Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord

MiracleWarriorsJP

                    And, uh… there you have it.

 

MiracleWarriorsUS

Hey, what happened to her lack of clothes?

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Kogado and ASCII (port by Sega)

GENRE: RPG

RELEASE DATE: 10/18/87 – (JP)

                                           1988 – (US, EU)

 

In the Book of Historical Documents Pertaining to Video Games of the Role-Playing Genre, Miracle Warriors has been rightfully regarded as a mere footnote. The footnote states that the game was released slightly prior to Phantasy Star, and thus, may be the first Japanese RPG to grace American shores. Phantasy Star came later in ’88, Dragon Quest/Warrior was ’89, Final Fantasy, ’90. This makes sense, and yet, there’s no hard proof, meaning that this one unique piece of information about Miracle Warriors might be a lie. And without that historical tidbit, the game has nothing, and a lot of it.

Early JRPGs are tedious, cumbersome, given to grinding. Miracle Warriors is no different, except that it reigns as the head glutton of its genre’s tendencies. Rather than allowing you to control your protagonist directly, you control them via a white square on the upper right hand corner of the screen. This corner contains your protagonist, as represented by the white square, and a small sliver of the map which you can move around at your leisure. What occupies the majority of the screen? A picture of your heroes looking triumphantly at you. Yes, two-thirds of the screen is occupied by majestic warrior posing, nothing more. Now, if I were brimming with positivity, I might say that the interface is “unique” and “original.” Certainly, it’s never been done before – and that’s the most I can give it. Maneuvering a box around a fraction of the world map – which is large – only takes a couple minutes to become unbearably frustrating. The frustration is then compounded by the clunkiness of the movement. I usually had to press the D-pad two or three times before the protagonist square would move in that direction, and this happened all the time.

 

Miracle Warriors - Seal of the Dark Lord (UE) [!]000

               Well, we’re off to a good start.

 

Once you’ve digested Miracle Warriors creative liberties, you’re forced to confront the battle system. The system itself is straightforward: you and a monster exchange hits in first-person, back and forth. It’s smooth, seamless, and it takes about a thousand battles to get anywhere. You see, in the beginning of the game, your hero is incredibly weak. To beef him up, you buy armor, swords, the standard hero material. You have to kill enemies to get the gold to buy the goods, but enemies are so powerful in the beginning that you have to heal in towns within about two fights. The price to heal your warrior, however, is ridiculously high, and unless you fight an Evil Merchant who carries tons of ill-gotten money on him, you’ll be using most of your money on health, not shields and swords. Weapons deteriorate over time, as well, so you’ll need to return to towns to get them fixed – unless you have a blacksmith in your party and then he’ll fix them for free. But… really? Is my journey not difficult enough without this additional serving of nonsense?

 

Miracle Warriors - Seal of the Dark Lord (UE) [!]001

I just used all my coppers on health and herbs!

 

What all this means is, the amount of grinding needed to get anywhere in this game is on an unprecedented scale. I’ve played – and enjoyed – Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Phantasy Star, all of which were released within a similar time frame and are fairly grindy. Miracle Warriors beats them all. If you let yourself, you could spend hours upon hours and make very little progress. If you’re in third grade in 1987 and this is your first RPG, that might sound thrilling, but outside of that snapshot in time, I think it’s fair to say that most people – even at the time – would want nothing to do with that. One might think the grinding would let up with additional people in your party. Absolutely not. Even if there’s more than one person in your party, the second/third/fourth persons can’t attack on the same turn. Only one person can attack a monster per turn, despite the amount of people you have. Now, you can switch between characters on different turns, but that’s it. Does this force you to be more strategic? Sure. Is it a waste of good party members? No question.

 

Miracle Warriors - Seal of the Dark Lord (UE) [!]002

That’s pathway robbery, I won’t pay it.

 

The in-game movement and the non-stop grinding drag Miracle Warriors down to the realm of the Dark Lord, but the game does have two redeeming factors. The music is as beautiful and evocative as I’ve heard from an early JRPG and one of the main reasons to continue wandering the game’s world, step by slow, pointless step. Also, the grid map included with the original game is incredibly well-crafted and made me wish that exploring the land was as fun as looking at the map. Sega obviously did what they could to make the game inviting for adventure lovers, but you can’t cover a pile of manure in a designer dress and fool people into thinking it’s gorgeous and fashionable. The music and the map are nice, but they’re trickery just the same.

