Genre: Action Adventure RPG
Publisher: Culture Brain
Total time played: 10 Hours
Short review: An ambitious game that fits snuggly in the action, adventure and RPG genre
Interesting links related to The Magic of Scheherazade
It’s funny how a single memory about a game can stick out so strongly in your mind. A memory about a game I never played that really isn’t even a large part of the game. Back in the early 1990’s my mom rented this game and played it for a few days. There was one part in the game where she was walking through a cave and kept falling into holes. We tried and tried but no matter what the holes seemed to always get us.
We decided to call the 1-800 Nintendo help line. The man on the phone told us that the holes never move and that the best way to get through that section of the game is to put a piece of tape on the TV every time you fall into a hole and then the next time you get back to the place in question you can avoid the tape and avoid the hole.
It worked! She was able to get through this section with tape on the TV. Literally all I remember is tape on the TV. I asked my mom about this recently and she has no memory of it.
What Kind of Game?
This is an action game with fun sword, shield and magic rod gameplay. It is an adventure game that takes you through time and lets you explore much like The Legend of Zelda or Willow. It has turn based battles like Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy. It has a cool mythological story like The Battle of Olympus but instead of ancient Greece it takes place in the Middle East. It also has some cryptic puzzles much like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.
The Magic of Scheherazade is ambitious. It tries to fit a lot of cool concepts into the game and while most of them work none of them are 100% perfect. It is a fun game and luckily some of the more tedious stuff can be skipped completely. I liked this a lot more than I expected to.
The Instruction Manual
I don’t always read the instruction manual before playing a game (or before putting together IKEA furniture) but in this case I did and I’m glad I did. It is probably the most detailed manual of any NES game I’ve played. In fact, both the manual and game sometimes give too many hints. As an example, anytime there is a hidden room on a screen a message pops up and says “Use Oprin here” which is the magic that reveals hidden rooms. To me, it is cool that there are hidden things in the game but the fact the game tells you when there is a hidden room and tells you how to make it appear seems pointless. Just make the room not hidden and save me from having to cast a spell.
Upon further research, it turns out that if your helper has died in battle they will not be able to tell you to cast Oprin until the holy man in town revives them. But, I never lost a single helper in battle so I didn’t realize this was the case (more on this below).
The word Scheherazade is so illegible on the box it looks like a Scandinavian heavy metal band logo. The graphic artists gave up and just added the word Scheherazade again in legible font below the illegible font.
This game explores a lot of unique ideas that aren’t seen in other games. On the surface, the game looks and plays like most other overhead action adventure games on the system. Many games feature sub-weapons that can be assigned to a button or used by hitting a combination of buttons but this is the first game I can remember playing where the player can set what both the A and B button do. Each button has a list of commands that grows as you progress through the game. While it seems that it gives you a bit of flexibility in how you play you quickly learn that even though you have the ability to change your play style I pretty much stuck with the magic rod on the B button and the Pampoo healing spell on the A button for most of the playthrough. Having to select an item to JUMP or SPEAK slows down the game. I wish the game was smart enough to know I was in a town and when I hit a button in front of a townsperson that I want to speak.
So, in theory, this is a cool concept but it added a bit of extra work on the players part.
At the start of the game you can select your character to be a Fighter, Magician or Saint. In a lot of RPG’s this selection will impact the entire game and how it is played. In The Magic of Sheherazade it doesn’t really effect anything. The Fighter is better with the sword, the Magician is better with the magical rod and the Saint is better at defense.
But, at any time you can change your class by visiting any town’s holy man. This makes the selection much less important. I found the magician to be the most well rounded and only changed away from that class if it was needed for the story. In some cases you have to change classes to get a certain person (or tree) to talk to you.
Ah, the tried and true store that is in every RPG ever. When you visit a town you can buy a few items that are pretty standard throughout the game. The thing that makes it unique is that you can ask the clerk for a discount. He will either lower the item price or get mad and kick you out of the store. There is no penalty for asking for a discount and getting kicked out. You can just walk back in and buy the item. This is another cool concept that in execution is a bit unneeded.
