Willow borrows heavily from The Legend Of Zelda style gameplay, adding a few RPG elements. Unfortunately, it fails to capture the essence of fun from either. You walk around on the outskirts of towns, find foes wandering aimlessly in forests and fields, and kill them with your sword or magic, gaining you experience. Sound typical enough? It is.
I suppose the backstory of Willow might make a bit more sense if one has seen the movie of the same name. Or, who knows, maybe it wouldn’t. I’ve never seen the movie, so I can’t really judge that. Regardless, the end result is, you’re on a mission to defeat an evil person, and save other people (isn’t that always the case?) You start out in the middle of your town, wander around getting a sword and some magic, and then head out on your journey.
Just like in other adventure/RPG games, you wander from town to town, talking to various NPC’s to gather what you hope will be useful information. (hint, it usually isn’t) On your journey, you’ll also pick up a variety of different magic spells, better swords, and equipment to provide defense. There are no “shops”. You obtain items and spells from NPC’s or from loot found from battle.
You gather information from various people in every town you visit. There is no mapping system, which is very frustrating because the game world is rather large. Of course, if you’re reading this you can also find maps online, but nonetheless. It can be a bit confusing at times to figure out what exactly you need to do or where to go next, but, usually a bit of wandering around can fix that.
The save system is rather butched. Due to tech limits and costs of the time, there isn’t a typical “select save file” system in Willow. Instead, you receive a code, “passwords” which you write down to save your progress. When you return to play later, simply input the code and you have your game save.
The graphics in Willow are very good. The towns have a number of houses and other things scattered around, all of which look nice. When you enter a house or talk to a person, you’ll enter a screen where you’ll see you and the person next to each other, and a close-up view of the person’s face. This has the effect of really pulling you in to the conversation you’re having. There are a good variety of enemies you’ll encounter, which all look interesting as well. Sound is rather good, the best aspect being that it changes often to fit the mood. That is, if you’re walking around outside, it will have a relatively calm tone to it, but when an enemy enters the screen, the pace will quicken. There isn’t too much variety in the music, but, the use of what’s there makes it stand out.
This game will definitely take a while to complete. It is a long and challenging game, and the controls do not help that. It never really gets too frustrating, but it will sometimes. Some of the bosses are tough, but the toughest part is trying to find all the items during this long quest. It will definitely take quite a few days to complete, but this is certainly not the most challenging game of all time. It is a decent challenge, however.
Controlling Willow is an exercise in frustration at first, but once you get used to the rather unique sword system than you should be good to go. I think the biggest flaw comes when you are battling enemies. When you go to face them, the game won’t let you turn, and you end up getting hit. This happened to me several times throughout the game, and it got more and more annoying each time. Also, you can’t jump, which is a minor complaint, but still a complaint nevertheless. The menu system can get a tad confusing at times, but for the most part, it is satisfactory. Needless to say, the control was not the best part of Willow, but it wasn’t totally horrible, either.
Overall, Willow is certainly a solid Adventure/RPG game that any fan of the genre should enjoy.
So, review round-up:
* Concept: RPG/adventure where you control Willow, a hobbit on a mission to save the world.
* Graphics: Very detailed, especially the NPC’s conversation. A true beauty on the NES
* Sound: Music is very mood appropriate. Sound is decent.
* Playability: Can be frustratingly hard sometimes, but overall solid.
* Entertainment: LONG adventure, but worthwhile.
* Replay: Low
Review Score: 7/10
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