Reviewed in 2010 by Tibe

THE FOLLOWING IS A STORY OF FANTASY

by Tibe

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Magician Lord is one of the few platform games released on the venerable Neo Geo, an arcade machine where outrageously dominate pure and hard fighting games. Moreover, it's one of the first titles that was released on the system in 1990. Your servant has had the privilege to be part of the lucky ones who could play this amazing soft back then, and only the mere mention of this Alpha Denshi production gives me shivers down my spine. First "arcade/platform" title available on SNK's machine, Magician Lord remains still today the best of the genre on the support, more than twenty years later. If at the time, videogame press and players were amazed by the technical prowess of the title, it should be now put a damper. As we will see in this review, ML features some minor flaws, despite the aura that still surrounds the wizard Elta.

The "Castle of Devils" stage is a real labyrinth.
The "Castle of Devils" stage is a real labyrinth.

The first flaw that comes to mind is the animation of the main character, Elta. He - and his various transformations - has a quite jerky way of walking, despite a certain fluidity in the decomposition of his moves and good speed. Too bad, as it only deserved a little more attention from the programmers, although at the time this detail shocked nobody. Another most famous "flaw" of Magician Lord is its excessively high difficulty. Indeed, the platform parts require considerable precision for your jumps, and I don't even talk about the aggressiveness and recurrence of enemies. Basically, expect to spend a hard time! Apart from these two negative points, I barely see how to find another fault to our magician. The graphics are great for a game in 1990, with backgrounds standing as true monuments of pixel art. Right from the first stage, the player is transported into the phantasmagoric universe of Elta. We arrive in faraway areas of a fantasy world, populated by improbable beings and demonic creatures...

Magician Lord's world is unique in the videogame world.
Magician Lord's world is unique in the videogame world.

If the various levels are beautiful, the enemies are very well made too. Multifarious, well animated, they help you sinking into the dream of this game. Even on very busy screens, the action never slows down, which is a great achievement. The musical themes are not lacking in this rosy picture, with some epic melodies, devilishly well orchestrated, fully contributing to the atmosphere of the game. Quality for sure, but limited quantity, as these themes are few (five long pieces for eight levels, plus specific musics for the Mid-Bosses and for the Bosses). The sound effects are in tune with quality vocals and a huge range of effects (explosions, impacts, opening doors...) The gameplay is varied if not complex, as it 's possible to take six different warrior forms, based on the combinations of elemental spheres that you pick. In addition, power-up increasing the strenght of your shots are hidden throughout the levels. Take care, because the slightest blow will have you losing this bonus... That hurts! But you were warned, ML won't show any mercy.

The Raijin form is powerful but its range is more limited than others.
The Raijin form is powerful but its range is more limited than others.

Eight levels strewn with pitfalls await you. At the end of each, a "Pre-Boss" is waiting for you, then, once defeated, you will have to face the real one. These are sometimes huge, and require technique and dexterity to be struck down. However, each has its weak point for you to find. If you're a fan of Super Mario Bros or Sonic the Hedgehog, don't expect something similar with Magician Lord. Here we are dealing with a "platform-action game" for seasoned players, to book for hardcore arcade players. "Casuals" and rookies, take this good advice: go your way. Most curse it citing poor programming, collision problems, poorly designed gameplay, etc... True arcade lovers and challenging players, make no mistake on this. Magician Lord must be played like Ghouls'n'Ghost or any other Trail & Die: to progress you have to learn, sharpen your timing and perform accurate jumps. Alpha Denshi carries with this game a great arcade classic, that has stood the test of time with a remarkable elegance.


GRAPHICS

93%

The environments are superb and original, the enemies are well-designed, which help getting into the epic atmosphere of this title.
ANIMATION 78%
The main character’s animation is perfectible. The numerous side-scrolling and zoom effects, plus the well animated enemies improve the global picture.
SOUND 92%
Top-notch music and sound effects, plus high quality vocals: what could we ask more?
REPLAY VALUE 85%
Some of the eight stages are vast, and given the difficulty, clearing the game might require time!
GAMEPLAY 86%
Despite a difficulty which can be extreme sometimes, the nice control, the intense action and the six different warrior forms spice up the game.

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

89%
The best action/platform game on the Neo Geo: a remarkable, timeless classic on this system.

VALUE FOR MONEY

ML can be found for 40 euros, but prefer the euro version for its configuration: three health points, unlimited credits, checkpoints. Definitely a game to own in your collection!

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