 

Miraclewarriors_sms_us_map

                                                        It is a really nice map, though.

 

All of the ingredients needed to make a working RPG are in Miracle Warriors – lots of battles, characters that speak ye olde English, large world to explore, half-naked demon things – but none of the elements ever click into place. The movement-by-square system thankfully died with this game, and the ever-present battles are a reminder that, despite the depressing gaming landscape we find ourselves in today, certain genres have evolved for the better. At best, Miracle Warriors feels like a never-ending slog, and at worst, I feel like I should be forced to take anger management courses for the amount of rage the game conjures in me. A footnote it was, a blemish it shall remain.

 

F

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15 thoughts on “Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord

  1. I can’t really expect anyone now to like this game. It comes from the old school of Japanese RPG’s where everything is grinding and fighting. But as far as the release date this came out in August of 88. I remember because I was calling the stores everyday to see when they got it in. As some of you may or may not know Sega had a newsletter similar to the a Nintendo Fun club news called the Sega Challenge Newsletter. Here is the feature of the game from the Summer of 88 issue.

    You can check out the full issue here. At the end they list Phantasy Star as a coming soon game with a small blurb. It would not be released for another two months or so. I believe I got in October or November. It would be featured in the the Fall Sega Challenge newsletter.

    This website has all 7 issues online. They are rather small can’t can easily be read in 20 minutes if you like.

    http://www.zaponline.org/seganewsletter.html

    That being said I absolutely loved this game. I of course had never played anything like it. It was like a game with numbers and stats. It totally captivated me. And it had a running story. Nobody except maybe PC gamers with their Wizardry and what it had ever seen anything like this. Would I go back and play this now? Hell no. But it was a blast at the time. If you want to read a playtheough of this game there is another blog site called the RPG Consoler that chrnologically plays through every Console RPG ever made. You can check out his playthrough here. His playthrough spans about 4 blog posts with lots of pictures and descriptions on how the systems in this game work.

    http://allconsolerpgs.blogspot.com/2012/06/game-10-miracle-warriors-seal-of-dark.html

    Also to note this was not a Sega game. But was made by Kogado software products and originally released in 1986 for various Japanese computers like the MSX , FM-7, PC-88, and Sharp X1 as Haja no Fūin. It also was released in Japan on the Famicom the same week as the Mark III version. Sega ported the SMS/ Mark III version them selves with their own art work. It’s generally considered the best looking version of the game.

    I know its old fashioned and pretty hard but I wish you would have played a little more to learn the systems in the game, like you have money and Fangs which you get from creatures. Two separate currency’s that serve two different purposes. Once you level up it had a fairly large world to explore and things to do.mand the first real narrative driven game on the system. But I suppose I wouldn’t want to wish too much suffering on you as it is very archaic compared to later RPG’s. For my money I enjoyed it slightly more than Dragon Quest, which of course predates this in Japan I believe for consoles but the computer release was probrably contemporary to it.

    I certainly would never call this an F. For the time it was pretty decent, I might give it a B minus. For a Harcore RPG fan I might even say it’s worth a play. But remember Sega had two RPG’s in America a full year before Nintendo tried to touch the American shores with RPG games that were a runaway success in Japan. It was Sega beating Nintendo to the punch for once. And my life was certainly changed by it by learning what more games being my very first RPG. I won’t talk about PS much till later but that only 2 months later just blew me away. My friends with Nintendo’s thought both of those games were pretty cool.

    I’ll end this post with the last boss. I already posted this on Twitter. But here Sega truly does what nintendont so to speak. As I wast in Junior High when this came out, I had the last boss save queued up to show my friends a little bit of VG porn. I am ashamed of course of this behavior now. But can you really plane a 12 year old?

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    • First off, thanks for all the links. Some of these are pretty awesome, like the All Console RPGS guy.

      Trust me, Sean, I wanted to give this game a chance. So I did. Several chances. It’s partially why the review took as long as it did to come out. The last time I played it – maybe my fifth or sixth attempt – I got further than I ever had, but still felt like the game was forcing me to run uphill in a marathon. Like I said in the review, I’m ok with slow, grindy games, but Miracle Warriors is among the slowest and grindiest.

