The Bard's Tale

a game by FCI
Platform: NESNES
Genre: Adventure/RPG
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 4 reviews
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Lend me your ear, young lad, and I'll tell you the tale of a brave minstrel, his band of merry men, and how they rid our fair town of the mad wizard, Mangar. In fact, this tale can be your own if you play the game known as "The Bard's Tale".

A New Role to Play

FCI's The Bard's Tale, a computer classic, combines some of the best elements of other adventure games with new innovations. Your team consists of six Dungeons & Dragons adventurers, a Warrior, a Rogue, a Hunter, a Sorcerer, a Wizard, and of course a Bard. They've got great tricks up their sleeves, like the Bard's songs and the Sorcerer's instant illusionary allies (who fight by your side). Magical abilities are based on a spell point system, so you can divvy up enchantments as necessary. Combat, like the rest of the game, is menu-driven and easy to conduct.

As in most such scenarios, Bard's Tale requires lots of beastie-bashing to build experience and add new powers to your party's arsenal. You explore dozens of map-making-required mazes, and unlike most similar titles, here you get two play views, a first-person 3-D look and an overhead perspective. While BT's visuals and music aren't much to talk about, the diverse locations throughout Skara Brae, such as the Wine Cellar and Kylearan's Tower, are a definite high point.

ProTips:

  • Cast the Scry Site spell to determine your compass coordinates (north and east) on a 16x16 gird map.
  • In order to enter the Wine Cellar, the first dungeon, request Grape Juice at the Scarlet Bard. Find the Cellar's stairs to the Sewers at 2 North and 15 East Next, battlee the Sewer Spider at 4 North and 9 East, and finally claim the Heretic Proof at 2 North and 10 East. Use the Proof to enter Tarjan's Temple.

A Tale to Remember

Bard's Tale isn't the best-looking or sounding RPG around, but maze trail-blazers will find this musician's song is worth a listen.

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Game Reviews

This game was a breakthrough when it was first released by Electronic Arts for home computers in the mid-1980s. To begin with, it was one of the first RPGs that let you select commands from a list or "menu" of possible actions. Most earlier RPGs required players to type their commands on the keyboard. (The typical command was a short two-word sentence, such as "Get lamp.") The Bard’s Tale also offered a "view window" on the screen with a first-person perspective. The view window, a small screen-within-a-screen, gave players the illusion of walking through a mysterious city and its underground mazes.

The background story in The Bard's Tale is pure RPG. It seems that the city of Skara Brae is under a curse of perpetual winter. Its people are locked behind the city gates, held in the frozen grip of a creature known as Mangar, the Archmage. Their only hope is the Adventurer's Guild, an ancient organization of heroes. To save the people of Skara Brae, a small group of adventurers prepares for a dangerous descent into the catacombs of the city. Their mission: to search for the keys to Mangar's tower and the powers to defeat him.

The game begins in the Adventurer's Guild, where you create a band of six heroes by choosing from the six different professions available (wizard, rogue, warrior, and so on). Once the party is assembled, you exit the Guild Hall and travel up the street toGarth's Equipment Shop, where you outfit your characters with the best weapons and armor you can afford.

But you're not ready to take on Mangar just yet. When you begin the game, your characters are relatively weak. To gain combat experience, you have to fight monsters - lots of monsters. The computer version of The Bard's Tale was also one of the first RPGs that forced you to battle against whole herds of evil creatures. The Nintendo version is much the same. You can't walk ten steps anywhere in Skara Brae without being attacked.

In fact, winning The Bard's Tale doesn't depend as much on finding the right items as it does on fighting your way to them. The key is to manage your characters' powers well enough to survive. This is both the game's strongest and most annoying feature. While there are hundreds of monsters and lots of interesting weapons, there's no way to keep the battles from getting boring. Eventually, you'll probably wish you could just find what you need without having to stop and fight every two minutes.

In many of the computer RPGs which have followed The Bard's Tale, game designers have tried to keep the constant fighting from becoming so tedious. Some games require less fighting; others make the combat more integral to the game's storyline; and some just make the battles more interesting to watch. The NES version of The Bard's Tale, however, simply duplicates the original combat system found in the computer game. The same strategic challenge is there, but so is the monotony. Still, The Bard's Tale isn't a worse offender than the Dragon Warrior games, for example.

The Bard's Tale isn't as large a game as Dragon Warrior, but it's still got the goods, and it'll probably take you quite awhile to finish. In fact, it's surprising how well the NES game compares to the computer version. True, FCI has made a few changes: Skara Brae is a little smaller, there are fewer classes of characters, and a new on-screen display more or less eliminates the need to draw your own maps. But otherwise, everything is much the same.

If you've never played this sort of game before, The Bard's Tale makes a good introduction. If you're already an RPG veteran, you should find enough here to hold your interest.

Where monsters finally face the music!

You'd expect a great role playing game to have plenty of monsters and creatures for you to conquer. You'd expect the band of six hardy adventurers you create to have magical powers and weapons to wield in battle. But only The Bard's Tale brings you the unexpected - the awesome weapon of magical music! Though each of your team has unique skills, the Bard's songs have devastating effects on your fearsome foes. Dragons, spiders, trolls, and orcs face the music each time they encounter your freedom fighters. Hone your skills in magic and combat as you search for gold through the incredible maze of the city's 16 levels of dungeons and catacombs. Destroy the monsters with magic and music. Let The Bard's Tale begin!

Save Oceana from the evil rule of Namtar. As a brave traveller,you are thrown into the perilous maze created by Namtar as he bids to rule the islands of Oceana.

Snapshots and Media

NES/Famicom/Dendy Screenshots

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