Checking out games like Half-Minute Hero and Ju-On: The Grudge at the recent NYC XSeed event, I was given the opportunity to see one game that hadn’t even been announced yet- Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. It’s a brand new game for the Nintendo DS and is absolutely nothing like you would expect from the license. Unless you were expecting a Phantasy Star-style RPG.
Didn’t think so. But that’s exactly what this is! Grabbing the system to try it out was relevatory. You guide Dorothy down the yellow brick road (which seems to have a lot more turns and forks that I remembered…) using a touchscreen trackball on the lower screen. She runs at a decent clip and can interact with various objects along the way.
Enemies appear on the road and can be engaged at will by simply bumping into them. This bring up a familiar first-person battle screen and gives you all the usual options- attacks, special modes, items, and the such. I didn’t have any special attacks unlocked at this early stage in the game and hadn’t yet added the Tin Man to my party, but I soon ran into him. He’s a big metal monstrosity and you’ll battle him before knocking him back to his senses and adding him to your party. You’ll only control the four main characters in the game, and they’ll learn new moves and get new equipment and such in typical RPG fashion.
The story is loosely based on some of the L. Frank Baum novels, but has the usual tale of Dorothy and Toto being sucked up by a tornado and landing in Oz, finding her three companions and taking off down the yellow brick road together. After finally reaching the castle in the Emerald City, the group finds out that the land has been taken over my four evil witches, and are tasked with defeating all of them so they can get back home to Kansas. It’s definitely got a darker style that’s more in line with the novels, and while I hoped against hope to run into some flying monkeys in my demo, I couldn’t find any. Perhaps later in the game…
While it doesn’t look like it’s going to break any big ground for RPGs it’s definitely an intriguing take on the classic tale, one that hasn’t been done before and could work remarkably well. We’ll find out when it hits stores this fall for the Nintendo DS, which is clearly still THE system for RPG fans.