Swords and Serpents for the NES

A retro review

Swords and Serpents

You mean Dungeons and Dragons?

Well....

Swords and Serpents is one of those DnD style adventure games, and it looks promising. It was published by Acclaim, who also brought Double Dragon 2 to America. You start off either picking a party of warriors or making your own. Once you’re set, bang, you’re in the dungeon, or wherever you are…

You move in three dimensions as a sort of first person perspective, which a few NES games offer, like Dungeon Magic, Deep Dungeon, or the actual DnD games, and for all practical purposes, it’s very well made.

Eventually, you come across this old baboon.

“Go slay a dragon,” he says. Not a serpent? Seems like a missed opportunity to me.

I’ve tried playing this game on numerous occasions. My first few times, I made my own characters, but it took longer to make the characters than I was able to survive in the dungeon. Normally, after five minutes of wandering around, I lose at least one character in battle, and while that’s probably not the end of the world, I abhor marching around with a dead guy in tow so early on. Besides, I never had an idea of where to go to get revived, and apart from the wizard’s heal spell, there’s nowhere to buy items to restore health.

Thought you could just buy potions or herbs? Nope. There is a shop, an armory, but all you can buy is what you start with; a dagger, a staff, or some leather armor. It’s useful to sell your goodies, which you get from killing baddies, but that first armory offers nothing of value.

Nevertheless, I tried playing Swords and Serpents one more time because I just like the way the game looks, and this time, I just marched in with the ready-made party, two wizards, a thief, and a warrior, and, of course, I got creamed within fifteen minutes, but hey, that’s the longest I’ve ever lasted. Come to learn, when you croak, you automatically reappear at the “temple”. Monks heal your wounds, and although you’re outta’ dough, you’re good to keep on roaming.

At that point, I also knew where to go when I got hurt from battles, so I powered on through. If you can gain a few levels, the top level of the dungeon isn’t so bad. My advice is to just save your wizard’s magic for heal spells. The fire spell they start with is useless, and rather than gaining spells from leveling, you can find new spells written on walls, so walk over every portion of the dungeon.

The good-

The graphics are absolutely great. The atmosphere is fun, even the music is kinda’ cool. You can slay enemies and buy new equipment. Your wizard character can get spells. The fighting mechanics are fun. Overall, if you’re in the mood for a cheap dungeon crawler, Swords and Serpents is decent.

The bad-

It’s too damned hard, and there are enemies literally everywhere. Even in the armory you can get tagged by bats, spiders, or other assorted, stock baddies. Your characters will drop dead after only a few hits, and you won’t have enough money to buy equipment before getting smeared to the baby blue walls, not that equipment matters much since you get better equipment from the enemies you kill.

Now, here’s the kicker—here’s the worst part of this game—there is no save feature. The game pretends to have a save feature. You click on save, and what do you get? Five passwords; one for the stage, and one for each character.

Are you kidding? Really? Schneriously?

My advice? Well, play it on an emulator, so you can take advantage of save states. Just remember, you’re not supposed to download roms of games you don’t already own, but you can probably find a cheap, used, non-functioning Swords and Serpents NES cartridge on Amazon for 99 cents, so get it, and then play Swords and Serpents on an emulator.

That said, I’ve tried this particular game on numerous occasions because I thoroughly enjoy these kinds of games. My favorite is probably Dungeon Master 2 on the PC—Swords and Serpents is no DM2, but it’s a fun play.

I’ll score Swords and Serpents a flat C. Play it, don’t play it; the NES has better and worse games, but this one’s a decent fantasy game.

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Swords and Serpents for the NES