Legacy of the Wizard is a non-linear exploration action game for the NES. It is similar in some respects to the original Metroid, with the addition of multiple characters and a more contiguous adventure area.
There are five playable characters in Legacy of the Wizard, and you can freely choose between them at your home base. This home base is a family home, and the characters are members of a family tasked with defeating a great dragon currently trapped in a painting. To do this, you’ll need to retrieve four crowns and the DragonSlayer sword. Though the game doesn’t explicitly tell you so, each character is intended (and in most cases required) to complete one of these tasks.
The gameplay of Legacy of the Wizard is fairly simple. The one large dungeon the adventure takes place in consists of single-square blocks and enemies. All enemies damage you by touch, while your own characters each have projectile attacks. Each character has different jump capabilities, and their attacks have different range and damage amounts. When the game starts, these are the only differences between each character, but you will find a variety of equippable items that enhance various characters’ abilities. You can equip three at a time and swap between them at will, or spend some money at the many inns in the dungeon to change your loadout.
It is the retrieval of these special abilities that makes Legacy of the Wizard shine. Since each character can only use some items, and many items are exclusive to a single character, the gameplay of each diverges as the game continues. This is a lot of fun, though it can be frustrating because your progress is often blocked and the game never tells you which character can unblock it. There is a “correct” order to do things in, but is neither obvious nor required.
Combat in Legacy of the Wizard is fun, especially once you find items that increase your damage or range, but the dungeon design is often quite frustrating. Paths are designed to take as long as possible to traverse, and are often dead ends with no significant purpose. Tricks that in other games would seem like exploits are often required to complete your mission. And the movable blocks that your characters can handle in different ways can be extremely finicky to deal with. This is a game that would have benefitted greatly from an extra controller button or two.
All in all, Legacy of the Wizard is a fun adventure which will nonetheless frustrate you at times. Character death means a loss of progress, though the means to return to base and get a new password are readily available. Even when you do die, the effort to get as far as you did is often more valuable than the items you found on the way. This is a game of trial and error, and while it’s not as constantly rewarding as most modern games, completing it is quite satisfying.