Read the review here.
“Sword Master is a side-scrolling action game in which one player controls the protagonist, the Sword Master, in an admittedly generic plotline revolving around rescuing a damsel in distress from the clutches of some evil dark lord who has resurrected an army of undead abominations with which he is now attempting to take over the world. Of course.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I could probably give this game four stars and not feel too bad about it.
I recommend giving Sword Master a shot and see what you think of it. I like this game, but it is of the type that I can imagine many people really disliking it, or some may fall in love. I cannot think of any other 8-bit game that has quite the same pace and emphasis on combat mechanics. It presents a quirky type of fun to figure out the swordplay and shield workings to get past enemies, and I am a sucker for the duel feel of every boss fight.
It has been a while, but I have a Second Opinion feature for this title — from a gaming friend, Mike Beck, who pretty much just writes a solid full review here:
In this game, you are a medieval warrior in a sweet suit of armor. With sword and shield in hand, you battle knights, wizards, fire breathing dragons, jump kicking lizards, and the like in order to; you guessed it, save the girl. Right off the bat, you notice the great background that stands out and really gives the game character. I also really like the looks of each of the different guys, good job by the art team on this one. On top of that, the music is pretty cool too.
The feature that I thought was really well done and made the game what it is, is the ability to block. Mastering this technique is crucial in becoming a “Sword Master”. Holding up you block with your shield objects coming down at you at an angle and you swing your sword overhead. Holding down you kneel and block objects heading straight towards you and you can attack low. Don’t forget to jump and you can even move while kneeling. This takes you away from just a basic, run forward, button smashing experience to a more skilled and smarter way of having to go about slaying the adversaries in your path.
Each enemy you come up against along the way has their own way of fighting you. They have their own health meter. Some you see again later and others after figuring out how they attack so you can fight back you’re glad you don’t have to battle again. Defeating enemies fills your experience bar. A full experience bar equals a longer life bar. You have five credits for continuing. In having to start a level again you keep what experience you have collected so far and get to build from there as you replay the area. Life, in the form of magic vials, is randomly dropped by destroying creatures as you go, which allows you to always have that hope of restoring your health. In the later levels, it would have been nice if it filled up more than just one little bar though.
You also achieve the ability to transform into a mage. This was a really awesome idea. As you progress in the game, you will defeat enemies that drop magic powers that upgrade the mage’s abilities. Not only can you switch between the different types of magic, holding down the action button also charges up a more powerful attack. The problem I had with this though is that once you become accustomed to blocking all the time, your mage seems rather helpless without a shield. So blast away at a foe that’s giving you trouble and quickly transform back into the knight. Keep in mind, each shot of magic takes away from your experience bar, so use wisely.
On your journey, between levels it shows our hero walking to the next area on a map screen. It’s sort of pointless yet in its own little way somehow helps make the world you’re in seem a lot bigger. So that’s not really bad, however, I do have a few issues that I need to address. First, what I call the totally lame level. It’s nothing but dodging obstacles until the end. This requires some timing, but just doesn’t fit in with the sword fighting going on in the other action filled areas. Second, I noticed a glitch where if you hit guys certain ways you will kind of get stuck on one swing of the sword against them. Instead of just chipping away at the enemy’s health by one bar it actually takes away as many as it’s stuck for. So, sometimes the same guy seems to only take a few hits and then fighting them again, if you have to replay the level, it’s as if you can hardly hurt them. If that’s not considered a glitch, then this one I found at the dude right before the final boss, most definitely is. He is the guy that just floats back and forth throwing out fireballs. No big deal if you’re facing to the right, you can block them. However, if you pass under him and are facing to the left, now you cannot block those same fireballs!
The last few baddies in the end, leading up to the big end game boss, are going to be frustrating. Have no fear though because you are going to play them so many times trying to figure out the boss part, so that you can bring down that dragon, you will have them and their moves memorized. Figuring out their moves is key. Knowing when to jump, what to block, and when to strike is what made Sword Master the fun and entertaining game that it is. The last part, with the dragon, is going to seem like pure chaos when you first get there. However, to rescue your fair maiden, you’re going to have to have endurance of the “not smash the controller against the wall” type. Once played through, with each character dialed in and memorized, you’ll be able to get to the big bad dragon with a full life bar. Now you have that beast right where you want him! So I leave you with this, intelligence is the best way to advance, but in the end, good luck! You are probably going to need it!
Thanks for the contribution, Mike. Mr. Beck is a real chill, cool guy, legitimate gamer, and he and his wife have a fun, interesting project (basically: recording a video every day) going on at their YouTube channel.
Read The Full Review For: A little more on Activision, how people with ADHD will think of Sword Master, and something about flying fire sperm, along with the humorous name given to them in the instruction manual.
NES Gameplay Tips for Sword Master: I regret to say this, but Sword Master is one of those games that, rather than outright reward reflexes and reaction time, demands practice, repetition, and utter mastery of the combat involved. I will say, at least, that to get past some of the semi-stationary or pattern-based enemies, low-slash them once then quickly jump over them.