Retronauts Micro Welcomes Fabio to USgamer

Or at least a passable effigy of Fabio, anyway, courtesy of this week's topic: Rare's Wizards & Warriors for NES.

Column by Jeremy Parish, .

Last week, your friends at Retronauts and USgamer went in-depth on the history of Rare, one of the greatest and most prolific developers ever to emerge from the UK's vibrant PC gaming scene of the '80s. This week, I'm doing that Blade Runner thing where you focus in on a specific spot in the image and mumble, "Enhance."

Specifically, I'm looking at one of the most significant games (and franchises) in Rare's history, yet one of the most overlooked. It may not have shaken the heavens like Knight Lore did, nor did it crush the spirits of millions of children the way Battletoads and its nigh-impossible difficulty level did. It also didn't feature fancy graphics to impress the rubes, a la Donkey Kong Country, and it didn't revolution a genre like Goldeneye 007. Nevertheless, Wizards & Warriors for NES deserves a place in the history texts regardless, simply for what it represents in Rare's evolution. And that's what I explore in this week's Micro episode:

As we mentioned last week, Rare would go on to become the single most prolific developer of NES games that we know of — maybe TOSE had them beaten, but TOSE's not saying. With something like 50 games under their belt, Rare singlehandedly accounted for nearly a tenth of all NES games released in the U.S. — not bad at all, considering they got started with the system several years later than most Japanese studios.

This episode centers primarily on the original Wizards & Warriors, though of course we all know and love the sequel Iron Sword simply for the fact that its cover depicts '90s romance novel cover heartthrob Fabio, before he became the butter-substitute-peddling hunk health-conscious grocery shoppers the world over came to love and adore. And then there was Wizards & Warriors X, the first-ever game developed and published for Game Boy by Western creators — an echo of Wizards & Warriors' place in gaming history. Sadly, the series vanished after the NES trilogy came to an end and Rare changed its approach to development for the 16-bit era, but for those who were there at ground zero of the NES's arrival in the U.S., the series holds a faint yet fond place in our collective heart. So download the latest episode (and subscribe to the show!) to relive those heady early days of Nintendomination.

Download links:

Libsyn (7:07 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud


After last week's in-depth blowout on Rare, Jeremy pauses to look briefly at one of the company's most significant yet underappreciated creations: 1987's Wizards & Warriors for NES.

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Comments 13

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  • Avatar for ryanbarrett77 #1 ryanbarrett77 3 years ago
    Deleted March 2015 by ryanbarrett77
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  • Avatar for wegum #2 wegum 3 years ago
    These games are so odd and fixated upon vertical movement, it's like the combat is completely incidental. Even when the games added more adventure elements in the sequels, it's almost just window dressing for RARE's Chutes and Ladders simulator. They always knew just where to stick a slope at the top of the level so that you hit it and slide allllllll the way back down.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #3 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @wegum I think this being a British game it would be "Snakes and Ladders," but yes! Great comment.
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  • Avatar for ericspratling56 #4 ericspratling56 3 years ago
    Heck yeah, Wizards & Warriors! This game was one of those "it's not really great but it's one of the games I owned the longest and/or one of the few games I had for a while, so you damn well BET I'm going to play the hell out of it for years" games for me.

    Doesn't hurt that it's not really difficult: the infinite continues (from EXACTLY the place you died! Screw checkpoints, man) meant that aside from occasionally having to find your way around, get the right item, or scrounge up enough gems to move on, the only real challenge was getting through a boss all in one go, since their health would reset every time you died. Or keeping your health high enough so that you didn't have to hear that abominable "almost dead!" music.

    Another oddity to the combat is that even though you can mash the B button to flail your sword around, that ostensibly primary weapon is nullified almost from the beginning; the majority of combat in W&W is from launching the throwing dagger/axe you never run out of, or just straight leaping into enemies with your sword out. There's also occasional sub-weapons, but you're a fool if you ever trade those out for the special Open Any Chest Without A Key boots you get on the first level (which also have a short-range attack, and are the only thing that can take out those tiny little skulls which shoot at you).

    Never could get all that into Ironsword. Seemed like it was too many complications (purchasing upgrades, etc) to the childlike purity of the original. Speaking of which, aside from Fabio on that game's cover, W&W got few more boosts of pop culture popularity by being the subject of one of those ridiculous "Worlds of Power" books (which you better believe I read) AND by having Kuros as one of the main characters of the Video Power cartoon.

    Apologies if all of this has been covered in the episode already, as I haven't got a chance to listen to it yet.Edited March 2015 by ericspratling56
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  • Avatar for garnsr #5 garnsr 3 years ago
    Will Jeremy continue to pronounce "Patreon" the same way as everyone else I've heard, or will he go back to saying it like "It's Pat?" It's weird to hear Bob pronounce it like pate, then hear Jeremy say it like Pat right afterwards, as happened in a recent Retronauts.

    It doesn't seem like Rare made that many games, and it's hard to believe that they were the first and only Western NES dev for a while. I guess it was harder to tell Western games from Japanese ones than it is today, so more Japanese ones didn't feel so Japanese, and they were published by companies with American names so I didn't think about it too much then.

    Wizards and Warriors was one of the few games with the Acclaim label on it that you didn't have to run screaming from. I had forgotten there was ever a time when Acclaim didn't mean a game was absolutely terrible.Edited March 2015 by garnsr
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #6 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 years ago
    Ooooh, I have to listen to this one! I love Wizards & Warriors, and due to the lack of anything being done with it since the NES, it's one of the games I most hate having lost from my collection when my dad abruptly moved and tossed all my stuff. =(

    Since Rare properties being farmed out to other developers is sort of a thing now, I still want WayForward to take up the Brightsword and either forge new adventures or update the originals-- I never got into Ironsword or the third game as much (never mind the nigh-inaccessible Game Boy game), so seeing those remastered with a nice bit of polish would be most welcome indeed.

    Side note: I still need to get the Worlds of Power book, but I always liked Kuros and Malkil going at it on Video Power. Malkil was interesting in that regard as well, as he also appeared on Captain N, but Kuros did not.Edited March 2015 by LBD_Nytetrayn
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  • Avatar for RedStripe #7 RedStripe 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Jeremy that opening joke was awful. Please hand in your podcasting license to the nearest pun police station.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #8 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    Oh man, the pronunciation police really do love this podcast.
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  • Avatar for NinjaMic #9 NinjaMic 3 years ago
    Fabio should be a DLC character for Mortal Kombat X.
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  • Avatar for ericspratling56 #10 ericspratling56 3 years ago
    @RedStripe It's simply not a Retronauts episode if there ain't a groan-inducing Dad Joke at the beginning.
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  • Avatar for RedStripe #11 RedStripe 3 years ago
    @ericspratling56 Oh I know, wouldn't have it any other way.
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  • Avatar for RedStripe #12 RedStripe 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Was that aimed at me? Given that you corrected someone on the proper British for Snakes and Ladders I can't help but think you bring it upon yourself.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #13 jeremy.parish 3 years ago
    @RedStripe Did you write anything about pronunciation? No, I didn't, you paranoiac. It's not always about you! Gosh!
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  • Avatar for RedStripe #14 RedStripe 3 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Ha ha guilty as charged. I re-read the comments after posting and saw the offender in question, decided to leave my awfully narcissistic note as a future warning to those who would dare sass Jeremy Parish.

    *ahem, you, I* "Did you write anything about pronunciation? No, I didn't, you paranoiac" *ahem*

    [Fake Edit] Enjoyed the cast as usual, the only podcast I listen to these days.Edited 4 times. Last edited March 2015 by RedStripe
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