The story involves a dragon having gained control over the king of Riccar, manipulating him into removing the Sword of Hope from a painting and releasing its curse. Summoning the dark power mammon the dragon turned the people of Riccar into trees. When Prince Theo is born, the king tries to murder him, but Theo is saved by the brave knight Pascal who flees with him into a forest where three magicians live who conceal the king’s castle underground to prevent the evil from spreading. After living in the forest for 15 years, Prince Theo is finally strong enough to try and stop the dragon, using the Sword of Hope one of the magicians had retrieved. (Description from Moby Games)
Sword of Hope combines adventure and RPG elements. The interface allows the prince to select commands such as
USE to interact with the game world, talk to NPCs or solve puzzles. When he encounters an enemy, the game switches to a turn based battle mode in which enemies have to be fought in typical console style RPG battles.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the screen transitions (and their sound effects) were pulled from Shadowgate, which would make sense as the port of that title to the NES was also published by Kemko/Seika.
Progressing through the game is fairly straightforward: the game world is split into areas that are behind gates that require keys. You find the magician in the area you have access to, who tells you where you need to go to find the key to the next area, which you do by slogging through a bunch of random encounters until you find said key.
The game teaches you a lot of spells, which are learned from scrolls or by levelling up. Your
MP levels (which deplete as you cast spells) can be restored using herbs you can find along the way or by buying them from the shopkeepers. I found myself grinding a bit early on to get money together to buy extra herbs so I didn’t have to keep using the
TELEPORT spell back to the shaman to heal up when I ran low on
You can also upgrade your weapon and armour along the way. Shopkeepers sell armour upgrades and as you complete the quests for the magicians they’ll power up your sword. You’ll need the extra stats as you progress as the random encounters occur VERY frequently and a bad grouping of enemies when you’re under-levelled will result in you getting your ass kicked back to the king.
Once you get near the endgame you’ll start fighting Druids, who cast strong attack magic or sap your
MP. You can’t run from these enemies, so you’ll have to stay and fight, but their stamina is so high you do very little damage … and they have 100HP. This is one of those scenarios where I’m glad I was playing on an emulator as you could fudge the outcome of the battles by saving, waiting, taking and action and if you didn’t like the result reload and try again (the RNG appears to be time based).
Eventually you work your way through the castle into the mirror world and find the painting of the dragon. When you do you have to fight the king (tough fight) then immediately fight the dragon (even tougher fight). I was only at level 19 when I made a run for the endgame, and the walkthroughs recommend level 25 or higher … and for good reason. These last 2 enemies are incredibly hard, but if you’re not playing this on a console and have save states you can manipulate luck enough to even the odds in your favour.
I loved my Game Boy when I was a kid, and remember playing this title back then. I hated the game because it was too hard and I didn’t have the patience to grind, but now (many decades later) I can appreciate the simple story, linear progression and level of difficulty. If you want to play this game as the developers intended you’ll find yourself grinding A LOT near the end to make surviving the random encounters easier.
One of the main drawbacks for me was having to face multiple multi-enemy grouping random encounters per screen as you try to make your way through the mirror world. It just seemed unnecessary and it became tedious and boring. I knew I was near the end so wanted to push through, but I can honestly say I’ll never pick this one up again as I can’t imagine fighting another Druid again …