You many not know this but our next game is pretty historic as it was the first console role-playing game released in North America. In the early-to-mid 1980s RPGs in America were mainly found on computers and were mostly complicated titles like Wizardy and Ultima, while more ‘gamer-friendly’ entries such as Dragon Warrior were gracing the gaming platforms in Japan. Eventually Sega decided to bring console RPGs to the States and over the latter half of 1988 would introduce three RPG carts, beating out the first American NES RPG carts (Dragon Warrior, Hydlide and Ultima) by almost a year. This cart, which as originally created for Japanese computers by Kogado Software, was the one chosen to introduce U.S. gamers to the world of RPG’ing but is unfortunately not fondly remembered for several good reasons.
When you begin the game and name the hero you start at the castle to appear before the King of Arukas to get your marching orders. Basically evil monsters are roaming the Five Lands thanks to the Dark Lord Terrarin who has escaped from her prison and opened the Pandora Passage to enable the infestation. Long ago the heroic Iason imprisoned Terarrin yet prophesied that she would return so you, as a decendant of Iason, are tasked with defeating Terrarin and sealing said passage. So you embark on your journey through the Five Lands walking from town to town, slaying monsters for experience and money, rummaging through caverns to find mystical items and the rest of the standard PRG business. Along the way you must also find and enlist your three destined companions who will join you on your quest: fearsome warrior Guy, female dancer Medi, and hulking muscle Turo.
Once you begin your quest in earnest, those expecting the standard fullscreen overworld map showing your travels are going to be disappointed. Your movement is restricted to a small 5×5 grid in the upper right quadrant of the screen which only shows a fraction of your environment, making it unnecessarily difficult to navigate toward your destination. The rest of the screen is pretty much wasted as the entire bottom half is used for the health and experience meters and your stats, and much of the upper half is simply a still photo of your character(s) and the surrounding terrain which looks very nice but serves no real purpose. Thing is the background doesn’t change even when you go through forests and mountains. It’s worse when you enter the towns, as you get a still picture of your character standing in front of some building window while the grid has you wandering around to the different buildings and shops, none of which are labeled.
Naturally as you wander the land you’ll engage random evil creatures in one-on-one battles which use the standard Dragon Warrior interface. You view your aggressor through your character’s eyes as you select ATTACK from the menu to get in your shot before the enemy gets in its hit and you go back and forth until one of you dies. You earn experience points for each hit you land and maxing out your XP bar will extend your hit points and stats. Besting your foes earns you guilders and “character points”, plus some even drop valuable fangs. Unfortunately early RPG’s are known for requiring quite a bit of grinding and Miracle Warriors isn’t any different, in fact it takes it to the extreme. Your character doesn’t begin with any weapons or armor so you have to fight right out of the chute to raise the funds to equip yourself, but you’re pretty weak to start out and even the first few foes can seriously damage you. Battles happen with alarming frequency and are mostly boring since you mainly just hit ATTACK over and over without much strategy involved. You can use magical items to aid you but despite the presence of a SPELL command you don’t actually cast spells in battle; in fact spells are only used to unlock certain areas or recruit the other heroes. As a result it can take hours to make yourself powerful enough to handle anything.
Actually purchasing weapons and items from the towns is also a unnecessary headache. When you visit a shop to buy something you’ll discover that everything in the game is ludicrously overpriced, meaning you’ll have to fight lost of monsters to raise the necessary funds. Trouble is many of the creatures only drop fangs when you need guilders, plus all the damage you take from the battle will force you to constantly use your funds for healing and herbs (which you cannot use during battles). You can sell the fangs you’ve collected for a quick cash infusion, but some important items in the game can only be obtained by trading fangs for them so don’t be too quick to pawn them off. If that wasn’t enough your weapons and armor take damage as you use them in combat, meaning you have to often run back to town to have them repaired before they break unless you’re able to hire the blacksmith to join you. In addition you’d think finding your companions would enable you to gang up and pound monsters quicker, but the game allows only one of your characters to duke it out with the monster per turn, and said person is the only one who earns the experience from the battle, which somewhat defeats the purpose of having a posse. If one of your pals falls in combat, you might as well reload a saved game because it’s way too expensive to have them revived. Fortunately you can save your progress at any time, an you have five slots available.
Sadly Miracle Warriors doesn’t offer much for those willing to endure the non-stop frustration since it doesn’t have much outside the basic RPG elements and non-stop grinding. The world is mostly open for free-form exploration but there’s very little in the way of side quests other than the optional items you can find in certain locations and only a handful of dungeons are available to investigate, most of which are pretty short expect for the last one. Also forget about any sort of storyline progression since you have just the main quest and there’s not much characterization to flesh out your companions, who only have minor differences between them skills-wise. In fact the only real positives to this cart are the audio and visuals. The different music themes are catchy and fun to listen to, from the overworld to the battle scenes, and the sound effects do their job. Most of the screens sport vibrant backgrounds with plenty of colors and details, especially the enemy characters in the battle scenes which are well done and sport some cool designs. The rather notorious picture of Terrarin (the final boss) herself is certainly interesting to say the least.
So while Miracle Warrior’s place in U.S. gaming history won’t be denied and it may have been somewhat decent for its time, it’s pretty unplayable by today’s standards. The basic ingredients are present and it does offer plenty of open exploration but it’s archaic design, sluggish battles, excessive required grinding and other headaches will have you wondering how the RPG genre survived this rough intro to the American audience. Thankfully better representation shortly came along as Sega released the far superior Phantasy Star just a few months after this one, rendering this cart obsolete. Check out this cart for the historical aspect but you won’t get any blessing from this miracle.