Eye of the Beholder, Super Nintendo

The Super Nintendo port of the classic RPG, Eye of the Beholder, was developed by Westwood Studios and published by Capcom in 1994. And it’s a bit of a messy conversion, the truth be told.

SNES Eye of the Beholder provides two different control methods: the first is that you can use a SNES mouse, if you have one, which allows you to click on on-screen icons to move and attack monsters. The second is to use a gamepad and to switch between cursor mode and cursor lock. In gamepad mode you press the ‘Y’ button to lock the cursor/pointer so that movement can be done via the d-pad. Pressing ‘Y’ again will toggle the pointer back on again and allows it to be moved around the screen, to point at the various icons. With the cursor locked you can sidestep by pressing the L & R buttons.

Playing the SNES version of Eye of the Beholder with a gamepad is fraught with issues, and even with ‘helper’ features (like the cursor jumping to the next available weapon during combat), and with practise, it’s still far too easy to mess things up. I prefer to play this kind of game with my left hand doing the movement, and my right hand moving the mouse, but that’s not possible in this version. Even with the mouse enabled the game still makes the cursor jump from one weapon to another and it’s difficult to get used to. In fact: it’s far too easy to bring up the spell menu by accident, when you don’t want to.

Another serious issue when using the mouse is that you can’t click on the movement arrows when a spellbook is open, because it covers them over. This is a stupid decision on the part of the designers as it’s important to be ready to cast spells while moving. From level three onwards you really need to be on your toes, and fast with movement and attacks, to actually survive, but the developers of this port have made the game more difficult than it should be by making poor decisions with the screen real estate.

The game does seem to make things a little easier for you, to compensate for the control issues. Like, for example, food consumption being slower, and damage taken being lower. And giving you the dart early (a useful throwing weapon that is effective early in the game). In the original version you really had to master the art of rotating around enemies, getting hits in where you can, but this version seems to allow you to just stand in front of enemies and slug away at them more than you could in the original. At least until you get to later levels, where the monsters are more dangerous.

Other changes to the game that I noticed: “Pray for spells” has been changed to “Petition” (no religious references were apparently allowed by Nintendo of America), and the game allows you to name characters using upper and lower case letters, but the game itself shows them all as upper case, which is sloppy. I also suspect that there are slight changes to the level layouts.

I’m hesitant to recommend this version of Eye of the Beholder. Playing it is pretty frustrating – especially if you know the original. Not only is the control system flawed, but there are numerous other niggles that contribute to its failure (like the disconcerting way items judder in the environment when you’re moving).

As great as the original Eye of the Beholder is, conversions like this arguably demonstrate that it should never have been ported to consoles in the first place. That said: if the developers had allowed foot movement with a gamepad in port one and mouse movement in port two, it might have been a solution to the control issues. But that isn’t supported, so we’ll never know. If you want to play Eye of the Beholder, go for either the PC or Amiga originals instead. You’ll find them more enjoyable and less frustrating.

More: Eye of the Beholder on Wikipedia
Steam: Eye of the Beholder trilogy on Steam
GOG: Eye of the Beholder trilogy on GOG.com

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