      Fangs are used to show the townsfolk your valor in battle, but can also be traded for guilders, yes? This is what I gathered based on the FAQs I read.

      Anyways, I don’t blame you for loving this game as a child, particularly since it was among the first of its kind. Earthbound was my first RPG and it set the bar for future RPGs that I played. Talk about high standards!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess I should reiterate, I totally understand you not liking it. It is just one of those games where you had to be there. Like it’s basically a 1986 japanese PC game. It’s about as old fashioned and unfriendly as you can get. I suppose though that being the very first of its kind in the U.S., there were no other games to compare it too. So it was somewhat ground breaking. I also forgot to mention HArdcore Gamining 101 has a page one this game comparing the different versions with all the screenshots.

        http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/miraclewarriors/miraclewarriors.htm

        I supose I think F is a little harsh. It is certainly a playable RPG. I don’t know if you just don’t like RPGS as a genre as much or, it is just too old to really get into. There are some people (I suppose like me) who enjoy a hard grindy game. It’s like how on the 3DS I enjoy the Etrian Oddysey games that are very challenging and somewhat grindy as well, where you have to think about every step and move you make or your going to die. I supose my RPG taste were formed by different sensibilities. The main thing I wanted to comment on was there is proof out that that this is the absolute first Console JRPG out there released in the US. You know, other than just having me as one of the 5 percenters who had a Sega saying so. In any case, I don’t think you will have any other pure RPG’s to cover on the SMS after Phantasy Star. I actually found Phantasy Star an even harder game.mSome of the dungeons just get insane towards the end of that game, considering you’ll have to map them put as there is no in

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  2. I totally hear you, Dylan. Miracle Warriors is distinctly a tough schlong and one that doesn’t say thank you maam after its all over with. When I got this game, similar to when Sean got it, I thought it was a pretty elaborate game and took my time beating it (schlong reference again), and then loaned it to a friend. He loved complaining about it, but had different goals when he was playing it. I remember him bitching about how monsters would scare (or steal I suppose) his “Smithy”. I laughed at that, but it was true. This game deserves some marks for bringing something new to 8-bit gaming. I know it was out before Phantasy Star, but after playing Phantasy Star I never when back and played Miracle Warriors. It totally lost its appeal and maybe never had that much to begin with. I think this game was the first one I ever had that had a battery back-up and a huge map. The box art is not that bad either, compared to what was the norm for the “Great” series. I guess this game could be “Great Demon Killer”.
    Good review.

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  3. Wow an F.

    Well I remember asking for and getting this game as a birthday present when it came out. I will have to say when I started playing it I was thinking to myself it was a bad choice. After restarting and restarting I actually gave up on it and put it away.
    A few weeks later I was bored and decided to give it another try. After finally figuring out that all you needed to do was go south and get healed I started killing merchants and more merchants. After a few days I was starting to get into the game. I got my first companion and it never stopped from there. I played this game so much it became one of my favorite Master System games once I completed it.
    Having the map help alot but it is not needed.
    Most people today would not give this game enough time to get into it. I am sad that a F was given to a very good hardcore RPG.

    I would give this game a solid B and I think most hardcore RPG players would say the same if they gave it a real chance.

    Anyway no hard feeling for the bad grade. At least you gave it a go! =)

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    • This has been a controversial grade of mine, but I have to stand by it. I really don’t like any game, regardless of genre, that makes progression as difficult as possible. It’s one thing for a game to be challenging, it’s another for it to hate the player. This is just my opinion, of course. I’m always glad when people enjoy the games they enjoy, even if I don’t. Thanks for the comments, Jonnie!

