The Magic Candle

In the NES era, you can find PC ports of RPGS on the NES.  This includes things like Might and Magic, Ultima, and the game under question today, The Magic Candle.  The website linked here shows some screenshots of the other ports of the game, including the fact that the PC-88 version had some nudity.  As for the NES port, well, the game is pretty drastically different.  To compare, let me show a shot of the NES version, and a shot of the PC version.

The version on the left is a shot of the town in the NES version, and the PC version is on the right.

Of course, it might seem like the NES version is much more primitive, both gameplay wise and graphically.  This is probably pretty accurate.  The PC version of the game is a long Ultima like game where you have hundreds of things to do, but a fairly tight time limit.  You literally cannot do all the things in the game.  Meanwhile, the NES game is rather like Dragon Quest, in that you will spend a fair amount of time grinding for money and levels to advance the game.

The blue tiles with the crosses are a hint that there's a church on the next screen.

NES games have a history of having troubles with scrolling.  However, in 1992, Dragon Quest IV is already out, and there’s other games like Legend of the Ghost Lion and Silva Saga who have larger gameplay windows and smooth scrolling.  In comparison, Magic Candle has rooms.  You walk to the edge of a room, and you transition into a new one.  This means that towns tend to look pretty barren since each area shows walls or floor tiles, and usually one to three NPCs.

A shop in Magic candle. For all that the graphics are simple, using different colored tables and NPCs does give it some interest.

Much like Dragon Quest, you quickly hit a brick wall where the next area expects you to have certain armor, and you don’t have the money to earn it.  So what’s interesting about the game?  Well, the music is quite nice, and it’s not that hard to get from area to area in the towns.  Another nice feature is the battle system.  While it’s a basic Dragon Quest like system, the graphics are brightly colored and the backgrounds look quite appealing.  The early enemies in the game resemble some sort of kidney holding forks and remind me of Dragon Quest slimes (I think the one below is the “micro macro”?)  As far as I know, the tight time limit is gone in the NES version, but I believe you are able to get a day/night cycle in the game.

This early battle in Magic Candle is a good example of the colorful backgrounds.

All in all, this game is a good example of a untranslated game that I’m willing to explore.  There’s a quite nice FAQ out there, if I get lost, and the font is pretty clear.  There’s very little kanji in the game (in fact, I don’t remember seeing any of it.)  Equipping items is as simple as selecting it in the inventory.    While the grinding is unfortunate, at least the music and graphics are interesting.  I suspect the game will wear out its welcome pretty quickly in the late game areas, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to explore.  Thanks to the lack of the time limit, and the lack of the expanse of options, I actually find it more approachable compared to the PC version.

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