Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole was the first game developed by Climax Entertainment on its own, having previously worked on both Shining in the Darkness and Shining Force with Camelot Software Planning (then Sonic Software Planning). A far cry from those turn-based affairs, Landstalker is an action adventure not far off from Zelda in many respects. It begins with a rousing, Indiana Jones-style cut scene in which the elven hero, Nigel, claims the treasure of an ancient temple and avoids various traps. He then runs into a fairy named Friday and together they go off to an island in search of the legendary treasure of King Nole. Though this makes it seem like the game takes place in a small area, the exact opposite proves to be true.
Nigel’s adventure consists of wandering the island, venturing to various towns and dungeons, helping out those in need in the quest to find the legendary treasure. Though the game proceeds mostly in a linear fashion, Nigel is free to travel to previous locations and search for secret items. Using a isometric camera, Nigel moves only diagonally, which can take some getting used to. Landstalker involves plenty of platforming, so this camera angle can cause a lot of problems at times when needing to make precision jumps. Combat in the game is quit simple, using simple sword strikes against mostly easy foes. More power weapons and armor can be obtained as things progress, along with various healing items, but on the whole gameplay doesn’t change much throughout the adventure, with no new tools being acquired like in a Zelda game.
None of the game’s individual gameplay aspects are particularly engaging on their own. Monsters have incredibly simple patterns, and there’s no upgrades for combat outside of a few new swords and armor, along with increasing life capacity. Platform challenges increase in difficulty as the game goes on, but generally use similar tricks such as disappearing and moving platforms. Puzzles can be challenging but often stick to using blocks and boulders to hit various pressure plates. Despite this, the game manages to be far more than the sum of its parts. The story is well localized for the era and does a good job of enticing the player to keep going as they get closer to finding the secret of King Nole’s treasures. The various towns and dungeons in the game are different enough to make the island feel very diverse and worth exploring. Most important of all, the dungeons mix combat, platforming, and puzzles very well, ensuring that none of the three elements is generally overused.
Of course, hiding its weaknesses well doesn’t mean the game hides them completely. In particular the isometric view can become infuriating during difficult platforming segments. There are also instances where the player will need to grind for gold, which is not fun by any stretch of the imagination. The music is also not a strong point for the game, reusing a small number of tracks for most of the game. It may not be Sega’s Zelda, lacking the polish of that venerable series, but Landstalker establishes itself as a long and charming adventure, if a somewhat flawed one.
Article by Michael Apps
GameSpite Journal 12: Landstalker
9 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Landstalker”
I’d have that exact same stupid grin on my face if I were standing on top of a giant eagle. Sometimes, all it takes is a few pixels.
Landstalker…It’s not so much having an isometric perspective that bugs me as it is how the game decided to handle movement from an isometric perspective, and the way it handles it is by locking you into a particular diagonal axis (NW/SE or NE/SW) on the D-pad and requiring you to press actual diagonals to either move sort of properly or change axes. It makes the game’s isometric platforming a lot more touchy and infuriating.
Still, it’s a pretty neat game. I’d probably enjoy it a lot more if the movement controls weren’t so stupid.
I saw the list of whats in the new issue and I was waiting for this article! This is my #1 favourite 16-bit game, nothing on the console comes close for me. I obsessed over this game for ages. In hindsight it does have flaws but I never noticed them as a kid. And the music is a bit repetitive but I still think its amazing and it has stuck with me to this day.
Absolutely love this game. Always imagined Alundra as the proper sequel to Landstalker, seeing as we never got Ladystalker on the SNES in the US. Hell between Landstalker, Crusader of Centy and Beyond Oasis, Genesis trumps SNES overhead RPG-Adventures – not including Link to the Past, which of course trumps the entire game library of both systems imho :)
Well, the closest we’d get to Landstalker on the Genesis again was Light Crusader, and it was a bit different. It didn’t have the heart and soul of Landstalker, but it did control a bit better.
Alundra probably is the closest thing to a sequel, and was a great, great game. Much more somber, though, which is a little jarring, but the removal of the isometric view definitely helps the playability of the game.
As regarding SNES action-RPGs, don’t forget about Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma (one of my absolute favorite games of all time), Secret of Mana, and Secret of Evermore. (Although Terranigma may not count if we’re limiting ourselves to US-only releases.) Still, Beyond Oasis is the one that really jumps out at me, and it pained me that its Saturn sequel didn’t play nearly as well.
Sadly, the PSP remake of this game never happened. I was excited for that one.
Sarge is right, SNES had lots of great ones (I love Terranigma, still haven’t been able to beat it) There was also Lagoon, Brainlord and Twisted Tales of Spike McFang, but I always felt more immersed in the Genesis ones for some reason.
Closest thing to a sequel was Dark Savior on the Saturn, but it didn’t have the same epic feeling. It has a short, focused story with a number of different endings.
Yeah, Dark Savior was a really odd one. Sort of a fighting game in battle, and there were… five endings? Something like that. The opening sequence affected your path.
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