Welcome to the Retro Spotlight, a new weekly series I’ll be doing that will focus on giving some deserved attention to games that have been forgotten over the years and aren’t always given the credit they deserve. The definition of retro in itself is tough to pin down, but the easiest way to do it is any console that is not of the “current generation” (X360/PS3/Wii) is hereby declared retro. With that, let’s return to 1990, blow the dust out of your NES cartridge (even if only out of habit) and look back at one of the great unsung games of the past. Today’s Retro Spotlight will be discussing now-defunct Data East’s Werewolf: The Last Warrior.
Werewolf: The Last Warrior (or simply Werewolf, as I’ll be referring to it) is pretty much like any other adventure game you have ever played for the NES. Side scrolling, frustrating bosses, cool power ups and as a musician this comes as a huge bonus, one of the all-time great chiptune soundtracks. The story of Werewolf takes place on Red Earth, a colony planet of Earth’s, where a guy named Dr. Faryan found his way into a cave and made an ancient evil pretty angry in the process. As you may have guessed, Dr. Faryan was taken over by the evil entity, and created an army of mutants who took over Earth. That’s where Ken steps in. Ken is the “chosen one”, and he conveniently has the power to transform into a werewolf named “Warwolf”. Ken also has a guiding hand for his journey, a creepy looking fella who calls himself the Spirit of Kinju. His face is partially obscured, but I’m willing to bet on what we are able to see that he isn’t the most handsome spirit in the world. Below you’ll find a video courtesy of NESGuide showcasing the first four minutes of gameplay.
The gameplay is pretty standard for the limited options of the time period, as previously noted. It is a side scroller which relies on jumping and melee combat to progress, all while avoiding bats and other nuisances who want you to die and have to start all over again. As far as the whole becoming-a-werewolf part is concerned, that relies on power-ups. A red “W” will turn Ken into Warwolf, and by picking up that red “W”, you will be treated to one of the most (expletive deleted) awesome cutscenes in the history of the 1990s. A blue “W” will change Warwolf back into Ken. If you lose too much energy (see: health) while you are Warwolf, you will unceremoniously go back to your human form. Warwolf has more strength, faster speed, higher jumps and the ability to climb walls. Also included as Warwolf is an Anger Meter that requires five orbs to be collected in order to activate Super Warwolf (even more increased speed, strength and partial invincibility.) This continues through five levels versus increasingly annoying bosses with distinctive patterns.
I used to spend hours playing this game, and it wasn’t because the game innovated or did anything entirely different than any other game from the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, because it didn’t. There was just a certain charm about it, something you won’t understand unless you’ve played it. Not being able to save your progress certainly contributed to it as well. The ending isn’t worth the trouble, but nearly no endings had any real gratification compared to today so I can’t take points off. For those who weren’t old enough to experience the NES, you missed a console that laid the groundwork for every single game you’re playing today and delivered fun because it had no graphic power to fall back on. Werewolf: The Last Warrior is somewhat of a cult hit, but never truly got the attention it deserves and I think that’s extremely unfortunate. I wouldn’t even be opposed to it being given the second wind treatment via console remake or even the original version on XBLA or SEN (formerly PSN). Until then, I’ll be blowing on my cartridge again and again until it finally decides to work.
What game would you like to see under the microscope in Retro Spotlight #2? Leave a comment below or let us know in our forums!