Genre: RPG Developer: Naughty Dog Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1 Released: 1991
Before Naughty Dog achieved massive industry fame for developing Crash Bandicoot on the original Playstation, and before Electronic Arts became mega-conglomerate publisher it is known for being today; the two teamed up to bring us the RPG dirge Rings of Power. Yes, you shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve never heard of this game. No, it isn’t a “lost gem” of sorts to discover in the Genesis/Mega Drive’s library but saying that it is one of the more challenging RPGs in the 16-bit classic console’s line up may be a bit of an understatement believe it or not.
Back in the day (specifically the early ’90s), Electronic Arts ported a number of its PC games to the Genesis, with Rings of Power being one of those games. Taking place through an isometric viewpoint, you play a young sorcerer named Buc who is on a holy mission to find the eleven rings of power and transform them into the divine and powerful tool known as the “Rod of Creation” in an effort to destroy the evil one known only as Void. With the game’s story background in mind, does anything mentioned here sound familiar at all? Well it should, even back in 1991 before Peter Jackson brought the world of J.R.R. Tolkien to the big screen, gamers, and critics alike cited Rings of Power’s uncanny resemblance in terms of story to the Lord of the Rings universe. Other than that though, the game’s story, or rather lack thereof, is pretty inconsequential to the game itself.
Gameplay-wise, Rings of Power is one tough nut to crack. So much is so open-ended here that you will lose track of what you’re doing and where you’re going VERY quickly. Add to that the ton of side quests and events to partake in, and you’ve got yourself a surprisingly deep Genesis RPG. In fact, Rings of Power may be one of the deepest Genesis RPGs in the system’s library that isn’t named Phantasy Star or Shining Force. That being said, the in-game map is practically useless considering the fact that it neglects to show you any marked locations, and there are really no prompts to give you any idea about what you’re supposed to do next or where to go next. This makes it really easy to get yourself lost, and above all, incredibly frustrated and feeling like you’re not going anywhere. There was an actual paper map that was made available to purchase shortly after the game was released, and it is an essential item to have if you have the guts to embark on this journey.
Graphically speaking, saying that Rings of Power hasn’t aged all that well is saying it lightly. Even though this is a relatively early 16-bit RPG that attempts to pack a ton of ambition into a Genesis cartridge, the graphical drawbacks really aren’t that much of a surprise to be honest. Still though, later RPGs to come in the Genesis’ life cycle like Landstalker and Light Crusader, both of which utilize an isometric point of view and similar graphics engine, managed to do things much better and smoother than Rings of Power does. The game’s music is a somewhat typical mish-mash of 16-bit drivel, and needless to say isn’t anything to write home about in the least.
It should also be noted that the game moves a bit slowly. Well, on second thought, Rings of Power moves VERY slowly. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re walking around in fields made of molasses, which really makes the overall experience not just feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but that you’re going nowhere at a snail’s pace. This may very well be the most glaring flaw of the game and is what truly makes it or breaks it in terms of the gamer enjoying it. In that case, calling this a bit of a “niche” game for patient RPGers really is an understatement.
On a side note, Rings of Power also has a bit of infamy to it, and it has nothing to do with painfully slow gameplay or confusing quest layouts. Mentioned previously in a Lists of Fury article highlighting the top ten Easter eggs in various Genesis games, number one wound up being the fact that there is a topless girl in Rings of Power. Yes sir, there is a topless girl to be found in the game by holding down plus the A, B, C, and START buttons on the second controller, and then resetting the console. Next thing you know, there’s a topless blonde chick on your screen in all her 16-bit glory, accompanied by a dog barking in the background. Immature and maybe a bit sexist? Yes it is, but it’s also one of the funniest things ever seen in the 16-bit video game era.
All in all, Rings of Power on the Genesis certainly isn’t the worst RPG you’ll play on the system, but I cannot stress enough just how challenging it is. Even to this day, the game is a pain to traverse through, let alone know what the heck you’re doing. That actually is part of its appeal though believe it or not, as it kind of separated the men from the boys in terms of gamers. Remember, Rings of Power came out before strategy guides and internet tips were the norm like they are today. Back then, you had to rely on your wits and even some ingenuity to find any kind of success with Rings of Power, and even today where it’s incredibly easy to get tips on any vintage video game, somehow this game still proves to be a very challenging, albeit cumbersome and even a bit unfair, take on the RPG genre. With all that being said proceed with caution before you take on this quest.
SCORE: 4 out of 10