Despite owning several Famicom disk titles I only realised recently that I’ve only created an entry about one so far! Disk games in general feel like a treat to load each time because even though they can take several seconds (compared to the instant cartridge loading) it always adds to the expectation of what you are about to play plus with the usual unreliability of disk games it’s actually a joy when they load without any errors. I’m a huge fan of Zelda, something about the top down view appeals to me when it comes to adventure games so I always try my best to keep an eye out for similar games which is when I followed a suggestion to try out a game called Nazo No Murasamejou.
It seems to be a relatively common game for the Famicom disk system and I had no issue finding a copy on eBay for just £6 as an added bonus it was in immaculate condition. Published by Nintendo in 1986 and only released in Japan (edit. It seems there was a rerelease for the Gameboy Advance in 2004 for the Famicom mini series) it surprised me to learn that the game never seemed to have much commercial success for what is effectively a Zelda clone with enough differences to make it stand out though it did spawn a Japanese television series which was based around the games plot. I had to rely on the internet to discover the plot because nothing is explained in game basically the whole tale is set in ancient Japan when an alien descends onto Murasame castle, taking over the inhabitants with the use of evil spheres and doing the same to the Lords of four surrounding castles. Your job as Takamaru is to work your way through each castle defeating the Lords and seeking out the alien. Not the most epic of tales but compared to the first Zelda game it does have a bit more thought put into it.
It plays identical to Zelda being in the form of a top down scroller however everything seems to work at a much quicker pace. Enemies appear and rush towards you at some speed and it can require some skill in order to dodge fireballs, throwing stars and other weapons. With one button for the players sword and another for the shuriken there isn’t much choice when it comes to weapons though this does change in the form of power ups that replace the standard throwing stars. These appear every few screens and from what I’ve seen ranged from a fireball, a bomb that clears screens and a cloak that makes you invisible.
You may be wondering if I managed to complete this.....and I have to say no. It’s extremely hard with each screen throwing several enemies at once all having their own types of weapons, usually projectiles. Thankfully Takamaru can deflect some of these with his own sword but you really need to be quick to avoid the onslaught. Starting outside each castle you work your way along its gardens before finally making your way inside only to find a large maze like structure which eventually leads to the Lord. It’s fast, frantic and quite frankly a challenge but this is all in the games favour. When you manage to clear a castle Lord it actually feels like a proper accomplishment and because the game is so fast it’s never a burden to work your way through.
So was it worth the long loading times to play, which I’m sure some of you will notice in the video (sorry I couldn’t resist leaving the loading times in)? Certainly yes, for £6 I was faced with a game that could put some of the newer titles to shame, simple to learn but difficult to master it’s the ideal retro game and a real gem. If you are considering buying a disk system or even a Sharp Twin (you really should, try reading my earlier blog entry about them if you are undecided) then Nazo should be at the top of your shopping list. Highly recommended and well worth finding a copy if you can.