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
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.