As the years (nay, decades) go on, we look back at the games we grew up with and reminisce on the good times. For all the Bubsy 3D’s and Superman 64’s we played and forgot, there’s a Silent Hill or Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and an Ocarina of Time to cherish fondly. These games defined their genre’s, innovated the medium, and left a memorable moment in the heads of all who played them. It’s no wonder, then, that these types of games get brought up even in 2022 as the titles more recent games strive to be like.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night needs no introduction here, as it is one such game. Since its release way back in 1997, there have been countless titles that emulate the formula: some do it really well (like Bloodstained, though that might be a gimme), and others not so well (take your pick). Easily adaptable to any franchise or setting, moving from zone to zone, leveling up and collecting cool powerups, all while working toward defeating a big bad at the end just works. Swords and sorcery, though, tend to be where I prefer to keep this style of game.
The generic setting of “Swords & Sorcery” is the foundation of basically my entire interest landscape. The Lord of the Rings books, Dungeons & Dragons pen and paper RPG, Final Fantasy video games, and high fantasy anime were surefire winners for me. It’s that last one, though, that I don’t bring up too often. Anime was first introduced to me by my cousin when he was visiting one summer back in the early 90s. The animation was so different from what I was used to seeing. Watching Ghost in the Shell as an eight year old was great, but I didn’t quite follow. But the other VHS tape he brought, I could definitely get behind. It had swords, it had spells, it had elves, and it had terrible English voice acting. I’m talking about the classic series Record of Lodoss War.
For the unfamiliar, Record of Lodoss War is a anime/manga series developed by Ryo Mizuno. It shares a lot of base elements with D&D and LotR, like the high fantasy setting and knights, but also has a distinct feeling all it’s own. By today’s standards it is dated, but back then I thought it was the coolest ever! Parn and Deedlit, taking on bad guys, battling freaking dragons, unraveling the mystery! Oh man, what more could you want? Side note: if you’re looking for a quick series to watch, and don’t mind reading subtitles because the English voiceover is awful, I’d recommend checking it out on Crunchy Roll or somewhere similar.
2021 saw the release of Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth on the Playstation 4 and other consoles. Marrying the setting and characters from the anime series with the gameplay of Symphony, it was a no-brainer pickup for me. I was admittedly a bit skeptical: No one is really talking about Record of Lodoss War these days, so I was confused as to why this was the series used for this type of game. As a fan of both the inspirations though, I got over that feeling real quick. Also worth noting, series creator Mizuno was on board from the very beginning of the game’s development, and the whole team took the time to release something worthwhile rather than rush something for the series’ 30th anniversary, which is when the game was announced. If only more developers would take this approach…
Playing through Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth was enjoyable. The game borrows heavily from Symphony in both exploration and combat. Expect lots of double jumping, boss battles, and leveling up to get stronger. In a bit of a surprise, the game also has a two-element system going on, where you can deal more damage to enemies of the opposite element you currently have equipped as well as absorb damage from the same type of element you have equipped. If this also sounds eerily familiar that’s because it is: The system is identical to that in Treasure’s shooter Ikaruga. Wonder Labyrinth’s development team also cited that game as an inspiration, and it’s very obvious. Thankfully the marriage of these now-three ideas comes out well: the game is fun to run through, quickly swapping elements, and navigating cleverly made puzzle combat sections.
Nostalgia goggles off, there are some flaws here. First and foremost, if you don’t already know the source material, good luck understanding anything the story is trying to tell you. I know who Karla and Parn are, and why they’re important to Deedlit, but if you were expecting to hear a beginning to end story, you need not apply. For being a “Labyrinth” the game isn’t that hard to explore. All jokes aside, the difficulty isn’t that high, especially if you can quickly master swapping between your two elements: doing so can effectively mean you won’t take any damage from bosses or enemies at all. Lastly, the game is short, clocking in at over about 6 hours for me, and I was going leisurely. There’s more to do to 100% the game, but with no real reason to do so, one play is plenty.
This is in no way a bad game: in fact, I’d recommend it to just about anyone! Visually the game is such a standout I’d almost recommend it on that front alone. If you fancy yourself a Metroidvania player you’d be doing yourself a favor picking this one up and giving it a go. I can’t really say the same if you’re only a Record of Lodoss War anime/manga fan, as there really isnt’ anything here to appease just that fanbase, aside from some sick looking pixel art of your favorite characters. If you’re like me, and you like both of these sources, then you’re in for a real treat, as Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a short but very sweet experience.
I suspect many of you reading this likely moved right past this game when you saw it, not knowing exactly what it was. Hell, I bet some of you don’t even know what Record of Lodoss War even is, let alone who Deedlit might be. Thinking of other series’ that would easily move into the Metroidvania style of game has me thinking about the possibility of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. Or a Mega Man game, oh my gosh that’d be awesome! Hmm, what would be the most crazy mashup? Maybe a Edward Cullen starring Twilight game? That’d be a reach.