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Data East, Arcade, 1990

Dark Seal is a (slightly) hard game to describe accurately. You (and a friend) choose from four characters (a Knight, Bard, Wizard and Ninja) and fight through a series of isometric levels. Your mission: to travel the land of Etrulia and seal the Gate of Doom. It's a bit like Gauntlet, except with better graphics and a more linear structure. Each character can cast spells that last for a short time. The players are (very) frequently confronted with boss monsters who have to be hit in a specific weak point to damage.

There are a lot of elements in this game that remind me of Landstalker (1993) - there is of course the distinctive viewpoint, but also many of the enemies (even their colour schemes) are the same*, and the first boss (a dragon) is almost identical to Landstalker's final boss (Gola). Even some of the sound effects are the same! I am almost certain that they are the work of the same hands, unless they are both just closely ripping off some previous fantasy blueprint (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons). Gameplay-wise they are completely different however. Dark Seal is certainly not an RPG regardless of its fantasy trappings.

If you can put up with the constant onslaught of enemies, this game is fairly entertaining. It's not really of the same calibre as Capcom's D&D games (or Gauntlet for that matter) though.

*the same types - they are not represented on the same scale, and Landstalker's graphics are a bit more cutesy.

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