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  4. After hearing about this game on your podcast I decided to play it a little. It is quite tough at the beginning but I can see how it would have been addicting back in the day. I just added Guy to my party. Not sure if I’ll try to trudge through the whole thing yet but I’d say it’s a decent game.
    The enemy art is pretty good too I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So here are my thoughts on the game:
    I agree with Dylan that the uber-grindiness of the game can be a deal breaker! This annoyance can be broken up in 2 parts. (1) The necessity to grind (purposefully seeking out enemies to level up and collect funds/items) hours on end and (2) the unavoidability of grinding (the stupendously high encounter rate “en route” and the difficulty to “retreat” in certain terrains ) while exploring the area. The first aspect eventually gets a lot better, while the latter one partly undermines the best parts of the game, namely exploration/discovery!
    (1) The necessity to grind:
    It initially took me quite a long time (Leveling up, acquiring sufficient funds to buy equipment and healing services/items) to overcome my innate weakness. A significant part of the first hour playing the game, was taken up by constantly saving after every enemy encounter. So uncertain was I of my survival prospects! On the other end, once my offense and defense finally caught up with enemy forces, the restored balance was durable. Crossing a bridge only meant incrementally stronger opposition (not at all the sudden Dragon Quest style spikes in enemy strength). So from then on my growth rate seemed to be in check with whatever the game threw at me (As long as I didn’t stray too far from the open plains). Half the world map was now effectively within my reach! Not long after, I started adding traveling companions and the going even got somewhat easier! Later on in the game though, I twice had to deal with major “catching up” sessions. One after my third companion enabled me to unlock the many caves strewn around the world. And the last one in preparation for the end fight

    (2) the unavoidability of grinding:
    Unlike in some other jrpg’s, the enemy encounter rate remains the same in-between the open plains/forests/mountains/desert/water. But the foe’s you encounter in rough terrain are way stronger than in flat terrain. But more importantly, the “retreat” option is completely unreliable here (A calculated risk on the open plains now becomes a wild life or death gamble). So that means crazy scouting expeditions (you know the type! You already saved your progress. You are going to call it a day. First thing tomorrow, you will need to hit town for a health fix. But right before you switch off your console, why not give the nearby forest a quick go? ) are out of the picture. Now if you know that the last continent (about a quarter of the world map) is disproportionately made up out of rough terrain and requires the most experimenting …

    I assume hardcore rpg fans will also lament the lack of equipment (only 1 buyable type of armor/shield) and real battle spells
    And despite a party of 4, there is only one character engaged in battle per round. Which one you choose is solely determined on the basis of remaining health and leveling up, as there are no individual strengths or vulnerabilities – regarding different enemy types – to speak of

    So now that I got the negative out of the way, let me focus on the good! In my opinion the game has way more redeemable factors than its music and the esthetics of its grid map!
    — Its best part … the sense of exploration! —
    I experienced Miracle Warriors as a much less linear affair than the likes of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. As I mentioned before, once the initial leveling up is done, a very large chunk of the world immediately presents itself as explorable. As there is no obvious path to follow, it’s up to you to decide where to go/what to do. But you’re not exactly clueless either! While the grid map reveals several interesting destinations (castles, towns, caverns, …) from the get-go, early on townspeople and fellow travelers point you in other “unmarked” directions as well. What did you say? This world supposedly contains 9 towns? I only count 6 on the map …
    The monks, merchants and travelers you randomly encounter give you useful hints. For me they stroke a perfect balance between “spelling it out” and overly vague Zelda type riddles.

    — The economy system —
    Half way through games like Dragon Quest, money usually stops being a concern. I like how in Miracle warriors money retains its value almost up until the very end. As the need/possibility to buy new equipment sadly disappears rather quickly, you mostly spend your gold on herbs (healing items), magical staffs and a one-time very expensive sword upgrade.
    Apart from gold there is also a second currency: Fangs. The first half of the game, fangs confront you with a dilemma. Should you trade them in for gold, to finally be able to buy some overpriced piece of equipment? Or should you save them, in case you stumble on yet another hidden castle? There are nice Fang enabled tradeoffs to be had with kings. In the second half of the game you will need fangs to buy magical stones

    — A Zelda type environmental (tough but nonetheless intuitive) endgame-puzzle —
    I don’t want to spoil the game for anyone still planning on playing it. All I will say is that it has to do with tracking the hidden location down of the final dungeons. And you’re likely to get caught in a trap!

    Final conclusion:
    I couldn’t blame anyone for being put of by this game, due to its endless tedious grinding. I could also understand Hardcore rpg grinders disliking it for its over simplistic battle system (No character specific strengths or weaknesses; Only one on one battling, so no targeting tactics. The lack off battle spells) and lack of lore
    For me though the hidden towns, villages, castles, dungeons, general layout of the game world, … tickeled me enough to overcome the tedious grinding. The hints, the mystic, the few puzzles, … they where all right op my ally. This is always been the part that attracts me themost in rpg’s and the reason why I like action/adventures (Zelda, Battle of Olympus,…) even better! I myself would give it a C+

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