Lord of the Sword Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

Sometimes, while console companies are competing, programmers will often share ideas, willingly, to others, leading to a number of similar games for different systems. For example, for the SMS you have Wonder Boy and the essentially stolen title of Hudson’s Adventure Island. In that case, the programmers weren’t willing to give up their ideas, but the similarities are striking. You usually saw this with platformers or shooters, rarely with adventure or RPG style games until certain standards became basic format to expect in every title and thus there really wasn’t much designers could do without looking similar to other titles. Enter Lord of the Sword. Seeing the popularity of Nintendo’s Zelda franchise and the then soon to be released Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Sega figured they’d take a crack at the genre and released this title roughly around the same time. It has a few faults, but is definitely a title to check out. It’s an excellent blend of adventure/RPG elements with plenty to offer.

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Graphically, Lord of the Sword has some impressive elements and only a few that could have used some work. There’s an excellent color scheme with tons of detail, especially when talking to villagers or creatures. The landscapes are impressive showing some sweeping mountains with dual scrolling and excellent backgrounds, not to mention levels where you walk in-between trees instead of just in front of them. The majority of the enemies look wonderful, but a few are poorly animated and look kind of silly. The book thief, for example, falls from the sky, slashing as though out of step, disappears and then appears again to attack you. It looks awful, but thankfully there isn’t much like this in the game to pull this score down too much. The bosses are well animated and interesting, just a few areas where some more detail or movements could have been worked out to make it perfect. A few enemies are positioned in areas so you can’t see them until they attack, which is somewhat annoying because they blend in with the grass and such, but I can’t say it necessarily looks bad. Some of the enemies are just a bit strange to have in this type of game. Giant catepillars hiding in the weeds don’t strike me as frightening. Landau, your character, has an absolutely classic gait that truly captures the feel of the game, but this was somewhat marred for me due to the fact that his sword slashing movement doesn’t seem to fit with the whole lord idea, more of a golfer who gets angry after missing a shot. Some of the levels feel rushed as well, but it didn’t seem to be too much of an issue for me. But overall this game looks impressive with a world map, tons of enemies and so forth. My only major gripe with the graphics is that when you bring up the world map you have no way of telling exactly what your position is, adding an icon or blinking thing so you knew would have been nice. I did notice one boss that had some pretty heavy glitching as well, and it was consistent, so there was an obvious problem in the code there.

Lord of the Sword also has some pretty decent sound. The Japanese version, for those of you who care, has FM sound, which essentially makes the game sound like it’s a 16-Bit system. Considering that I’m going to throw the score pretty high because it’s an impressive example of old 8-Bit technology. Otherwise, you get the regular soundtrack and effects, which are essentially the same thing, just a bit cut down. The opening theme is a bit weak for the kind of game you’re playing, but has something of an epic quality to it. The main theme, however, fits perfectly with the action and game movements. Couldn’t have been better, other than the fact that it doesn’t change at all, but it seemed long enough to not bother me. Otherwise, it has this adventurous feel to it with a tempo that goes along with Landau’s beast walk. The majority of the effects work well, can’t say I had any problems there. Overall, nice job with the sound.

The gameplay is also a strong area for Lord of the Sword, and thankfully the strongest part of all because with a game like this you need it. Essentially, this was Sega’s partial answer to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, minus the overhead map segments. You have three quests to complete before taking on Ra Goan to save the kingdom, and along your way pick up various items, including different weapons. There are villages to investigate, bosses to locate and destroy, as well as an enormous world with plenty of secretes to uncover. The controls are a bit strange because they have jump as up on the Directional Pad. The reason is due to the fact that one button operates your sword and the other your bow. Both weapons have their uses and the game has been programmed to make sure you use both equally, so good job with that. In addition, you don’t really need to jump that much so the Directional Pad issue isn’t a problem. Overall Lord of the Sword is a lot of fun, but it isn’t without a few annoyances that I should mention.

First off, to go back to the map issue, since you can’t tell where you are by looking at it, it’s easy to get lost due to how the roads have been positioned. For example, in some areas you’ll be walking and pass a set of stairs going up to the left. Due to the design of the map, it should actually be straight ahead into the screen instead of up to the left, but this is apparently the only way they could think to make it obvious where you needed to go. Can’t say it didn’t get me pretty damn confused a few times. Second, though there’s plenty to do, the enemies get pretty tedious after awhile. They don’t get any more difficult as you progress and are generally the same ten creatures or so with different sets for different areas. Eventually, when you’re trying to go the whole way to the other side of the kingdom, you’ll get tired of going through the same areas again and again fighting the same boring enemies, which is what you have to do in certain instances to find exactly what you need to go further.

In addition, the integration of the villages is somewhat weak since you can only enter one house and for some reason they made it so that you need to occasionally talk to the same villager several times so they say the one sentence you need to hear to access a new area. Not too much of a problem though strange. However, the biggest problem I had was the bosses, way too easy. The majority of them will be finished off the first time you play them, and the only ones that give you any trouble do so because they mindlessly slash away and if you come upon them without full health it’s just a matter of who hits who first. The last boss, for example, is so pathetic I was pretty diasppointed with it. It takes longer than it needs to to kill him, but at least when you do you get a decent ending when you return to the castle. Another major problem with Lord of the Sword is the complete lack of a password or save feature. Big mistake. What you end up doing in this title is going so far, using all your continues and then starting all over again to get so far, die and then get further the next time. Though this made for some replay value, it was the wrong kind of replay value. A password/save feature is essential for this type of game due to the length of play and the depth, but oh well, it’s still fun in the long run.

Lord of the Sword isn’t exactly creative in its basic format, it’s just another adventure/rpg style title that draws from games like Kid Icarus, The Goonies II and others that came before. Still, it’s nice to see this kind of game on the Master System because there weren’t many games like this released for it. It has a few features to set it apart like the dual weapon capabilities, but in general there really isn’t too much that’s new here. They did a good job with it, but didn’t exactly push the envelope. However, as I mentioned earlier, this genre was pretty much solidified at this point, so there really wasn’t too much that could be done with it. In fact, many games of this type even today follow the same concepts.

As I commented on above, this game definitely has replay value, at least at first because you’ll have to come back to it several times before you can complete it. Though I seemed to hint this was annoying, I actually had a lot of fun with it and even looked forward to playing it before I got home from work. As for playing it again, I could definitely see myself giving it a go, it’s a fun game overall and once you have everything figured out it can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. The game length is good for this type of game, there are several hours of play to be had here the first time around, which is one of the reasons I was upset at the lack of a password/save feature, but in terms of length Lord of the Sword has it.

Lord of the Sword is a nice addition to the Master System library, providing a good competitor to games on the NES such as The Goonies II and fitting nicely with the adventure/RPG genre. It isn’t the most creative game, not that it could have been really, but it definitely presents well and plays well, which are what count the most. In certain respects it was an attempt at duplicating the gameplay of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but regardless, since programmers do this sort of thing all the time, it manages to make itself distinct in enough ways that it’s worth a look for fans of the adventure/RPG genre and SMS fans in general.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.5
Written by Stan Review Guide

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