Lord

Great music and decent visuals still hold up in this SNK arcade classic. Unfortunately, the gameplay does not.

By azn_pride, Posted 06 Feb 2011

Originally a launch title for the both Neo-Geo arcade and AES home platform, Magician Lord is a 2D action platformer has been ported to subsequent platforms such as the Playstation 2, Nintendo Virtual Console, and more recently, the Playstation Network. Those who've played the original will be glad to know everything has remained intact, from the sufficient graphics to the pretty amazing soundtrack that surprisingly still hold up today. Sadly, the game's incredibly rigid controls and hard difficulty don't.

Players take control of the wizard Elta with the left analog stick or the directional buttons (whichever you prefer). Elta can also jump to avoid obstacles, cross ledges, and evade enemy projectiles, though he can also shoot his own projectiles to kill enemies. As simple as that sounds, it's not enough to get past a level unscathed. While his normal form is relatively weak, Elta can find and collect different colored orbs to augment his magical abilities. Specific colored orbs scattered throughout the game trigger various transformations granting Elta unique skills, like the ability to breathe fire or generate electricity. Not only can Elta equip one orb at a time, but two. Collecting two of the same colored orbs may transform Elta into a much powerful version of the original, depending on the color obtained. These orbs also give Elta additional effects, ranging from jump boost to enhanced strength.

Neo Geo Station - Magician Lord Review
Collecting orbs gives Elta the edge in battle.

The objective of the game is basic enough; fight through waves of enemies, open doors, encounter a mini-boss, cutscene with evil wizard who says a few words, defeat main boss, finish the level. By the time you complete the first two stages, you've seen pretty much everything Magician Lord has to offer. Though the game tries to stave off its repetitiveness with a large variety of different types of monsters, it's just all purely cosmetic, as the enemy AI behaves roughly the same throughout the game.

Neo Geo Station - Magician Lord Review
You know he's a villain when he's got an evil mustache.

Challenge comes with plenty of trial and error, as Magician Lord's unforgiving nature doesn't give you substantial amounts of down time to recover from getting hit. The moment you do get hit, you'd potentially be dead in a matter of seconds. With only three health bars and two extra lives at the beginning, players are pretty much put in a lose-lose situation where attempting a "don't stop for nothing" approach is probably not the wisest thing to do. So you'd think the logical approach would be to take it nice and slow, but the game forces you to keep moving forward and never gives you any opportunity to take a breather. Staying idle in a level for too long will even summon a seemingly invincible creature that will continue to harass the player until they've completed a particular part of the level. Or in many frustrating cases, die. Magician Lord takes lots of patience and great amount of skill to get through, though the difficulty can still be punishing either way.

But the underlying problem doesn't necessarily lie in the constant hordes of enemies the game keeps throwing at you. The biggest frustrations reside within the game's extremely stiff controls. Dodging spike pits, stalactites, and flying bugs are already a hassle, but Elta's awfully slow movement definitely puts a damper on things. Trying to predict a boss's movements and actions can be a harrowing experience, and the best I can explain that is when you have an idea on what the AI's going to do next and quickly act on it, only you didn't dodge in time because Elta either didn't respond in time or wasn't fast enough. The only saving graces of the gameplay are the inclusion of checkpoints and the ability to save your progress. Whenever you clear the first half of the level, you automatically start on the second half instead of from the very beginning. Also, it doesn't matter how many lives or continues you go through, thankfully. Though this is the only sigh of relief you're ever going to get out of Magician Lord, believe me; it is a luxury in and of itself.

Neo Geo Station - Magician Lord Review
Why hello there, ladies.

Overall, Magician Lord's 16-bit graphics hold up pretty well. Character sprites are well detailed and there's some fairly excellent parallax going on in the background. Every stage has its own unique design that gives each level a distinct feel. Some of the animations seem stilted in spots, but overall, satisfactory to the eye. On top of the game's adequate visuals, Magician Lord also has a great soundtrack that stays progressive throughout play and plausible sound effects such as quality explosions and fine use of vocal grunts/screams (though personally, the main villain should've sounded more menacing).

From the looks of things, everything in this PSN port remains faithful to the original Neo-Geo arcade version, save for some nice little additions such as online play and the game's soundtrack to enhance the play experience. Unfortunately, Magician Lord is more suitable for die-hard fans of the game or the very skilled players that are always looking for a challenge. As for others who I predict will spend their time grieving over it (as yours truly), you're better off watching another player play the game--preferably someone really good.

David Gabriel, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): SCEA
Developer(s): SNK Playmore
Genres: 2D Platformer
Themes: Action, Arcade
Release Date: 2010-12-21

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