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Legend of the Ghost Lion for the NES

A Retro Review

Known in Japan as White Lion Densetsu, and based on a movie of the same name, Ghost Lion is a really cool NES RPG.

This game’s mechanics are odd in comparison to other RPGs of the time, and odd in comparison with just about any other RPGs, truthfully.

You play as Maria, a young girl searching for her parents. It all starts one fateful day when her parents just up and tell her that once upon a time, a white lion attacked their village. A hero threw a spear at the lion, and the beast ran into a cave. For no reason at all, they will go to look for the lion, because, you know, Maria is an awful child, and they’d rather go search for a big cat that vanished an eternity ago….

I don’t know, but the parents vanish, so Maria decides to go search for them, but before she does, she gets that spear that the hero of the story chucked at the ghastly cat. Then, in a cave, Maria falls into some water, and she wakes up at some kind of spring or lake, and some moths tell her that humans have courage and dreams, and that the more hope they get, the more courage and dreams they have.

Here’s the deal: you play as a lone girl, which is pretty weird for an RPG. I know that in some games, little girls join a party of warriors; Rydia of Final Fantasy 4 comes to mind, but she has the help of friends. Maria, on the other hand, can summon the spirits from within certain items, like the spear, which contains Moja, the warrior.

Maria

Moja

This is where it gets weird. Maria has two stats, courage and dreams. Courage takes the place of health, and dreams take the place of magic. When Maria summons a spirit—multiple spirits can be summoned at a time after you’ve gathered them—she loses some dreams. When Maria gets whacked by the baddies, she loses some courage. If she loses all her courage, she passes out, and wakes back up at a spring.

In order to raise courage and dreams, you have to collect fragments of hope. Yeah, there’s no grinding! Normally, you can battle as many enemies as you want, and gain all the levels you want, and even overpower the enemies, but in Ghost Lion, you’re only as strong as the game allows you to be, and you have to travel through various dungeons, towers, and caves in order to find more hope, so often, there’s no way to grow more powerful in a certain area; you have to beat that area, and move on, and if you miss out on a fragment of hope, you may well find yourself dead before you know it.

On top of that, gaining fragments of hope allows your summoned spirits to get stronger; they get new spells, do more damage, have more magic, which counts as both their health and their magic to attack or cast spells.

It’s really hard to say what exactly makes this game so great. I’ve never seen the movie, and I only knew this game existed because Nerd from AVGN mentioned the cover art, but I decided to give it a shot because I love old school RPGs, and Ghost Lion did not disappoint.

The Good

The graphics are pretty good, definitely colorful and varied. The music is pretty cool, especially in some of the caves. The artwork for the enemies is awesome. The game play itself is simple and self explanatory. 

The Bad

I can’t really think of anything off-putting.

Ghost Lion is a very well made RPG and a great addition to the NES library. It has a magical feel to it, and even though I wonder if it’s supposed to be geared towards female gamers, I still find Maria an engulfing character. I mean, she doesn’t really do much, like she has no real dialogue or anything, but it’s really fun to play as a little girl who can summon numerous spirits to her aid, so that she can hunt down the parents that abandoned her in order to track down a magic lion.

I have to give Ghost Lion an A+. This is an RPG worth playing, and I find it far more entertaining and engrossing than Final Fantasy 1 and 2 and the early Dragon Warrior games.

If you fancy a fantastical dream world, play Ghost Lion!

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