#634 – Swords and Serpents


                                                                                                            Bringing the hotness.



                                                                   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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