Alcazar: The Forgotten Fortress

Door wyrdwad

Paladin (833)

afbeelding van wyrdwad

30-07-2019, 18:19

Decided to spotlight a game that I feel was super-duper ahead of its time and is still really fun to play, but which literally no one ever seems to talk about. Check out the video linked at the end of this post for some pre-Metal Gear stealth action!

From the video description:

Recorded from composite video on an MSX, though the game was also available on Colecovision, Apple II, and Commodore 64.

All the videos I could find of this game online showed it being played casually by someone who clearly had never read the manual and didn't understand what kind of game it actually was -- which is understandable, since it bears a passing resemblance to the dungeons in the original Legend of Zelda, and the easier difficulty levels all make it so you can strong-arm your way through with little difficulty. But this is 1985, remember, when cartridges generally couldn't hold nearly enough information to include tutorials or even basic gameplay hints. Reading the manual was absolutely ESSENTIAL to getting the most out of any game from this era, and responsible retro-gamers should know that if you've only ever played an '80s game without one, there's a good chance you haven't seen its true potential!

That's very much the case here, as Alcazar is 100% a stealth game, in the same vein as Metal Gear (but years before Metal Gear would exist). It's honestly a pretty extraordinarily complex gaming experience, especially for the time, and one that I feel more people should know about. So, I decided to record myself beating the game on the hardest difficulty, and annotate it with non-intrusive subtitles explaining what I'm doing every step of the way. Not everything the game has to offer is shown here -- you don't get to see the bleach item (which looks like a jug of moonshine) on-screen even once, nor do you get to see me lure an enemy into a bottomless pit room, which is always fun -- and I'm CERTAINLY no expert player, having beaten this campaign largely through dumb luck and merciful random number generation. But still, I feel this is a good introduction to a game that deserves a lot more attention than it gets, and I hope it encourages you to go out and track down a copy of this forgotten gem!

One of the things this game did that was impressive for the time is procedurally generate its game world every time, which is why I referred to this playthrough as a "campaign" in my above description. Not everything is randomized -- the basic layouts of all the castles are always the same, with only the bottomless pit tower and all the other random pits and rugs and such being placed randomly each time. The enemy layout and item placements are always randomized, too, with the enemy layout resetting when exiting the castle and entering another (though I don't think the item layout resets unless you start a new game!). The world map is randomized each time as well, with the only constants being the lake in the center and Alcazar Castle in the east. This randomization makes the game fun to pick up and play when you have a half-hour or so to kill, but can also lock you into frustratingly unwinnable or nearly unwinnable situations pretty often.

Anyway, if this sounds at all interesting to you, check out the video here:

And if you do decide to track down this game and try to play it, I urge you to use not just my playthrough as a guide to help you out, but the game's original manual as well (from the Colecovision version, but everything therein applies to the MSX version too), which is archived online here:

Hope this convinces someone to pick up the game and give it a go, and hopefully this'll be the first "spotlight" video of many to come! ;)



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Van santiontanon

Paladin (940)

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30-07-2019, 23:06

I think I had seen this game before, but only once. Looks really cool, and I would loved playing it back then!! (and will surely enjoy playing it now Smile). It's a "rogue-like" before the time of rogue-likes Smile

Van wyrdwad

Paladin (833)

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31-07-2019, 00:12

Right? It was incredibly ahead of its time, and really goes to show you how forward-thinking Activision was back then -- in the mid-'80s, you always knew you were going to have a good time when the Activision logo was on your game. Quite a difference from today! Wink