Considering my user name, it’s surprising that I have gone two years of blogging without reviewing anything Lord of the Rings. I have made a few references to this franchise, but that’s it.
Better late than never. The subject of this review is a shitty Super Nintendo game based on the first book in Tolkien’s trilogy. Lame sidequests, confusing dungeons, an unreliable method of attack for most of the game, and the single worst party system I have ever seen make for a miserable experience. I understand that this is very loosely based on a PC game of the same name. I haven’t actually played said PC game, but I doubt it’s worse than this.
Plot: 4 out of 10
In giving credit where it’s due, I must say that Interplay’s programmers seem to know the story. If you don’t skip to the title, you see introductory video that ends with Gandalf telling Frodo to gather Sam, Pippin, Merry, and take them and the One Ring to the elven town of Rivendell. The game is also true to the book. It even includes Tom Bombadil and the barrow wights, both of which were absent from the last decade’s movies (whereas this decade’s Hobbit trilogy is actually adding stuff to justify three movies for one book).
I see Hobbiton is as much of a hick town as ever.
Unfortunately, much of the game has you on corny “fetch” quests. Your first trial by fire is finding the glasses of Sam’s father in caves near Hobbiton. Also, Aragorn refuses to join the party until you find him a herb called Kingsfoil. All this was clearly just padding the length of this game. And with quests that make the Fellowship of the Ring a bunch of errand boys?
Graphics: 1 out of 10
The landscape is plain, dull, and repetitive. When reviewing these old games, it’s necessary to take into account the hardware limitations. But other SNES action RPGs could at least do faces of characters on the overworld. This game just places masses of light peach where faces should be.
On the other hand, the character portraits in the sub-menu kind of look fine, “kind of” being stressed.
Pretty tough guy, seeing as how he hides his face under a hood.
What really drives the graphics down is what drives the graphics of so many RPGs and action RPGs down: the repeating of so many things in dungeons. As a result, it’s very difficult to find where you are when you need to go back the way you came. This makes it best to make a map for actually not excessively complicated dungeons.
Final note: this category will be factored more strongly than usual, since the graphics help ruin the gameplay
Sound: 2 out of 10
The songs are overbearing attempts at violin-like vocals. Moreover, some of the dungeons don’t even have songs, just environmental noises that the SNES’ sound processor can’t replace with music.
Gameplay: 1 out of 10
Just like in the Zelda series, You can move up, down, left, or right and use medieval weapons to attack enemies. There are healing Mushrooms, weapon upgrades, quest items, but instead of special weapons, there is an experience system that enables character to get stronger by fighting. Odd that you can’t move diagonally since this was 1994. Also, the controls are a bit on the clunky side. Much worse is how slowly the hobbits’ daggers are to come out. It takes an instant after Pressing Y for the target to be hit and the dagger takes as long coming in as going out. This is a constant aggravation throughout the game. I’m really not sure why Interplay made attacking with the hobbits such a chore. Is it to show that they are lousy fighters? I would think that their low starting levels would make this point well enough.
Plus, notice the difference in the range of leftward and downward strikes. Truly a model of consistency!
The game gets a little better halfway or a little more than halfway through when Aragorn joins in Bree and becomes the leader. He functions like a generic action RPG protagonist. OK, his move controls are flawed, but he slashes his sword properly. It’s just that getting to him is not fun because the way the hobbits stab is awful. What’s even more awful is that Legolas has no way of attacking. That’s right. He seems to function more as a human, er, elven shield than a combatant. How does this happen? What system of checks and balances did Interplay have?
But these are only the minor problems. There are many available characters. You or I might choose to let the player switch between them, but that’s not how Interplay does it. All the characters are active at all times. When you hold R, control switches to your comrades, leaving your main character inoperable. Who the Hell thought this was a good idea? First of all, how would you go about controlling this many people at once? Second, your… friends have stupid A.I. when not in effect that causes them to bump into things or fight enemies they come in contact with in an inept way that gets themselves killed. Actually, they are such a hindrance/annoyance that maybe the worse outcome is that they don’t die.
Miserable friendly A.I. is a frequent failing in these western RPGs and action RPGs. Here, however, it contaminates the game all by itself.
Challenge: 3 out of 10
There is no way to revive a dead character, so feel free to let the weaker characters perish. Unfortunately, you can’t go it alone because if Frodo or Aragorn die, the game’s over. Also, the game never ends if Gandalf dies before the “you shall not pass!!!” moment.
If the truth be known, this game wouldn’t be so hard if the gameplay wasn’t so awful. No joke. The enemies seem as stupid as your comrades. So the game is perfectly beatable if you draw maps for dungeons or look them up online. Frankly, I doubt that Interplay meant for this game to be as difficult as it is. As it stands, it is one of those games that are hard only because the gameplay is a damnable plane crash.
Overall: 2 out of 10
I can’t even say, “I’ve played worse,” because the only SNES game I’ve played that was worse than LOTR, Volume 1 is Bebe’s Kids. But to me, the scariest part is that this game only covered the Fellowship of the Ring, meaning that Interplay was planning two sequels. Oh, crap…
No, wait. This game tanked and the sequels got the can, saving me from having to play them. My condolences to you readers, but there’s plenty of other shitty games for me to slog through for you in the future.
This game may be the worst LOTR-based game ever. Games like The Two Towers (PS2/Xbox/Gamecube version) and The Battle For Middle-Earth do justice to this series. Just don’t play this piece of shit!