Wizards and Warriors III is a game I received for Christmas in 1992. As a kid, I was excited to get any NES game, even if it turned out to be frustrating as hell. Anyone who had an original Nintendo didn't just give up on a game because it was hard. We would play the hell out of it, and experiment like crazy until we successfully got past whatever obstacle that was pissing us off so much. And, we did it all on our own - there was no internet in those days.
(Shit, I just made myself feel old.)
I never thought that the game that frustrated me so much was a poorly designed game...until I played the earlier entries in the series. And yes, I know those games are hard as hell, but they at least gave you infinite continues, or a password system. In Wizards and Warriors III, you get three lives...and that's it.
Granted, there are some good things about this game. The art style is much more polished than the previous entries in the series, and the music is catchy, especially that "pause button" tune. Unfortunately, that's where the positives end.
The nonlinear exploration seems like a great idea, until you realise you have no clear goals given. In the previous games, you still had to figure out that you need to find an item, or that you need a certain amount of gems to get to the end of a level, but it was a single goal for one level. In this game, you're not sure what the hell you have to do, so you just end up wandering around, confused and angry. Eventually, you might figure out that you need to buy keys to open doors, find a statue, bring it to a corresponding guild, pass that guild's test, and then you gain a new ability, so that you can move to a different area of the game and do that same shit all over again. Oh, and you might also figure out that you need to save some princesses, and kill a dragon, in order to access the final area of the game.
The inventory system sucks, plain and simple. You are only allowed to carry four items at any given time, be it jewels, statues, or bonus treasures. You cannot store or drop items - once you find them, you are stuck with them until they can be used. I've had to restart the game, at least twice, because I had too many items that I couldn't find a use for. I did find out what they were used for later on, but it's infuriating when you're still trying to figure things out in the game.
Fighting enemies is a pain in the ass. You can't just press the attack button to use your weapon - you have to push the attack button, while either crouching or moving the D-pad. This is a really awkward method of attacking, and I don't know of any other NES games that used this mechanic.
The platforming in this game is not the worst in the series, but it's not the best, either. In some areas, it's notoriously bad. The third Wizard's Guild gave me the most headaches - not just because the platforms move, but they're small, making it supremely difficult to jump on them. I almost destroyed my game cartridge in a fit of rage because of those fucking platforms.
To sum up this review, Wizards and Warriors III is an insult to the other games in the series that made it great. Avoid playing this game! The frustration is not worth it.