July 2022 – Shadowgate Classic (1999)

Hi, Rick here. I allowed Ian to sit out for this introduction because I effin’ love Shadowgate in all its goofy and cryptic glory. It honestly still gives me chills when the song starts playing after smashing the mirror to reveal the courtyard. Shadowgate Classic is a straight-up port of the NES version. And I’m all for it. Except maybe for everything crammed in the little screen. It was picked by Edgard R., who wrote this about it:

““The Druid’s words still ring in your ears: Within the walls of the Castle Shadowgate lies your quest. If the prophecies hold true, the dreaded Warlock Lord will use his dark magic to raise the Behemoth, the deadliest of the Titans, from the depths of the earth. You are the seed of prophecy, the last of the line of kings, and only you can stop the Warlock Lord from darkening our world FOREVER. Fare thee well” is the first thing you read when you start your quest into Shadowgate.

Shadowgate Classic is a re-release of the NES game with the same title (the NES game also being a re-release of the game on the Apple Macintosh). I was given the game by a friend who wanted nothing to do with the title as it is not a traditional RPG or Platformer that were common on the console. His loss was my gain as I was instantly drawn in by the cover with it’s menacing gargoyle both beckoning and warning players to start their quest. You play as “The Last in the Line of Kings” on a quest to stop the Warlock Lord in his malevolent plans to raise the Behemoth. In your path are instant deaths, sharks, bridge trolls, cyclops, flesh-devouring ooze, were-ladies,  Sphinx, and dragons. Shadowgate takes heavy inspiration from point-and-click adventures and tabletop Dungeons and Dragons games, it rewards players for exploration & creative problem solving but solving a problem incorrectly can result in instant death. Trial and error is one of the best ways to transverse through treacherous terrain. The best features of this game are its creative aesthetics on each panel, the narration which is both comedic and cautionary, and the music which pairs great with each setting (Unless your torch is about to go out which in case the music will raise your heart palpitations). Similar to today’s Elden Rings and Demon Souls you’re aware of the realm that existed before the start of your story. Your role as a player is not only to foil the plans of the Warlock Lord but to also piece together the world as much as possible through tomes, scrolls, and books scattered throughout the game. The franchise continued with Beyond Shadowgate on the TurboGrafx CD and Shadowgate 64 on the N64. Re-imaginings of the original game can also be found on Steam. While every game has their own merits none inspire and captured the imagination more than the original game, which is captured perfectly on the Game Boy Color. I hope everybody has as much fun with this title as I do! Make sure to pack an extra torch!”

Playing Shadowgate on the NES was always an enjoyable and frustrating experience. I recall in high school calling my friend Jason Ghitgo to help me out when I got stuck. It’s always kinda nice phoning a friend when you are stuck in a game even if it annoys their parents, housemates, spouses, or prison guards. Sure, there are plenty of walkthroughs online, but fuck that! I fully encourage you to hit up the Yokoi Kids Twitter and see if a fellow dork can get you out of a tight spot. And heads up, you will probably spend your first playthrough wasting torches left and right. Restarting knowing what to do will save you lots of torch power.

The game is one of those Game Boy Color games than can be played on an OG Game Boy with no issues. It can be picked up for $10-$15 bucks or free if you emulate it. Don’t piss off the skeleton king! –Rick V.