Bread – You can hold up to 10 of these. As you may have guessed eating this restores some health. Unlike many games if you run out of hit points your character auto eats bread and restores some hit points. So, think of this as a get out of dead free bread.
Mashroob – I kept calling this a mushroom throughout my playthrough, it works exactly like the bread except instead of replenishing hit points it replenishes magic points.
Carpet – Allows you to fast travel to a town. In theory this is a good idea but I found it didn’t work how I wanted it to as the town I wanted to go to either wasn’t in the travel list or I forgot the name of where I wanted to go and traveled to the wrong place.
R. Seed – This rupia seed can be planted at the bottom of a hidden staircase somewhere in the world that is revealed by casting the Oprin spell during a solar eclipse. If you then travel forward in time through another hidden staircase somewhere else in the world and return to where the seed was planted you are rewarded with hundreds of coins. As enemies only drop 1 coin at a time and on rare occasions a 20 coin Money bag planting this seed it a must. As ridiculous and complex as it seems this is actually not bad as the hidden stairs aren’t that hidden and solar eclipses happen fairly often.
Key – These are needed to open doors in the final temple of each chapter.
Horn – In the final temple of each chapter you come to a room with 3 stone gargoyle statues. If you touch one they come to life and are hard to kill. If you hit them with a horn they stay stone and the locked door in the room opens. Again, it seems like there is no way you would ever figure this out but it is spelled out in the manual and townspeople remind you.
Map – Buying a map is kind of pointless. It doesn’t provide you an overworld map, but a cheap graphical representation of the final temple in the chapter. In my experience the map was useless and the temples were generally small enough that 5 minutes of exploring would be enough to know where to go. Again, another concept that didn’t add anything to the game.
Loan – This is the only game I can think where if you don’t have enough money to buy an item you can get a loan from the shop. I did have to do this a few times and then worried constantly that the loan would come due or would gain interest that I couldn’t repay. You never have to get a loan, but, doing so will save you a lot of time grinding and building money. Luckily I was able to pay back my loan by harvesting the Rupia Seed tree in the future.
This is the only video game I know of that has an eclipse. As mentioned above, planting a R. Seed during an eclipse will reward the player with hundreds of coins. But, that’s not all. You also become more lucky if you visit a town casino during an eclipse. I wish I could talk more about the casino but I never spent any time in one. This is another example of a cool concept in the game that wasn’t needed.
In a few of the chapters you could do some task to get a special spell that is only used in that chapter that would accomplish something to make the game a bit easier. As an example, in Chapter 2 there is a huge desert you walk through and it slowly drains your life as it is too hot. But, if you have the right spell and cast it during the eclipse it causes a huge rainstorm which turns the desert into a nice grassy field. This again is not needed in order to beat the chapter but it is a nice touch and something unseen in other NES games.
Turn Based Battles
When you start out the game you are in a town and you talk to people and then you exit the town and you are in an overworld much like in The Legend of Zelda or Willow. As you walk from screen to screen sometimes enemies appear that you can take care of with your sword or rod. This is the “action adventure” part of the game. But, every once in a while when you exit one screen and before the next screen loads you are thrown into a turn based battle much like in Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior.
The first time this happened I was very confused. This is not the game I thought I was playing. The turn based battle is a bit clunkier and more complex than other classic RPG’s on the NES. You have to choose who you want to fight along side you and choose a formation. The farther into the game you get the more companions you have to choose between. I did a few of these battles and did not enjoy them at all.
I did some research on the world wide web to see if I could pick up some tips to make them more enjoyable and less tedious. What I found blew my socks off.
It turns out, you don’t have to ever fight these battles. Before the enemy attacks you get the option to escape from the battle. If you try and fail you then must pick a formation and companion to fight alongside. If you choose “fight alone” you get another chance to escape. If this fails the battle begins and you get first move. At this point you can try to escape again. If you fail this 3rd time you are going to lose some hit points as the enemy will attack.
But, in my experience, only a handful of times was I unsuccessful at escaping before I got attacked and I never had to try to escape more than 1 time after the battle actually started.
