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Magician Lord

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Released: 1990

Genre: Platformer

Format reviewed: Neo Geo

Publisher: SNK

Developer: Alpha Denshi

Submitted by: Hereward Proops

One of the Neo Geo's launch titles and fondly remembered by many as the console's first killer app. Magician Lord is a dark-fantasy themed platformer that remains great fun to play and is a must-have title for any serious collector of Neo Geo games. For those not lucky enough to own a Neo Geo, a port of the game is available on Wii's Virtual Console.

Players take control of the wizard Elta on a quest to locate the eight tomes of mystical power in order to overthrow the evil wizard Gal Agiese. In classic platforming style Elta must jump, shoot and climb his way through the sprawling levels, facing all manner of evil beasties before squaring off against an end of level boss.

Whilst it could never be said that Magician Lord was an original game, it was very highly regarded for some time as being a great showcase for the power of the Neo Geo. The graphics, for their time, were truly outstanding. Large, detailed sprites and a huge palette of colours made the game stand out from the crowd but it was the number of impressive graphical effects such as sprite scaling and multiple layers of parallax scrolling that put the game head and shoulders above other arcade games of the time

Twenty years on, modern players might not find the game graphically dazzling but it is still a blast to play. Like Altered Beast, it is possible to collect power-ups that transform your character into a variety of different forms. There's a fire breathing dragon, a Neptune guy who chucks water bombs, a samurai warrior and, being a game from the nineties, a ninja. Players used to the gentle hand-holding of recent games will be turned off by the game's difficulty but the game's arcade roots must be remembered and taken into account.

The game's music is great (particularly the first level) and the terrible "Engrish" of the cut scenes is almost impossible not to like.

On a console mainly remembered for its 2D fighters, Magician Lord stands out as a unique and very playable title. Whilst its high level of difficulty may terrify younger players, it will remind older gamers exactly how it was they managed to blow all their pocket money at the arcades.