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THE WIZARD OF OZ: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road - NDS - Preview

It’s unlikely that anyone ever thought they’d see an RPG based on The Wizard of Oz. But if there’s one industry that proves you can never say never, it’s the game industry. Later this year, players will get to relive the classic tale of Dorothy, Toto, the cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

 

In this Nintendo DS-exclusive RPG, Dorothy will once again travel the Yellow Brick Road – and visit many other locations – as she embarks on a familiar, yet slightly altered, journey. She’ll meet up with old friends who will first be her enemies but quickly decide to fight alongside her. That’s right, Dorothy has to fight. Contrary to most kid-targeted games – actually, this doesn’t appear to be a kid’s game at all – Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is true to its genre. Battles are turn-based and feature a first-person view of each enemy, sort of like Pokemon but with more detail (and are in 3D).

All four of the playable characters are fully fleshed out combatants with individual – and essential – gameplay features. Each one follows the “stronger than” rule of other RPGs; when attacking ghosts, Dorothy’s moves are the most effective. Water creatures are most susceptible to attacks from the Scarecrow, Tin Man is strongest against plant-based monsters, and so on.

Beyond the Yellow Brick Road might surprise some players in that it does not utilize the typical turn-based format where each character’s move is selected individually. Instead, you select up to four moves per turn before any of them are executed. The number of moves you can make is determined by the characters you decide to use. It works like this: each character is assigned a number that corresponds to how many moves per turn a character’s attack is worth. If a character is assigned the number one, he or she can attack four times per turn (1+1+1+1 = 4). That means that Dorothy and the Scarecrow, who both have the number one, may be used in any combination to attack four times (ex: attack once with Dorothy and attack three times with the Scarecrow).

 

Lion, however, is a moderately strong character and has been assigned the number two. This means that he takes up two moves for every single attack, and since there are only four moves available per turn, he can only attack twice. Alternatively, he could be used to attack once and Dorothy and/or the Scarecrow could be used to attack two other times (2+1+1 = 4).

Tin Man, the strongest character in the game, takes up three moves and thus can only be used once per turn. He and Lion cannot be used in the same turn since their move requirements are too great (3+2 = 5). Only the characters you use to fight each turn will be in danger of retaliation; enemies cannot hurt those who stay behind. But all characters will receive EXP, allowing your party to grow together as one unstoppable unit.

In practice, this setup is quite effective. While journeying through the game, Dorothy and her unlikely pals will encounter many hazards. Though the paths are often linear – the 3D levels are boxed into somewhat of a pre-determined path – things are kept interesting with an overabundance of battles. Unlike the Pokemon and Final Fantasy games, you can see enemies coming. Still, it’s rare that you’ll be able to avoid them. And when you consider the benefits of fighting and leveling up now (ensuring you’ll be stronger later), there’s little point in trying to avoid them.

Just as the developers took their own route in designing Beyond the Yellow Brick Road’s combat system, they have decided to make the third-person exploration controls a bit different from the norm. That difference comes in the form of a touch screen trackball. Placed on the bottom screen, the trackball works just like the real thing. Instead of pushing the D-pad in the direction you want to move, and instead of touching a specific spot of the screen, you’ll scratch the ball forward, backward, left and right to make Dorothy move through each stage.

 

Bringing the classic tale of The Wizard of Oz to DS systems everywhere this fall, Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is shaping up nicely. RPG fans – as well as those with a soft spot for all things Oz – are encouraged to check it out when it’s released later this year.

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