Magician Lord is a bit of a rarity on the Neo Geo – it’s a scrolling action game based on fantasy characters. It’s like a run-and-gun game with magic, basically. Not the kind of game you see very often on the Neo Geo, and it’s a decent game to boot.
You control a magician, called Elta, who must fight his way through a maze of platforms and ladders to collect eight ‘books of wisdom’ from The God of Destruction, Gal Agiese, who has stolen them. Elta can cast offensive spells, as well as jump, duck and climb, and he has a small health bar in the bottom left of the screen that shows how many hits he can withstand before losing one of this three lives.
A key part of the gameplay is that Elta can collect coloured spheres to transform into a variety of different side characters. There are nine alternative playable characters in total, each with different abilities.
The game has eight separate stages, punctuated by numerous boss and sub-boss battles. Some levels are linear, while others require exploration and have multiple routes. If you take too long to complete a level an invincible tentacle monster appears and follows Elta until he is killed, which is totally unfair if you ask me (I wondered what the hell this was when I first saw it and spent ages trying to kill it over multiple attempts – and, yes: I was using quicksaves). Overall, Magician Lord is a very difficult game, which is typical of arcade games of the time.
Magician Lord was developed by Alpha Denshi and published by SNK in 1990. It was actually a launch game for both the Neo Geo MVS (the arcade version of the hardware), and the AVS (the home version), and has since been re-released a number of times on various console download services. It’s not a bad game at all, in spite of the ridiculous level of difficulty, and you can keep pumping coins in to continue as many times you like.