Gaming Flashback: Shadowgate
The Nintendo Entertainment System had one of the most eclectic libraries in video game history, from mainstream titles like Super Mario Bros., Contra, and Final Fantasy to obsucre and niche games like WURM, M.U.L.E., and Wallstreet Kid. One of the more niche genres I loved to play on my NES when I was a kid were adventure games, specifically Shadowgate. It was completely different from anything else that I had played on the NES, but there was something about it that kept bringing me back, even after completing the game mutliple times. Maybe it was the game's atmosphere, or its trial and error gameplay, or maybe it was simply because it was such drastic departure from everything else I had been exposed to at the time.
The NES port of Shadowgate saw release in 1989, but the game was actually on a number of home computers prior to its port to the NES. Originally released on the Apple II in 1987, Shadowgate was the third game in the popular MacVenture series of games and was preceeded by Déjà Vu. Thanks to the immense popularity of the MacVenture series and the tremendous install base of the NES at the time, the decision was eventually reached to bring the games to Nintendo's machine, however, due to the point and click interface of the game's on the PC, the games would need to be reworked to better suit the NES's primary input device, a controller. Thankfully, the developers at ICOM were up to the task and successfully ported the game to the NES, complete with a brand new user interface to better suit the console gamer.
This brings us to the start of the adventure, and puts you in the role of the "last of a line of great hero-kings" in order to put an end to the Warlock Lord. The player must accompish this by making their way throught he many trapped rooms and corridors of Castle Shadowgate. While this may seem like a simple task, many in the rooms in the castle contain puzzles, many of which will result in the death of our "hero-king". Each puzzle and most rooms also have a death scene associated with them, and despite Nintendo's rampant censoring of games at the time, all of the death scenes remain in tact, including a handful of suicides. While many of the death traps can be avoiding entirely through the memorization of the game, or by using a walkthrough, some of the deaths are worth triggering on purpose, just to read the various ways that the hero can come to his end.
At the time of its release Shadowgate was truly something unique, offering gamers a interesting adventure game, and in a time before NES ports of titles like Maniac Mansion, there wasn't much else like it. While the entire MacVenture series would eventually make its way to the NES, Shadowgate always stood out to me more than Déjà Vu or Uninvited ever could. Even though the games shared much of the same interface and gameplay style, the story and art style of Shadowgate was always very appealing to me. Despite its unique premise, Shadowgate recieved mostly negative reviews, which is unfortunate, because it truly is a gem in the NES library and I would love to see more people play and enjoy this fantastic title.