In Dark Wizard, the magical land of Cheshire is dominated by the destructive and evil ways of the Dark Wizard Velonese who soon hopes to release the Dark God Arliman from the Jewel of Darkness which has held him captive for centuries. All of Cheshire has been taken over by Velonese except for the kingdom of Quentin, where one of four warlords hopes to claim the land that Velonese's elemental demons have taken over in recent years. The motives of these warlords include nobility (Prince Armer and Robin, Cheshire's finest warrior), personal gain (Amon the vampire) and revenge against Velonese (Krystal the enchantress).
Once a player has chosen a warlord, the game can begin. The player is able to summon mystical beasts and purchase fighters, clerics and mages. Since each warlord has different abilities and different motives, each is capable of recruiting different beasts and warriors than other warlords.
The player moves each warrior in a strategic fashion on the hexagon-based battlefield. When a player confronts an enemy soldier (some have better range than others), the warrior can attack, a counter-attack almost certain to follow. Meanwhile, there are many items that may be purchased or found that can bolster a warrior's effectiveness. After each castle has been regained from the forces of Velonese the player is then taken to a map where the next point of attack must be decided. Once every space on the map has been wrested from Velonese (and this takes quite a while), the player has freed Cheshire and won the game.
Dark Wizard is an excellent and highly underrated fantasy wargame from SEGA. Kyote's review at RPG Critic says it all about why fans of the genre should take a look at this SEGA CD old game:
"The golden lands of Cheshire have been thrust into turmoil and darkness by an immortal wizard bent on revenge. The king has fallen and you must be his successor; you must lead the armies of Cheshire to reclaim the land for the light. You must stop this wizard before he can resurrect the god of darkness. Are you up to the challenge?
Dark Wizard is a strategy/war RPG that never got the attention it deserved, due to its release on an ill-fated system (although it does seem to have developed an all too small cult following). Strategy/War is my favorite genre, and I have an extensive amount of experience in many of its more shining examples (get it?). And although the library of games comprising this genre has grown tremendously since Dark Wizard's release nearly a decade ago, I still find myself drawn to this game. Very simply, this game is a masterpiece, and my all time favorite.
The story is rather clichéd and simplistic, but immediately receives some life by allowing the player to choose one of four leaders. Each leader has a reason for wanting the Dark Wizard dead, and their stories convey this well. I also find in strategy/war games that simplicity is often better for the story, since it focuses the player on the gameplay and strategy. And it is here, the gameplay, where Dark Wizard has no equal. The battle system of this game is a thing of incredible beauty. It has the complexity to allow for customization, but isn't so intricate as to bog down the player in specifics. To other strategy/war buffs, it's in an exquisite balance between the Shining Force games and Final Fantasy Tactics (or Tactics Ogre). There is so much more I would like to describe, but I don't have the room. Play it for yourself; you'll see.
The other, more physical aspects of this game are also good, considering its age. The music of this game is composed primarily of themes, one for each leader, both good and evil. To be succinct, it is marvelous (especially for a system not known for sound); it's haunting, sad, inspiring, even threatening. I have to admit that the sound effects are a little lackluster, but they do get the job done. The battle sequence graphics in this game are very good. The soldiers and monsters look menacing, and their attacks and spells are quite well animated. The only problem I will acquiesce on is that some of the larger characters can become rather pixilated when fighting another large character. To summarize, the graphics are nothing special, even inferior, by today's standards, but shouldn't discourage any player from enjoying this game.
Another aspect of this game that I find to be excellent is its challenge and replay value. With four leaders, each with their own nuances to the quest, the gamer is put to the challenge four times. Which brings me to the challenge. This game is quite long and challenging for beginners and experts alike. This is a game quality that I have really begun to treasure in recent years (the decrease in the challenge of strategy and role playing games in favor for an increase in sales is a topic best left for another time). The AI of this game is quite efficient; so don't expect to simply march over your enemies. With 24 battles to win, and four leaders to win them with, you can expect to lose a significant amount of your leisure time."
If you enjoy games like Fantasy General, you will have a lot of fun with Dark Wizard. Similar to other console war games, Dark Wizard is neither as challenging nor complex as its PC counterparts. But the game makes up for these shortcomings in spades with dozens of interesting spells and units, sheer fun factor, and good length. It is also much more challenging than other strategy/war games on console, and even uses a hex-based system - something you don't usually see in console titles :)
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