I wish I could regale you all with tales of my hard fought battles and how the game has a cool feature that allows you to try to “make peace” with the enemy. But, alas, I never learned this game mechanic because I literally escaped from every battle. This is another example of a cool feature that wasn’t needed.
Because this is an RPG you earn experience points for defeating enemies and every so often you character gains a level where your health, magic and attack power goes up and every once in a while you learn a new spell. The game has an interesting feature where you can only level up 5 times in each chapter and when you beat the chapter your character is automatically leveled up to the max level allowed for that chapter.
I usually maxed out or got close to it in each chapter just by wandering around trying to figure out what to do but I like the idea of never being too weak to succeed in a chapter as you are auto-leveled up between chapters.
This feature is the reason I never felt the need to learn the turn based battle system. I found much more success finding an easy enemy in the overworld and just fighting them over and over to get much needed experience.
How To Play
As I’ve mentioned above, the game is broken out into 5 chapters and each follows a very similar structure. I’m not going to walk through each chapter I’m just describe how the game plays in general.
First off, this is a typical “save the princess” game where you must rescue a damsel in distress in each chapter and the last chapter you rescue your girlfriend/wife/something?
You start each chapter in a town where you are told to talk to everyone. In the town the people will give you mild hints on what to do. You can visit a shop to buy items, a hotel to replenish your health/magic. Some towns have casinos. There is usually a holy man who can change your class or give you a password so you don’t have to beat the game in one sitting. Lastly, there is a university where you can pay some money to take classes to learn new skills.
The university is sometimes hidden, but, don’t worry, your little helper will tell you when to cast Oprin to make it appear. Typically there are 3 classes in the university, 2 of which teach you a new battle formation to use in the turn based battles. As I mentioned above, I didn’t need this but never knew what I’d learn taking a class so learned them anyway.
The last course will usually upgrade your sword, rod or armor. The upgraded item is proof that you have completed the class and is needed to talk to another wise man somewhere in the chapter. If you have the upgraded item the wise man will teach you a spell.
Once you have explored everything the town has to offer you leave and explore the overworld. As the chapters progress the overworld maps get larger requiring more exploration. Usually there is another town to discover but the same amenities are found there. While exploring the overworld you will find a hidden door that takes you either into the future or the past. If you go through the door you will explore the same map in a different time. This is usually where you complete some other task that gives you access to the final temple of the chapter.
Once you have completed this task you can then visit the final temple which plays much like a Zelda dungeon where you must fight guys, explore rooms, open locked doors and eventually get to a boss.
The end chapter bosses all look pretty cool and remind of the bosses in Fester’s Quest where they are huge, you are small and the background is solid black.
Some of the bosses required certain spells or techniques to defeat. Because of this it is always important to talk to everyone in every town and explore every nook and cranny of every chapter. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t tell you when you’ve found everything and more times than not I got to the boss and could not defeat them.
Luckily this is 2020 and the internet exists and led me in the right direction to find whatever person, place or thing I was missing to defeat the boss. I don’t think I would have liked the game nearly as much if I couldn’t use the collective knowledge of retro gamers on this game. I enjoyed figuring things out on my own, but sometimes that wasn’t possible so the internet saved me.
There is a lot to do in The Magic of Scheherazade. It is a very polished game that takes the best parts of a lot of other NES games and crams them into a tight 10 hour package. Unfortunately, the way the multiple games game mechanics are worked in seem like afterthoughts. Many of the cool features of the game can be completely skipped and aren’t needed to beat the game. I was thankful one of those was the turn based battles as I didn’t want to dive into learning that mess. But, the cool chapter specific spells that change the landscape, the planting a tree in the past and picking its fruit in the future and the inclusion of casino games were all ambitious but not needed to beat the game. I’m glad I got to experience some of these things but wish they had been more integral into the game play.
The Magic of Scheherazade is a great game that I bet most people haven’t played or even heard of. If you read the manual and have Google close by there is a lot to enjoy about it. I think this one falls into the “hidden gem” realm for me.