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Posted on Apr 22nd 2016 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Kings Knight, Square, early Square game, NES, Gold and Blue

I will be the first to admit I was a stupid kid.  Between 1990-92 I made a series of shameful visits to the Toys R Us "budget wall" section, where NES games could be had for a pittance.  Or $20, which I guess wasn't a pittance.  Some of you may remember an earlier article where I detailed the psychological damage caused by purchasing and playing Hydlide in 1991.  Would you believe that I had been burned before that piece of horror, not only from a game on the same wall, but in the same way, while looking for an inexpensive version of another game.  With Hydlide I was trolling for a RPG experience.  This time - the first time -  I was looking for something with some action and adventure in it (an action/adventure game, if you will).  But I guess there is no point in delaying, as you have already read the title of the article as well as seen the picture above.  Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you a tale of disappointment and discovery; Budget Wall Chronicles - King's Knight.

So here I was, twelve years old and as dumb as a rock, standing like a statue at the budget endcap of the local Toys R Us.  I knew there was a game to be had for the $20 USD in my pocket, I just had to stare for a really long time to find it....like a really long time....enough for my mother to warn me direly about the consequences of not hurrying up.  There was only about twenty or so games to choose from, but you'd have thought I was like Indiana Jones trying to suss out the Holy Grail; it was a life or death matter as far as I was concerned.  Then I finally saw it:  "Action Adventure" was on the front of the box, it was there proudly and for all to see, and to the eyes of a dumb, over-excited teenager with hard cash burning a hole in the pocket and a mother boring holes with her ocular laser-glasses, it seemed a Godsend. 

Now just to briefly cover the most obvious hole, that being the possibility of rentals, let it be known I was one of those kids who just had to own a game.  I mean I could rent it, but I wouldn't truly enjoy a game until I was dumping the contents of a freshly opened NES game-box onto my lap during the car ride home from the store.  I might as well have flushed it down the toilet for all my poor judgment, but I had $20 and it had to be spent that day and in that store and from that wall, so it was inevitable.  It was my destiny.

You know, hindsight being what it is, I have to laugh.  Within only a year or so, I dipped back into that wretched "budget game wall" no less than two more times, with each time being a proverbial shot to the gut, not to mention the faith in my method of choosing games (that being, the oft criticized "store box" method).  And the feeling that I might have made a misstep?  Nonexistent.  Unlike my next experience with Hydlide, I was flying high on the drive home.  The manual was very nice and had plenty of cute art and talked about rescuing princesses and using different characters.  And the box for King's Knight still looks good to me, with it's strong blue and gold color scheme.  It would be awhile yet before I would recognize the Square logo on the bottom (when I rented Final Fantasy), but I thought even that looked cool.  Everything seemed great up until about one minute into the game.

A few more minutes of gaming and I stopped and picked up the manual again, this time reading more into it.  Something seemed missing in the instructions, that being the key fact that this game was in fact an arcade-style shooter, not an action/adventure game.  Of course in retrospect, the action/adventure genre is still hotly contested in some circles (especially Zelda fans), but calling Knight a part of that genre would be a pretty big stretch, even with the most convincing of arguments.  I felt angry.  I felt betrayed.  I literally wanted to drop-kick the game through my livingroom window in rage and disgust.  What an emotional turn, eh?  So what was I so mad about?  Well, let me try to explain.

King's Knight is an arcade-style horizontal shooter with some adventure elements.  You control one of four characters, who each have their own stages, as they blast apart not only enemies, but also the terrain itself, revealing a plethora of powerups that do everything from upping your life bar to quickening your escape from holes, and there is even a negative item (life down).  Since there can be so much obstacle-clearing and thus, many power-ups, there can be a certain amount of strategy involved, as the location of powerups never changes.  So far this reads off as a very typical arcade-to-NES conversion title, wouldn't you agree?.  The conflict, and thus the crux of this article is only revealed when one considers exactly what game experience I was looking to replicate when I purchased King's Knight.

Are you laughing yet?  Told you I was pretty dumb.  But in my own defense, take a close look at that King's Knight box  See anything about arcade-style shooting?  Now lets's look at the manual.  Do you have one?  I'm looking at the one from Games DBase (here).  Notice anything?  Glancing over the art and pics and skimming through the text one could surmise that this could be some sort of adventure-y game, maybe even a proto-Zelda game.

