So everyone on earth this week has been playing and/or reviewing Breath of the Wild and I got to play Deadly Towers…

:sigh:    K, here goes..

Developed by Irem and released in Japan in 1986, Deadly Towers was originally named Masho or “Evil Bell” there. For its North American release, Nintendo of American shot down the proposed renaming that was “Hell’s Bells” and the game went stateside in 1987, rebranded as “Deadly Towers.”

You said it, Lucy!

You begin with a title scroll:

“This is an old, old story from the stone and copper ages when there lived men and devils….

As the coming of age ceremony approached, Prince Myer grew nervous, for the day would be a memorable time in which he would succeed to the throne of the kingdom of Willner. In his worrying about the kingdom of the future, he took himself over by the lake near the castle to think. Suddenly, reflecting the moonlight, a shadow arose from the lake. As the prince stared at it, it gradually changed into a man. “Prince Myer, light of virtue!” The man’s voice rose out. It is time for you to light up the darkness. Rubas, the horrid devil of darkness, is plotting to extend his power over your kingdom. He is viciously scheming to build a castle on the northern mountain, to ring magic bells, to lure monsters out at your defenses, and to invade the kingdom in a single stroke.

Is you wish to be forever at peace in the kingdom of Willner, you must journey to the northern mountain and burn down the seven bell towers in the devil’s castle with the sacred flame. Prince Myer! Only you can accomplish this feat. Go to the mountain! Burn down the seven towers! Defend the kingdom against the devil!” With that, the shadow grew mistier, lost it’s shape, and finally disappeared, leaving the beautiful lake as though untouched.

‘Could it be an oracle?’ Prince Myer murmured. He fell deep into thought for a moment, but immediately regained his senses. He had remembered the legend of Khan. The legend said that at the time when the god’s image appears from the lake, a great power will be given to a young man to defeat the devil of darkness and restore peace to the kingdom. Hurrying back to the castle, the prince told the king of the strange event. The king, believing in the truth of the matter, excitedly ordered Prince Myer to destroy Rubas and all his dark ways!”

You get all that? – The prince is being promoted to king, but this Rubas punk is collecting monster-summoning bells that he keeps guarded but, for whatever reason, doesn’t simply ring. So a melodramatic guy drops a whole lotta exposition on Myer and demands he commit a buttload of arson, burn some metal bells (?!) and thus, save the kingdom. Myer then laments falling into the cliche’ of prophesied “chosen one” that so many writers use to mask a lack of creativity and lastly, the king is amped to send Myer on a this whole suicide mission. One can only assume it’s due to the former not wanting to retire from kingship, however that works.

Anyhoo – elephant in the room time: The cover art! Talk about false advertising. The cover has the type of art that people in the 70’s would get painted on the sides of their vans, all mystical and epic, but then you pop in the game…

Item and Broderbund give you the ol bait’n’switch, as Beefy McManMuscles on the left is replaced by some sort of “Renaissance Faire Charlie Brown.”

The music is pretty decent – again, this is if you don’t get stuck in the maze where it restarts every time you go into another room and feels like a skipping record – made worse by the frustration of being lost. I never had an instruction manual or guide of any kind when I had this back in the day so I barely ever got anywhere productive, like the towers – the main point of the game – it’s in the name! So falling off cliffs and getting lost in the maze, from what I recall, where most gamers ended up. Unlimited continues and a password system mean nothing if you go in circles, trying to hunt down hidden shops and each room looks like the next with never-ending monsters. Speaking of which, you get healthy supply of constantly respawning enemies that come from the land of generic monsters; you know the mix: bats, spiders, ghosts, snakes, blobs, slimes, etc. Some directly attack you, but most zip all over the place like they’re late for a job interview or something. The bosses, with names like Great Burn, Beat Plant, Wheeler, Cold Killer, etc. are a bit more focused and guard the bells you need to burn, 7 in all, at the tops of each tower.

Similar to The Legend of Zelda, your sword shoots an infinite number of “swords” (though Prince Myer unlike Link doesn’t need full health to do so). Call it a quirk of the game animation at the time, but it really looks like they shoot out from,..well, let’s just say “a sensitive area” or “a place you don’t want swords to come out from ever ..ever. ever.” But at least your “Groin Blade” can fire these “crotch swords” in 8 different directions, so that’s a plus. Maybe.

Yeah, no. Ouch.

Another odd little quirk is the abundance of imprisoned gopher-type creatures you’ll see along your journey as just part of the background. Rubas has some pretty weird agendas.

When you reach Rubas, he pulls an Dragon Ball villain thing and has numerous forms you have to duke it out with, the first being that of a giant serpent, then two giant demon bear head things that always reminded me a bit like the cover of the 1977 surreal horror film Hausu. Lastly, Rubas takes on his true form as a humanoid sorcerer.

Form 2, Hausu (1977) – an acid trip of a movie

Kill Rubas and it will start to rain bells from the heavens and Prince Myer becomes king! I’m sure beginning his reign with a storm of bells is a great way to win over the love of the peasants, assuming there are any that haven’t been bludgeoned to death.

The catch 22 with Deadly Towers rests mostly in its constant comparisons to The Legend of Zelda and other similar yet far better games. Believe it or not, it was actually a best seller when it first came out but hasn’t aged well, to the point that it is generally placed low on most gamers’ NES lists today (even watching the Rifftrax‘s riff of The Wizard recently, Kevin Murphy took a shot at it). With a little more polish, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it really does have the potential to be a decent enough game. Tinkering with or editing out the maze and the constant falling into would be a start, as it detracts from what could have been a more memorable, pleasant gaming experience and not so remindful of the 1983’s E.T. (with the stumbling into pits every other second). Personally, after a replay and knowing what the heck I was finally doing, I wouldn’t say it’s “Hydlide-bad,” nor would I say it’s “Rygar-good,” but it can be worth a revisit if for nothing more than a trip down a frustrating memory lane.

Michael A. Jones     nerdsintheburbs@gmail.com     www.nerdsintheburbs.com

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