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Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Magic of Scheherazade

Culture Brain isn't a name that's commonly spoken these days in the west, but in the '80s and '90s they were a fairly prominent name, producing games with some interesting gameplay elements and, as their name implies, were often somewhat cultural experiences.  (The company still exists today too, though they haven't had a game released in the west since 1997).  Magic of Scheherazade is their first attempt at an RPG, and they certainly made no secret of their inspirations, copying elements from Zelda and Dragon Quest alike.  Much of the action takes place in a top-down perspective, having the player explore maps and battle enemies with swords and magic rods, but every now and then when you enter a screen you'll enter a turn-based battle instead, fighting alongside the bizarre gallery of allies you collect throughout the game.  As the name implies the setting is also a relatively unique one for a Japanese RPG, drawing much inspiration from the Arabian Nights in its monster designs and setting.  Also uniquely, you can attend Universities to learn new combat formations (which unlock powerful spells for your allies), and you can even ask for discounts at shops and often get them (though asking multiple times will cause the shopkeeper to become angry and kick you out).  Time travel is a significant element of the story too, having you hop between past and future versions of the current map and radically changing up the There are also several very powerful, one-time-only use "Great Spells" with amazingly powerful effects - topping off your money and supply of all items, changing the landscape to get rid of health-draining desert screens, or fully healing the entire party.  It never quite hit the ranks of becoming an NES classic, though, and that's because, while unique, it's not the most fun game to play - you're a large target, hit detection is awkward and combat balance is pretty lackluster, particularly for the turn-based battles - you either get demolished or you effortlessly decimate the enemy, and they rarely give enough experience to be worth the effort of fighting them either way.  The game also strangely utilizes a lives system, and once all your lives are depleted, the game ends.  Saved games are a thing, of course, but they utilize a 43-character password system to track your progress.  An imaginative game at its core, but its gameplay doesn't quite stack up; it's still a cheap game to purchase nowadays, though, so you may want to give it a go.

Developer: Culture Brain
Publisher: Culture Brain
Released: 1990
Platform: NES