Dragon Quest was of course an extremely influential game in its time, instrumental in pulling Japanese RPGs from their crude beginnings and showing a high level of polish and imagination that set a high standard for future games and remains a hallmark of the series even today. Even in its earliest days, though, there were plenty of games that drew heavy inspiration from it; some quite good (Final Fantasy, Phantasy Star), others hilariously awful (Hoshi wo Miru Hito), and still others just okay. Ghost Lion falls into the last of these categories, though it does at least have some unique mechanics and an amusingly off-beat presentation to help it stand out. Instead of levels, hit points and magic points, you get Hope, Courage and Dreams, and though there is only one central protagonist, you summon allies to aid you in battle through magical foci. There are quite a few, too - you begin with a spear that summons the tribal warrior Moja, but by the end you'll be calling up giants, armored dwarves, giant frogs, wizards, gnomes and several others. Each runs off a "Power" meter that both fuels their attacks and serves as their health, and once it hits zero, they vanish. However, you can immediately summon them again at full power without penalty; in fact, you'll want to do that as having as many allies on the field as possible will draw enemy attacks away from Maria. If she drops, you immediately lose the fight and go back to your last save point. Combat tends to be pretty drawn-out and tedious for that reason, and between that and the frequent random encounters, the game's pacing definitely suffers for it. It's also not a terribly appealing game on a presentation level - the graphics are just passable and the music, while fine in the overworld, gets quite repetitious and irritating in battle. Combat also feels rather pointless overall, as you don't gain levels via the traditional method of earning experience points. Instead, you find "shards of hope" in treasure chests that serve as level-ups, which also means you have to thoroughly explore each area and endure even more random encounters as a result. All in all, just an okay NES RPG, though like all games that have unique ideas in the mix, it's worth a try for genre fans.
Strangely enough it's also a tie-in to a film, though the plot of the game and movie bear only the faintest resemblance to one another...