So needless to say, I was pretty miserable, although I did force myself to play the game a lot, maybe just so I wouldn't tick my parents off for obviously wasting my money (and thus avoiding a lecture on money management).  I distinctly remember not telling my friends about the game, even my best friend, to whom I was basically joined at the hip at this age.  And as time passed, I slowly forgot about King's Knight, initially as actual horrible games eclipsed it and later, like to many other memories, it just faded away.  Soon it was nothing more than an object lesson that I kept around.  Too bad I didn't learn my lesson earlier, else I would have saved myself unneeded pain with Hydlide and....other games.

The "Death" screen from the first character, and a sign you need to reset the game and try again

Here I am, more than twenty years later, playing King's Knight.  The game that I had built up as being some sort of curse was nothing more than an underwhelming schmup game.  Still, I can't say I am enjoying the experience, as I still cannot pass the first stage of the game easily.  I mean, I really stink at shooters anyway (especially now), but when I was in my prime I plowed through 1942 like it was a field of dandelions.  In typical shooters, one must memorize enemy patterns, but in King's Knight you must memorize item locations within the terrain as well as manage baddies that fly past you and shoot, jump on terrain and shoot, and appear when you destroy terrain.  Success in this game is to always make sure you are getting powerups and not boxing yourself into unbreakable terrain.  And when you die, you lose that character and move to the next.  This means you move onto the next character and lose the dead one at the end of the game.  Devious, I tell you.  Still, the game does have it's own charm.  And I have to admit, if I had not been so fixated on replicating the Zelda game, I'm sure I would have had some fun with it.  It is cartoony, arcade-y, and simple, and possesses that great, raw and loose feeling that many early NES titles seem to have.  But it doesn't have a good amount of depth, and I believe this game was definitely not worth the $20 I paid for it in 1990. However, it was worth the $5 I paid for it one (or two) year(s) ago.

Thanks for reading!

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Although difficult and not an action/adventure title, I'm still a fame of Kings Knight.  It's a fairly unique shooter and pretty inexpensive these days.  These more personal articles are always very fun reads. I can always related, because I use to put games on layaway when I was a kid. Took me 4 months each to get my copies of T&C Surf Designs and The Adventures of Bayou Billy......... 
Oh man do I remember this.  I bought this same game at Toys R' Us for cheap and man was I disappointed.  This game sucks and it is hard.  It's just like you said, remembering where the powerups were is the key.  Even though this came does suck, I did play the crap out of it.  I mean, I did purchase it, didn't I?  LOL
@singlebanana: Four months for T&C Surf?  Ouch.  I always thought that game somehow spread itself covertly to kids homes, as I knew a ton of friends who had it but no memory of actually buying it.  Congrats, Rich.  You are the first one.  You know, I've always though King's Knight was an earlier ancestor of Mercenary Force for the GameBoy, although I remember that game being good.  Hm.  I figure MetalFRO will get around to it sooner or later.  Thanks for the comments!

@shaggy: First, I am sorry to hear that.  Second, I glad to not be alone.  Funny, how we used to really maximize our money back then, eh?  Couldn't tell you how many hours I put into KK, but it was certainly more than thirty.  These days when something is crap we just ignore it.  I can look right now on Steam and see how much I played The Waste Land.  Yep, 13 minutes.  And never a second more.
Thanks for the great lore and writeup, Bomba! As stated, I always enjoy the personal stories behind games, even the disappointments. Tongue

Didn't pick this one up until many years after the SNES was out, and thought it a mild curiosity. I can see it as a genuine letdown with Zelda in mind.

YouTube would've saved us a lot of allowance back them, eh?
@slackur:  Thanks, Jess, I really love writing them.  And man, would Youtube have been a Godsend!  I like to imagine the 80's-early 90's analog of Youtube would have been a disgruntled employee (let's call him Duke) sitting around all day playing games.  So you'd get your parental-unit to drive you down to the local Youtube store and wait to see if he throws his controller (or the game cartridge) while playing Simon's Quest.
I think we were much more forgiving back in the day for that. We got one cartridge every report card from the Toys R Us wall of shame and WE LIKED IT, whether or not it was good, because we were stuck with it for 3 months.

...that wall was the source of crying for many of us, I feel.

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