The Nintendo Entertainment System had the great advantage of being easy to develop for, resulting in a lot of very unique titles for gamers to explore. I remember staring with intense fascination at the cover of The Magic of Scheherazade in the aisle of my local videogame store, more than slightly fascinated at the prospect of interacting in a world that had even a tenuous relationship to the tales I knew from One Thousand and One Nights.
A glance at this game from a person who missed it back in the day will likely result in comments somewhat along of the lines of "wow, that looks dated", and I can't disagree. However, there's a reason Ihave fond memories of this game beyond the distorted vision of retrogoggles, and if you follow me past the jump I'll be glad to share that with you.
Title: The Magic of Scheherzade
Just look at that cover. It just screams "intrigue, adventure, danger!" I'll never forget walking home from the game store with this game, because at the time the art was simply fascinating to me (although a lot of NES games had very simple box art, so that may have contributed to the reason why).
The game's story begins with you playing the role of a hero who was once a great magician named Isfa. Isfa tried to defend Arabia from the token super scary evil magician Sabaron and failed way back when, ending up being hurled to a different time period. You begin with no memories (of course) and one objective: to rescue Princess Scheherazade and return to your former glory to defeat Sabaron.
The adventure will take you through three worlds and challenge you to rescue Scheherazade's three sisters, her father and finally the princess herself. Luckily, you'll have help from quite a few NPCs along the way. I feel like any fan of the original Legend of Zelda will instantly relate to this game's top-down format and similar screen-to-screen movement, and I may not have realized that majorly influenced how easily I got absorbed into the gameplay (as Magic of Scheherazade feels a bit like Zelda with towns sometimes).
In the start of the game, you will be able to choose between three classes: fighter, saint and magician. While the influence these choices have on the game is not titanic, it will definitely affect the way you play as well as dealing with the bosses that lay in wait for you at the end of each level. I was a fan of the fighter class because I prefer physical strength over magic in most games, but I played the game through using magician class as well as still had fun. It is of note that you can only gain one of the NPCs in level three by choosing saint class, though!
In each of the game's five worlds, the hero will need to speak people in towns to gather information and then venture out into the land to fight his way to the boss. To do so, he is armed with two weapons: a sword for close range attacks and a magic rod for long distance. You will also have magic spells and items available to help fight against the enemies you face.
Fights are random and turn-based, and while you'll be taking them on yourself at first, later up to two NPCs can join you in battle. Finding some of the NPCs will require you to change your class during the game, which you can do at anytime by going to a Mosque and paying a fee. As a kid of course I never noticed this, but as an adult I look back at this class shuffling and think it doesn't make much sense. You can't just flip a switch and know how to cast hardcore magic spells whenever you want! Ah, suspension of disbelief: what would I have done without you back then?
The levels also have another interesting feature: Time Gates. These allow you to move back and forth through time, which you will need to do to complete certain tasks before you can progress. I recall this was one of my favorites parts of The Magic of Scheherazade, as it made me feel the's game expanse was greater than it really was.
Each of the game's five areas also features a wise man who can grant the player the ability to cast one of five Great Magic spells. In Chapter 3, for instance, the spell learned can be cast in the future to put a temporary stop to the eternal winter, which drains the player's hitpoints as he tries to progress. Another event you can use to your advantage is the Alalart Solar Eclipse, which allows you to cast the aforementioned Great Magic spells as well as perform cool tasks like planting a tree in the past which will harvest money for you in the future.
While the bosses of Magic of Scheherazade probably look a little dinky now, they looked pretty epic to me when I fought them, and I distinctly remember being kind of scared to fight a few of them in fear they would pound me. And they did, in fact. They filled upmost of the screen and were often hard to hit -- knowing how to use the rod in these fights was often the thing that would save your ass.
The game was released for the Super Famicom as Arabian Dream Scheherazade. It differs from the American release quite a bit, from look to maps to music (the soundtrack was simpler than Magic of Scheherazade's). There was also a manga based on the title, which you can see scans of here. I love the art style and think I possibly could have enjoyed this version of the game even more than I did the original, but being able to read Japanese would be a must to play it.
While a lot of NES owners discovered a Dragon Warrior or Ultima title as their first RPG, this quirky title was one of the only ones that really stuck with me from that time period. I loved the unique setting (I guess I wasn't that into the medieval stuff even then) and the music, and despite the fact that the town characters speak those cryptic short sentences and there are parts that are outdated, I still love it. If you want to know more, I urge to check out this excellent resource for more on the game if you're interested -- it has all kinds of goodies worth poring over.
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