Friday, 9 June 2017

Game 82 : Legend of Kyrandia - Introduction (1992)

Written by Alfred n’ the Fettuc

Aaaaah, Legend of Kyrandia. One of my all-time favorites! I don’t know why but the first game has always evoked images of my childhood, be it the wonderful music, the lush colours, the zany characters, the thoughtful puzzles… Needless to say I’ll be wearing huge rose-tinted glasses on this one, or I’ll find some detail point that annoys me and isn’t as good as I remember (fireberries, anyone?) and I’ll flay this piece of crap. Only the next few weeks will tell, but I’m certainly curious about playing through this one again all these years after.

That’s what I call a cover that screams adventure and danger. There is even Tinkerbell in it!

Westwood Studios has always been one of my favorite game development studios. As a young player, I was looking forward for their logo, knowing that nothing would go wrong for me if I played their games (until around the end of the millennium when things started to go sour). I’d compare Westwood in the 90’s to Blizzard nowadays. Their games were not original necessarily very original but they were polished way more than the usual product. Beautiful graphics, excellent animation and sound design…

With Dune II, Westwood hit all the right notes and almost single-handedly created the template for modern Real-Time Strategy games, which would be taken later by Blizzard for Warcraft (and we come full circle with my comparison). With Command & Conquer, their major hit which basically printed money for them during the next few years, Westwood evolved mainly into a sequel factory, spawning game after game with the same template.

But before that, Westwood tried its hand at several genres, hitting huge successes in the RPG and adventure subgenres. Eye of the Beholder, Lands of Lore, Blade Runner… and the aforementioned Legend of Kyrandia series.

The Land of Kyrandia, so peaceful and green…

The name of Kyrandia would famously come from a MUD Brett Sperry (Westwood co-creator) was playing with his friends called Kyrandia : Fantasy World of Legends. Apart from the name and the general heroic-fantasy setting, the game Legend of Kyrandia is totally unrelated to said MUD. The label “Fables and Fiends” that appeared on the cover of the game was supposed to helm a new series of possibly unrelated games, but only the three Kyrandia games were released under this label, probably because of the tremendous success of the first installment (it made more sense to make a sequel to the first game than take risks by changing a working formula).

The first game tells the tale of Brandon, innocent orphan still unaware of his royal lineage, while his grandfather Kallak has been turned to stone by the psychopath court buffoon, Malcolm. Malcolm is the archetypal bastard (in this game at least) without any humanity or sympathy, while being dressed as a joker. Clearly inspired by the Batman’s Joker (and might have been or not inspiration for Kefka in Final Fantasy VI two years later, but that’s only my opinion). He is the perfect embodiment of monstrosity and is surprisingly violent for an adventure game in this day and age. Comparatively, Brandon, your own character appears a bit as a whiner (might be his voice actor though).

Malcolm, showing random cruelty towards animals

Besides turning Kallak into stone, Malcolm has killed the royal couple and is basically blowing random stuff up for his own enjoyment. Brandon will seek revenge and try to stop the evil jester to wreck any more havoc in the realm. His adventure will take him through several maze-like Kyrandian forests and the dreaded fireberries caves, to finish in the Royal Castle that’s been taken over by the buffoon. He’ll find some help in the Mystics of the realm, who can’t face Malcolm themselves because of their magic slowly disappearing. As usual, Brandon will reveal himself as the chosen one, and the only one that can face the terrifying clown.

A classy cutscene with focus-pulling shows the encounter between Malcolm and Kallak

Legend of Kyrandia would later spawn two sequels, Hand of Fate, where you play as Zanthia, a pretty magician with a taste for clothes and Malcolm’s Revenge, where you play as Malcolm himself, even if a bit retconned in order to show him more as a victim than the crazed monster he clearly is in the first game. All these games show the beautiful graphics, sounds and animation that’s been Westwood’s speciality. The land of Kyrandia itself would also evolve quite a bit during the series, starting as an almost classical heroic fantasy setting in the first game, to a completely zany universe by the third one, more akin to Monty Pythons than Lord of the Rings. The trilogy has been released back-to-back with only one year apart each installment and is considered today as one of the few classics that didn’t came out of Sierra or Lucasarts offices.

We’ll see together if the game actually holds up to my cherished childhood memories or if its flaws overcome the rose-tinted glasses. It’s time to explore the fabulous land of Kyrandia, to save Kallak and the realm!

Malcolm, what have you done? Vengeance will be mine!

23 comments:

  1. The Legend of Kyrandia, finally! Yay! ^_^ *squeal* The game has its unique charm but also has a frankly cliché plot (a textbook case of The Hero's Journey), repetitive mazelike environments, and several awful trial-and-error puzzles, so a 65 seems right to me.

