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armless-phelan avatar 1:21 AM on 12.03.2009  (server time)
The Forgotten: Spiritual Warfare

I'm agnostic. This isn't my attempt to drag Destructoid into religious arguments or anything, I just felt that I should preface this with the fact that I personally have no attachment to any particular religious beliefs. Then again, if I did, something tells me that I wouldn't be as big a MegaTen fan as I am.

Anyway, Spiritual Warfare is the poster child of two very niche movements: Christian games and unlicensed NES games. Developed by and published by Wisdom Tree, and offshoot of Color Dreams. Color Dreams was one of the first companies to get past Nintendo's lockout technology and had developed a reputation for releasing crappy shovelware titles such as Baby Boomer. Wisdom Tree is an attempt to distance itself from the brand's reputation and capitalize on the (still) untapped Christian gamer market. I'm not talking about the people who enjoy the Left Behind games, either.

Although it was released on an aging console (it was 1992 and the SNES, Genesis, and Turbografx 16 were well into their own respective life cycles), Spiritual Warfare was easily Wisdom Tree's biggest commercial success. Precise sales numbers are not known because of the lack of a software tracking organization at the time and its own underground heritage, but it was successful enough on the NES to get ports to the Genesis and the PC.

Borrowing heavily from Nintendo's original Legend of Zelda, it lacks a complex story (not uncommon for most NES games), but makes up for with decent graphics and some incredibly engrossing gameplay that is actually rooted in biblical lore. This may be superficial lip-service (Wisdom Tree is not a Christian Company), but it's pretty good lip service.

Like Link your main character uses weapons and items to solve puzzles and wander a large over world. There are even dungeons that take the form of office buildings and “unsaved” places like bars, a prison, and slums complete with gangs and stray dogs.

Your weapons of choice are the “fruits of God.” This is a work of genius because, in addition to giving more options for combat, they have different uses and and functions. Some are fast, others are slow and strong, and some can even travel through walls and other obstacles. Then there are items like Samson's Jawbone which functions very similarly to Link's boomerang.

Rather than killing your enemies, you use your weapons to “convert” them, prompting a sprite of a person kneeling in prayer. Occasionally, you'll also come across “possessed souls” who, upon receiving your attack, reveal a demonic sprite that continues coming at you.

The main objective of the game is to obtain the “Armor of God” in order to unlock access to other parts of the game world with the final objective of defeating Satan. (I never made it too far as the copy I played was kept at my grandmother's for familial gatherings, so I can't comment too much on boss fights in general.)

Rather than use money, you collect saved “souls” in the form of white doves to buy things like Anointing Oil (health potion), Vials of God's Wrath (bombs), and you can always pray and give up souls to regain health. In fact, the best way to gain souls is, whenever you defeat enough of your enemies, an angel floats around the screen and quiz's you on biblical knowledge and quotes. The better you do, the more souls you're given.

One of the things I don't like about this game is the ugly backgrounds. For years I played this on a black and white TV (again, grandmother's house) and it looked fine. In fact, for an unlicensed game it's rather gorgeous, but when in colour you can see some mild distortion here and there, but nothing game breaking. Still, the backgrounds seem like an after thought. Although, the residential area is a treat and it has one of the most interesting areas in the form of an airport. Yes, this game lets you fight sinners in an airport by throwing fruit at them. It's awesome.

This is basically a Zelda clone with Christian window-dressing, but it's a well done one that is incredibly fun. Not to mention that you can now play it for free here.

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