#634 – Swords and Serpents


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                                                                   Goblins are known for shanking ’round these parts.


PLAYERS: 1-4 simultaneous


DEVELOPER: Interplay


RELEASE DATE: August 1990


The NES really wasn’t built for first-person RPGs. Games such as Might and Magic and The Bard’s Tale were ambitious, clunky computer ports that left much to be desired. Imagine my surprise, then, upon playing Swords and Serpents. No cumbersome interface, no choppy movement, and no forcing mouse-and-keyboard controls onto an NES controller. It’s a first-person dungeon crawler that crawls like a champion.


Up to four human players (yes, really – with the aid of an NES Satellite or Four Score) can navigate through sixteen levels of a dungeon, fighting creatures, collecting loot, and leveling up. Your classes are Warrior, Thief, and Magician. Create a custom party or let the game build a well-balanced party for you. While navigating menus can be cumbersome, combat is quick and engaging. Instead of having options for ATCK, DFND, or MAG, you attack the foe’s body by button-mashing ‘A.’ However, you can also target other part’s of the enemy’s body by pressing ‘Up,’ ‘Left,’ or ‘Right’ on the D-pad, along with ‘A.’ Magic is accessed by pressing ‘B’ when a Magician is highlighted during the brawl. You start the game off with two spells (Heal and Flash Fire) but acquire others as you traverse through the dungeons. The atmosphere is eerie, the enemy designs are well-animated, and navigating the dungeons is addicting, and true to the genre, merciless at times.


Why does Swords and Serpents succeed where others like it have gone wrong? It was built from the ground up for the NES, and it shows. Simple menus, limited commands, and an easy-to-understand map interface all point to an efficient console design (not bashing computer RPGs, but they really didn’t translate well to consoles in the old days). Swords and Serpents offers little outside of combat and exploration, but if you’re serious about your old-school dungeon crawling, that’s all you’ll need.




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  • I remember this one. I think it was just a weekend rental. I believe I liked it well enough, but never did beat it.

  • Sleepyweasel

    Loved this style of game. I agree that the PC ports lacked oomph on the little 8 bit NES, but every now and then a good one would come along. Like the comment above I too never beat it, but I still enjoyed my time with it.

    P.S. I seem to remember enjoying the instruction manual. I like how old games came with big manuals and now they sell that shit as Strategy guides. Lame.

    P.P.S. It works and I can see new additions on the NES games list. Thanks!


    • DylanCornelius

      I can't imagine how long it would take to beat this game. I spent quite a bit of time with it, and I didn't get very far at all. The instruction manual was MASSIVE. I know because I consulted it for this review.

      Also, about the NES games list: that's my bad. I really should update the list every day, but I don't. Feel free to get on my case again in the future!

  • yan

    I miss playing those games. I remember spending whole weekends at a friend's house playing Bard's Tale on his commodore 64. We only had the 1st disc or cassette (cant' remember which) and we couldn't complete the game, but still we played non-stop!

  • Rom Woodhouse

    Excellent game – so atmospheric. I never finished it either.