    I posted these earlier, but I have photos of the floppy version box plus a nice poster!

    http://i.imgur.com/FIg8FUC.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/3ToR9uz.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/3TSngIi.jpg

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  2. Ah, The Legend of Kyrandia, a staple of my younger years. We had Quest for Glory II and Space Quest I, but those were for my parents. Kyrandia could be played by a younger game, though probably not completed due to patience issues, and was a fun game for its day. I remember finding different gemstones on each screen in the beginning of the game, but I can't remember what they were used for.

    I'm predicting a 62.

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  3. I have vague memories of seeing a cool looking adventure game on display in a big box store when I was a young lad - I think it might have been the second game of this series. I'll have to wait and see! This looks like it has strong potential, I'll guess 62 for rating.

    Anyone have suggestions for where to pick up the Kyrandia series to play along?

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    1. Gog.com has them.

      https://www.gog.com/game/legend_of_kyrandia
      https://www.gog.com/game/legend_of_kyrandia_hand_of_fate
      https://www.gog.com/game/legend_of_kyrandia_malcolms_revenge

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  4. I love this game (although there are a couple of puzzles that drove me nuts).

    Looks great, sounds great, an interesting and different antagonist, and a pretty good interface. It might be the rose-tinted specs, but I'm gonna give this a nice high score of 70.

    Also a tip for those playing along when they reach the caves: Lbh pna qebc gur sver oreevrf ba gur tebhaq, naq gurl jvyy xrrc gur ebbz yvg. Vg'f cbffvoyr gb yvtug nyzbfg nyy bs gur ebbzf guvf jnl, gb znxr znccvat gur pnirf rnfvre naq geniryyvat rnfvre.

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    1. I should probably also mention that I will be playing along!

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    2. Just started it up (GOG version) and have two thoughts:

      1. The narrator of the opening section is exactly the same as the one for Dune II

      2. The voice acting is awful and I had to turn it off. I think I must never have played the voice version of this.

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    3. I''ve just seen that Brandon is voiced by Joseph Kucan (Kane in Command and Conquer). He didn't shine or anything in this part but I don't remember him as especially bad either. I guess acting as a nice young hero lad is harder than just saying "I'll crush you, GDI!" in an evil voice...

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  5. I know the series is loved by many, so I guess high score guess is in order: 63. Personally I got quite bored by the need to collect huge amount of randomly appearing stuff around the countryside to make some magic potion.

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  6. Finally, I game I've played... although not more than the first area that I couldn't get past and after losing my inventory I shelved it for future play. And that was 2 years ago. Glad someone else can guide me through this very interesting looking game.

    And the dice says... 1??? Good grief. With my luck I must start to play the games and my game backlog is already oversized.

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  7. I'm going to guess 67. This game looks awfully pretty.

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  8. I'll pick 64. I played Kyrandia back in the 90's and liked it. I think some of the puzzles are pretty much trial-and-error, but the graphics and storytelling were excellent... if I remember any of that correctly. :-)

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  9. This seems like way more of a classic than some of the games we've been wading through lately, so I'll go high--68!!

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  10. I'll guess 60. I know it's a classic and all, but I think the item combination quests and long maze area will hurt its score a bit. I played it recently, just a year or so ago, and I wouldn't have been able to finish it without getting a couple of hints. Although personally I liked mapping the maze area, so YMMV.

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  11. I've played game 2 and 3 in the series, but for some reason not this one. It does LOOK nice, though. 66

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  12. Nobody is going for 61 ? Ok I'll take that number as my guess then! :D

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  13. I feel like this is a 70.

    I have an intention to maybe play along but will be subject to time. Will comment on the next Kyrandia post if it ended up happening.

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  14. I played this game a few years ago so not affected by nostalgia, and I absolutely hated it.

    Because it was an adventure game, I finished it - probably with a lot of walkthrough help but, whoah, did I not like this game.

    Laukku pointed out many of my problems with the game, "repetitive mazelike environments, and several awful trial-and-error puzzles"

    So with the lowest guess of 58 so far, I'm guessing well below - 49 (I considered going 57 to take everything below that, but then decided to go for what I actually think the PISSED rating will give it.)

    Good luck, Alfred!

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  15. Yeah, I hate to shoot down anything bearing the name "Westwood" but this game is just plain bad. Amazingly beautiful (look at that intro!), but the aggravating puzzles end up sucking all the joy out of it... or at least that's how I remember it from when I last played it a couple of decades ago. :-P

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  16. Oh and I'll guess 53 just to leave the lowest spot to TBD.

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  17. One thing I forgot to mention but might be relevant to those playing along with the DOS floppy version, is that there is a patch to update it to version 1.3 at: http://www.patches-scrolls.de/patch/2436/7/

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