Developer: American Sammy
Publisher: American Sammy
Released: June 1990
US Cartridge ID: NES-A5-USA
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 512 kilobit
Mapper: CNROM (32k PRG, 32k CHR)
The idyllic elven city of Arkista has long been the keeper of three legendary magical artifacts. The city’s ever-lasting peace is attributed to the power of Arkista’s Ring, its prosperity to the Wealth Amulet, and its immunity to influences from the outside world to the Elf Mirror. The halcyon days provided by these items could not last forever, though. The Forbidden Castle, lying at the fringes of the realm, was ruled by a cruel-hearted shogun who wanted these treasures for himself. The vile commander sent his ninja assassins to steal the treasures, and flooded the land with his own monster army. With Arkista and the rest of the Elven Kingdom plunged into darkness and despair, the terrified elves hide every day, not knowing what else to do. Christine, a young elf girl, steps forward with her bow and a promise to infiltrate the castle, end the shoguns reign of terror, and reclaim the kingdom’s treasures.
Arkista’s Ring consists of 125 stages played from a top-down perspective, similar to games like Dragon Warrior and The Legend of Zelda. Each of these stages, most of which are about two times the height of the screen, require Christine to kill enemies until a key appears that will clear path to the stage’s exit when used. The journey spans the entire elven kingdom, and our heroine must make her way from the volcano lying on the outskirts of the city of Arkista to the Ninja Dungeon in the Forbidden Castle, fighting through mazes, graveyards, and castles along the way. While 125 stages must be completed to see the game’s ending, the Shogun appears in Stage 31, and after he is defeated, you’ll obtain Arkista’s Ring. Stage 32 is the same as Stage 1, and the game will continue to loop until it has been completed four times. On each successive play, the enemies will continually become faster and more resilient, and their projectile attacks will be able to travel through walls to hit Christine.
Over the course of the adventure, there are several items that will help Christine immeasurably when picked up. In addition to standard weapon upgrades, health powerups, and point bonuses, several temporary use items can be stored in Christine’s inventory until needed, including reserve healing potions, a fire wand (allows her to shoot strong projectiles through walls), a thunder wand (wipes out all weak enemies instantly), a holy stick (will kill undead creatures), and a ninja stunner (will temporarily stun all ninjas onscreen). Pieces of armor can be picked up, each of which provides an additional hit that Christine can take before dying, and bags can be found to increase inventory space. The magical treasures that can be found over the course of the game provide the biggest benefits: Arkista’s Ring replenishes your life bar as Christine walks around, the Elf Mirror will deflect enemy projectiles, and the Wealth Amulet will grant (an albeit useless) 100 points for every step taken.
The first 31 stages are fun, fresh, and quite reasonable in their difficulty level. Unfortunately, Christine’s controls are not really equipped to deal with the enemy’s ability enhancements in later stages, even with the benefits provided by the artifacts. She cannot move nor shoot diagonally, and to aim, she has to walk in the direction that she wishes to shoot. For the first round of stages, the difficulty is well balanced to compensate for the shortcomings of the control scheme, but this balance disappears shortly into the second loop. The enemies move far faster than Christine, making it impossible in many cases to line up a shot without being hit. There is also very little invulnerability time after taking damage, so if an enemy makes contact, since Christine won’t be able to move out of the way before being hit again, it will inflict massive damage. When coupled with the swarming tendencies of the enemy artificial intelligence routines, the levels become virtually impossible to finish late in the game.
This problem is unfortunate, because it really negatively effects what is otherwise a decent game. The graphics are cutesy and colorful, though small, and the music is serviceable. Arkista’s Ring provides a fresh and fun take on the tried-and-true overhead action game during the first round of stages, but the gameplay falls flat on its face soon after.
American Sammy, 6/1990