Magician Lord Review

Magician LordMagician Lord (Available on Neo Geo MVS, AES, and CD)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: SNK
Developer: Alpha Denshi
Release Date: April 26th, 1990

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Magician Lord T for teen because of animated violence and blood.  You play as a wizard that shoot projectiles at enemies.  Enemies can be somewhat graphic, such as floating skulls, peeling flesh and that sort of thing.  Very young kids might get frightened.

Plays Like: Like most action platforms from the early nineties you have the ability to jump, and shoot in several directions.  The twist with Magician Lord is that you can find transformation orbs which grant new powers, and abilities.  If you’re looking for a series that it most closely resembles I’d have to go with Ghouls ‘n Ghosts.  You can expect an intense challenge, but it’s also a highly rewarding experience.

Review Basis: This is a game I used to play all the time in the arcades.  While I may have always sucked at it, for one reason or another it always pulled me back because of the cool looking main character.  I finished the game in the arcades by plunking in tons of quarters during one of my birthdays.  I still remember it because I spent a bloody fortune on this machine.  Needless to say, if you get easily aggravated stay very far away from this one.

Magician Lord was both a launch title for the MVS arcade system and the AES home console.  It has been released on a variety of digital formats including the Virtual Console on the Wii, and the Neo Geo Station on the PlayStation Network.  It was also included in SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 for the Wii, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable.  Needless to say, if you want to play Magician Lord, there are quite a few options available to you.  I decided to go all the way back to the original MVS cart, so this review is based on that version, and the video review was done by capturing footage from the MVS cart.

ML3The Great:

Even after so many years the game still looks great.  The large sprites are nicely detailed, the enemies look fantastic, and the scaling is wonderful.  The MVS hardware was touted for its great use of scaling and this game often makes use of two or three layers of scaling.  The audio is awesome.  The first level theme is one of my favorite, most likely because I heard it a million times when I used to play this game at the arcades.  All the music is memorable and catchy, which is exactly what you want from an arcade game.  I guess I should also mention the voice acting which is…well…it’s something alright.  Let’s leave it at that.

ML1The Good:

+ Similar to Ghouls ‘n Ghosts gameplay features non-stop action, and some platforming elements thrown in for good measure.  Players take on the role of Elta who shoots a small sickle projectile in four directions, left, right, up, and down (while you’re in the air).  He can also find special power-ups which grant him the ability to transform into powerful beings including the Dragon, Waterman, Poseidon, Shinobi, Samurai and Raizin.  Each has unique abilities, but you don’t stay in these transformations for long as getting hit only a few times reverts you back to the standard magician form.

ML4The So-So:

– Some of the level design hasn’t aged quite so well.  Hidden traps and danger zones are all over the place making your first time through stages a task in frustration.  Keep in mind the game was designed to eat quarters, and it does a very good job of that.

+/- The controls work well, but can occasionally feel a little too ridged, preventing you from dodging an incoming attack, for example.

ML2The Ugly:

Magician Lord is a very challenging game, often veering on the cheap side.  If you don’t finish a level quick enough an invincible enemy will hunt you down.  Often enemies will simply appear out of nowhere shooting projectiles at you, and unless you knew they were there ahead of time it’s almost impossible to dodge their attacks.  The only real way to finish this game is to die a billion times and memorize each and every enemy spawn point.  Good luck!

ML5The Lowdown:

Being one of the very first Neo Geo games I ever played Magician Lord will always hold a special place in my heart.  It’s also a great example of the power of the MVS hardware.  Certain aspects haven’t aged quite as well as some of Magician Lord’s contemporaries, but overall it’s still a very good title to check out on any platform you might have access to.  For arcade enthusiasts, if you can find the cart for a good price I say go for it!

Final Score: 7/10

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