Written by  :  Scribblemacher (210)
Written on  :  Sep 04, 2012
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Criminally unknown NES gem

The Good

Pool of Radiance offers fantastic, challenging game play. It's one of the best AD&D games, and, along with Baldur's Gate, was instrumental in the development of Western RPGs. With a large number of quests and a large world to explore, you can easily sink many hours into this game, but unlike many Japanese-style RPGs, it never becomes a mindless grind-fest.

Once you clear the Keep, you can take a boat out into the overworld and the game becomes very non-linear. The story progresses through quests assigned to you from City Hall, and many of these are pretty interesting. They usually go well beyond fetch quests and may have multiple ways to complete them.

Dungeons are in 1st person, like Wizardry, must most areas have an Area map (use the Area command) that will make things much easier. In a few tricky areas, you'll need to break out the graph paper. Battles take place in 3rd person on a tile-based board. There's actually considerable strategy to how you fight. Hold spells like Sleep and Hold can be used to swing the battle in your favour.

This version feels more streamlined than its PC counterparts. Battles are smaller and more manageable and the addition of music adds to the experience. The menus and controls have been mapped very well to the NES's controller and you'll hardly know that this was originally a PC game. This is certainly a port done right, taking advantage of the system's strengths and modifying the game to address its weaknesses.

The Bad

There are a few spells that are buggy or don't seem to do anything. Some parts of the game are notoriously difficult until you gain some levels and get more powerful weapons. Since you can save anywhere, this invites the player to save before difficult battles and reset after poor level-ups, getting slain, level-drains, etc.

Randomly generated creature dungeons on the world map were removed in this version due to space constrains. The quest journal, a physical book that came with the PC game and was referred to in the game, was not utilized (though a few parts of the game erroneously refer to it)

The Bottom Line

An excellent Western-style RPG and one of the few on a retro console. This version is more accessible than it's PC counterparts, but missing a few features. If you take the time to understand a few AD&D concepts (such lower = better for many stats), you'll be rewarded with one of the best roleplaying experiences on the NES. On a platform where RPG usually meant "grind-fest" Pool of Radiance really stands out as a unique, one-of-a-kind adventure.