Wizardry – Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

aaWizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord USAa 188x266 Wizardry   Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotDeveloper: Game Studio
Publisher: Nexoft

Released: July 1990
US Cartridge ID: NES-09-USA

Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Supported Peripherals: Controller

ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC1 (128k PRG, 128k CHR)

Requires Flash10

Originally released in 1981 for the Apple II home computer, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord was one of the biggest selling games of its time, easily holding its own against the first entry of the Ultima series. Considered revolutionary when it was released, Wizardry streamlined several aspects of gameplay from previous genre efforts, in additionabWizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord USA 001 256x224 Copy Wizardry   Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord NES Nintendo Review Screenshot to being among the first to feature color graphics. As one of the first dungeon-crawler games, Wizardry stands prominently as one of the major forefathers responsible for pioneering the concept of the electronic role-playing game, heavily influencing later developed western and Japanese RPGs alike.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord begins with the ruler of land, Trebor, waking to realize that his powerful magic amulet is missing. He discovers in its place a letter from the notorious wizard, Werdna, who, while taunting Trebor for his carelessness, warns him against pursuing the matter. Trebor, unwilling to let his prized treasure go without a fight, solicits the help of any skilled in the ways of combat, promising fame and wealth if successful. Trebor’s search for champions draws eager adventurers from all corners of the realm. Those who are brave enough are instructed to search the ten-story dungeon lying beneath the castle where Werdna lies in wait with the stolen amulet.

Beginning at the castle, the player may create a party of adventurers from scratch, or Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord USA 107 256x224 Wizardry   Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord NES Nintendo Review Screenshotchoose from a group of pre-made ones. Visiting the training grounds allows for the creation of a hero based on race, moral alignment, and skills that can be altered by applying bonus points to different skill ratings. Each character also must be assigned a class, but can only specialize in something appropriate to their base attributes. Once at least six characters have been established, they may party-up at Gilgamesh’s Tavern before leaving for the fight far below. Aiding the adventurers in their efforts are Boltac’s Trading Post (offering items, weapons, and armor), The Temple of Cant (saving those in need of purification or resurrection), and the Adventurer’s Inn (providing a place to sleep to restore health and magic, or gain levels if enough experience has been accrued). Once assembled and stocked, the party can then enter the maze and begin exploring.

Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord USA 209 256x224 Wizardry   Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotThe Wizardry maze plays host to the majority of the adventure, providing ten labyrinthine floors (each a 20×20 square grid) filled with monsters, treasure, keys, and special items. As there is no way to set camp away from the castle, the party can only venture as far as their current strength will allow: since a return to the surface is required to fully restore the adventurers’ health, the prudent party will stay near the entrance until they’ve become sufficiently strong enough to venture further without fearing instant death at the hands of the powerful wizards, warriors, and monstrosities that roam the hewn stone corridors.  No in-game map is provided, and navigation becomes nearly impossible after the first few floors without actively mapping progress on graph paper. This is largely due to the traps laid on many floors that attempt to mislead you, including teleporters, pits, and areas completely cloaked in darkness, though this can be combated later with a cleric who can learn a spell to show the map coordinates of the party’s current location.

aWizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord USA 005 256x224 2 Wizardry   Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord NES Nintendo Review ScreenshotWhile wandering the dungeon, the party will frequently come across monsters and enemy warriors. Occasionally the group will be friendly to the party and not attack, so long as the heroes show the same courtesy in turn. Encountering more aggressive creatures will  shift the game into combat mode, where each party member will engage their target in accordance with the player’s direction. Once defeated, the enemy party will drop either an item or a chest. Chests are typically booby-trapped, and unless properly inspected and disarmed before opening, will  cripple your party. Experience and gold are also gained from encounters, and can be used to strengthen the characters while resting at the Inn.

The NES edition of Wizardry, being developed six years after its initial Apple II release, features massively upgraded graphics and sound. Enemies, though not animated, are large and well detailed, and the player is given the choice of two graphic styles in which to view the first-person perspective dungeon crawl: one features textured walls and color graphics, the other is an emulation of the original’s wireframe look. The music is pleasant and provides a reasonable backdrop without becoming annoying or distracting.

Enjoying Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord requires a lot of patience, experimentation, and a willingness to fail. Hearkening back to the days of brutally Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord USA 176 256x224 Wizardry   Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord NES Nintendo Review Screenshotunforgiving difficulty, a party that has been developed over the course of hours can easily be wiped out in a single unlucky encounter, and there is never a guarantee that attempts to revive a dead ally will succeed. The game is extremely text heavy, and though it  is well written and clear, those with an aversion to reading will surely want to avoid it. The quality game play is addictive, but only those willing to invest dozens of hours in building their parties will ever see the quest to fruition. Wizardry is a good update of an excellent game, but it is undoubtedly an acquired taste.

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Nexoft, 7/1990
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Wizardry – Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord
Ascii, 12/1987