I remember the first time I saw screenshots of Treco’s Sorcerer’s Kingdom in an issue of Die Hard Game Fan back around 1992 or ’93 and immediately wanting to track down the game based on the art style and interesting battle system the article described. When I finally got the game, I wasn’t disappointed one bit. In fact, the rather brutal level of challenge right from the beginning kept me playing early areas of the map until I could take down the first actual boss in the game with relative ease, yet still aware that the next area would be geometrically tougher.
While the story is your pretty basic quasi-medieval RPG stuff that’s somewhat predictable in a few of the usual spots, the game doesn’t look at all like it’s stealing from some nameless anime or manga and it’s in the unique combat system that most players will find their fun and yes, frustrating moments…
In the beginning of the game, it’s just your character (a knight in training you name) up against killer goblins, kobolds, some mean slimes and trolls. It takes a few hours before you get an additional party member in the form of a wizard named Elrad and a bit later on, you’re joined by Astina (a cleric) and Midi (a scout), all of whom are valuable assets to your small team of adventurers. Each dungeon or map area with enemies is quite a challenge to get through because with a few notable exceptions, combat difficulty is based on how many enemies are on screen when a fight breaks out. Once you’re spotted by a roving creature, the words BATTLE! pop up on screen, followed by some frantic combat music. You’re not locked into place during fights like most JRPGs and in fact, making sure you’re not surrounded or trapped in a corner by faster enemies becomes a huge key to surviving. This adds a slight tactical element to the gameplay, as you need to pay attention to the movement range of anything on screen.
Early on, the strategy with the hero as your sole character is to lure one enemy at a time into battle, kill it, run back to town to heal, rinse and repeat. Enemies will get in multiple blows once they’re in range, so you’ll need to be very careful even after you’ve gained a few levels. Once you have Elrad, you can use his powerful offensive spells, while Astina and Midi offer up their own support magic once you acquire them. Interestingly enough, your party gains permanent stat boosts based on how each member does in combat, including taking hits (and surviving, of course) and dealing out damage. You can exploit this (and abuse healing circles on some maps) to beef up the hero early on so that he’s a powerhouse by mid-game, but you’ll still need to get the rest of the team equally up to speed as things progress. Farming gold as well as levels is necessary if you want to keep your team well-equipped. If you have enough cash on hand, you can buy great gear before you find it in some of the deadlier areas, and if you’re dedicated enough you’ll end up with way too much gold by game’s end.
The game also features a few “cut scenes” that show off some basic-looking but welcome parallax scrolling. Of course, compared to some of the powerhouse Super Nintendo RPGs that were available at the time or on the way, the game is a tiny bit underwhelming. That said, you’ll be traveling to many distinctly different areas as you progress, most with hidden treasures off the beaten path if you’re a careful traveler. One amusing thing about the game is unlike a lot of JRPGs at the time, it offered a fast travel option that, unless you read the manual or pay attention to the map you get, you may not realize exists. On my first time through the adventure, I had NO idea I could have saved a ton of time backtracking to the starting town or other areas until the game was about 3/4 completed. I wasn’t annoyed by my stupidity, as I’d been racking up gold and experience from all that hoofing it around assorted environments. Hey, did I mention I love grinding for levels in my RPGs?
As far as length goes, I’d say you’ll get about 30 or so hours out of the game unless you decide to level cap everyone (which makes the final boss a total joke). There’s no “New Game+” here, but like any good game, you’ll complete Sorcerer’s Kingdom and tuck it back onto the shelf until some future date when you go back to it like a good book. It’s too bad there isn’t a Treco Collection for the Genesis, as the company published a handful of great games for the console such as Warsong, Atomic Robo-Kid, Twin Cobra and Task Force Harrier EX. Of course, there’s always the emulator route for those of you who want to go there. Me, I prefer a box, cart and manual (as usual) for the library, especially for an underrated gem such as this.