North American cover art
Junichi Mizutari |
Deadly Towers is an action role-playing video game co-developed by Lenar and Tamtex for Irem as a software title for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was released in Japan on December 15, 1986, and in North America in September of the following year. One of the earliest published role-playing video games for the NES in North America, Deadly Towers was a best-selling title in 1987.
In Japan, Deadly Towers was titled Mashō (魔鐘), literally meaning "Evil Bell". It is a pun of the word mashō (魔性), meaning "devilishness", and in keeping with this theme, the Japanese cartridge contained a red LED at the top which illuminated when turned on. Irem intended the game's English-language title to be Hell's Bells, but Nintendo of America refused to issue the game a Nintendo Seal of Quality unless Brøderbund changed the name.
On the eve of his coronation ceremony, Prince Myer sits at a lakeside to ponder the future of his kingdom. Suddenly, a shadowy kami called Khan rises from the lake and coalesces into the form of a man. Khan doesn't identify himself, but he greets Prince Myer by name, and informs him that Rubas, the "Devil of Darkness", is preparing to overtake Willner Kingdom by using seven magic bells capable of summoning an army of monsters. To ensure peace, Khan says, Prince Myer must travel to the northern mountain to burn the seven bells in the sacred flame, burn down the seven bell towers in Rubas' magic palace and, ultimately, defeat Rubas himself.
The game begins outside Rubas' palace, a labyrinth filled with monsters. The player's objective is to kill Rubas. In order to do this, Prince Myer must first defeat the boss in each of the seven bell towers, collect the seven bells, and burn the bells in the sacred flame. Burning the bell also destroys the tower. When Prince Myer burns all seven bells, a door opens that leads to the final battle with Rubas.
Rubas' palace is presented in one-point perspective. The nonlinear gameplay is comparable to that of The Legend of Zelda. In most rooms of the palace, the screen does not scroll. Outside the palace and in the room containing the sacred flame, the room scrolls sideways; in bell towers, it scrolls vertically. Prince Myer can walk in eight directions, and he attacks by throwing a sword. The player earns coins (a currency called ludder) by killing monsters; ludder can be exchanged for new equipment at various shops in the palace. The shops are in fixed locations, but their inventories can change.
The palace comprises ten mazes of adjoining rooms; seven bell towers; and one long, horizontally scrolling room. At the top of each tower is a boss. In the long room are the doorways to each bell tower, and the sacred flame where Prince Myer burns the bell he receives after defeating a boss. The first maze has 167 screens, and the tenth has 235. The entrance to each maze is invisible; to leave the maze, the player must find the room that contains the exit. In some places he can exit the palace and walk along its horizontally scrolling perimeter. Hidden throughout the towers are invisible portals to a secret areas called the Parallel Zones which resemble the towers, but are an alternate version, as well as secret rooms, both of which where the player can find equipment superior to that available in the shops.
Brøderbund's relationship with Lenar was facilitated by Scott (Kenji) Tsumura, who worked for Irem and eventually worked for Brøderbund to form the Kyodai Software division. Alan Weiss, the Nintendo Producer at Brøderbund, managed all product development and worked with Lenar to translate the text of the game. Weiss kept the strange name, Prince Myer, to try to make faithful conversions and not "Americanize" it. The name, "Deadly Towers," came from Ed Bernstein of Brøderbund. In response to the difficulty level of the game, Weiss stated: "We did a lot of testing of the game and we didn't actually find it that difficult at Brøderbund, and I think we wanted something more challenging than previously published titles to round out our portfolio."
When released in 1987, Deadly Towers became a best-selling title in North America. It and Rygar (whose NES release preceded Deadly Towers by a few months) were among the first Japanese action role-playing games to be published in North America. Computer Gaming World described Deadly Towers as a new kind of role-playing game that differed from both the console action-adventure games (such as Castlevania and Trojan) and American computer role-playing games (such as those in the series Wizardry, Ultima, and Might and Magic). Deadly Towers used a permanent power-up mechanic, which blurred the line between the power-ups used in action-adventure games and the experience levels used in RPGs. At the outset of the game, Prince Myer is comparatively weak: he can throw only one sword at a time, and some enemies take eight or more hits to defeat.
Although the game was commercially successful in its time, it has received mixed reviews in retrospective critiques. Sean Reiley, writing in 2001 for his comedy website Seanbaby.com, dismissed it as the worst Nintendo game of all time. In 2007, J. C. Fletcher of the video game blog Joystiq wrote that Deadly Towers is "the most frustrating game on the NES" and "may be the most frustrating game of all time." Even so, he also said that the game should be distributed through Nintendo's Virtual Console service.
- Adams, Roe R. (November 1990), "Westward Ho! (Toward Japan, That Is): An Overview of the Evolution of CRPGs on Dedicated Game Machines", Computer Gaming World (76), pp. 83–84,
While America has been concentrating on yet another Wizardry, Ultima, or Might & Magic, each bigger and more complex than the one before it, the Japanese have slowly carved out a completely new niche in the realm of CRPG. The first CRPG entries were Rygar and Deadly Towers on the NES. These differed considerably from the "action adventure" games that had drawn quite a following on the machines beforehand. Action adventures were basically arcade games done in a fantasy setting such as Castlevania, Trojan, and Wizards & Warriors. The new CRPGs had some of the trappings of regular CRPGs. The character could get stronger over time and gain extras which were not merely a result of a short-term "Power-Up." There were specific items that could be acquired which boosted fighting or defense on a permanent basis. Primitive stores were introduced with the concept that a player could buy something to aid him on his journey.
- Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill; Worley, Joyce (August 1988), "Video Gaming World", Computer Gaming World (50), p. 44,
Designed by the same crew that produced the best-selling Deadly Towers.
- Ciprian, Jason (4 September 2009). "Deadly Towers Famicom Flashback: Let There Be Light!". MTV Networks. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
- Reiley, Sean (2001). "The Worst Nintendo Game #1 - Deadly Towers". Retrieved 7 March 2011.
- Fletcher, J. C. (August 2, 2007). "Virtually Overlooked: Deadly Towers". Engadget. Weblogs, Inc. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
- Tieryas, Peter (8 January 2014). "Talking Deadly Towers NES with Broderbund's Producer, Alan Weiss". Kotaku.
- DeMario, Andrew (January 19, 2008). "Deadly Towers". RPGFan.
- Fletcher, J. C. (August 2, 2007). "Virtually Overlooked: Deadly Towers". Joystiq. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
- Deadly Towers Instruction Manual. Brøderbund, 1986.