Say the word Cinemaware to someone over 25 years of age and there is a good chance that he/she will start talking about the ‘good old days’ when games were games and we didn’t have any of this 3D-card non-sense and when we had to fight our way through several meters of snow and fight packs of wolves just to get near a computer …. Well – maybe not but they probably will start talking about all those great games that Cinemaware released during a few years in the end of the 80s.
Cinemaware was more than just another game-company. They didn’t just do games – they created experiences. I don’t remember their slogan right now but what they did was to create games that were more like movies than games. They released games like Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon, S.D.I., It came from the Desert, King of Chicago, The 3 Stooges and Rocket Ranger. This was games that were absolutely stunning. On the Amiga these games were (for their time of course) top notch with great graphics and excellent sound.
The game that started it all though was Defender of The Crown. I think this game was one of the killer-games that got people to buy the Amiga when it came out.
After a couple of years Cinemaware disappeared and was forgotten. In 2000 the company was reformed again and has since then prepared for a comeback with a new sequel to Defender of The Crown.
While we are waiting for that game they have decided to re-release Defender of The Crown and The 3 Stooges in what they call “Digital Remastered Editions”. This is the original game with souped of graphics and sound.
Does the original gameplay still hold up or is this just a way for Cinemaware to cash in some quick money?
Since this is just a re-release of the original game nothing has changed in the game department. Cinemaware has chosen to base the game of the original AMIGA release (actually – it might be the PC release also but this is how I remember the AMIGA version). This is a bit unfortunate since the C64 version had some nice extras and is generally speaking thought as the best version (except of the graphics of course).
Your goal is to win the crown. You play against other lords, both Normans and Saxons and you even have the support of Robin Hood.
In the start of the game you choose a character to play. Each character has different stats. One lord is a great leader but poor swordsman and another is great at jousting but not that good as a leader. Depending on which character you choose you have to adjust your strategy in the game. A great leader can turn the tide of a battle while a great swordsman can succeed much more often in raids. It’s your choice.
I did say that this was a straight re-release of the original game – but that’s not exactly true. There is a small addition in this game. In the beginning you can choose a mission – capture a specific county before a give time and received 100 troops or rescue all the damsels in distress and get 100 troops etc. it doesn’t really add much to the game though more than the opportunity to get some more money or troops.
The actual game moves in turns. You can buy armies, move an army, invite everyone to a tournament, go on a raid or … pass. That’s basically it. Move of these orders take a turn, which makes each turn very important. Should you buy a few soldiers or 1 knight or attack that county instead?
The map looks a lot like a Risk map and the game plays out a lot like Risk. There are only 2 kinds of soldiers for your army (normal soldiers or knights) as well as the catapult. In addition you can build extra castles in your captured counties to help defend them.
One problem with the gameplay is that there are too many lords (6) fighting over to little land. You just don’t have time to build up anything before you get into a fight.
There really isn’t much more to do in the game. There are a few small sub-games when you hold a tournament or raid a castle or lay siege but that’s it.
What can I say – the ‘enhanced’ graphics are sharper than the old AMIGA graphics but more than that it’s not that much better. The resolution is 1024×768 which makes it a bit jaggy on my ´19″ monitor.
Even worse is the fact that they small sub-games haven’t been updated at all except for some minor graphic enhancements.
The tournament is graphically the ‘best’ since it is fluid. You try to point your lance towards the middle of your opponent’s shield. It’s nice to see that the bug from the original version is gone (you could win every time by pointing the lance towards the bottom left corner of the screen).
The raiding is a big joke. Your guy moves extremely jerkily and it is almost impossible to understand what is happening when you try to fence with the enemy.
Attacking a castle using a catapult let’s you lay siege to the castle. You got 6 tries to knock down the wall/throw in disease/throw in Greek Fire. Graphically it is ok although the whole steering is a bit flimsy.
That’s all there is to this game. The big battles between armies are handled via text and numbers – no graphics. That is something that the C64 version had (graphics) but since we are not basing the game on that version we only get text.
The sound is very authentic and true to the original. I guess it is a bit enhanced but I couldn’t care less since I loved the original. Call me sentimental but the music is the best part of this game.
It saddens me to say this but this re-release is nothing short of a crime. It might be cheap (around $20 here in Europe) but it still isn’t worth a penny. The gameplay might have been fresh and good in 1986 but its 2002 now and we do expect a bit more. I could have lived with the gameplay if they at least tried to spice up the sub-games. But since that wasn’t done the game just isn’t good anymore.
Cinemaware are actually offering their games (including Defender of The Crown) for all sorts of emulators (Amstrad, C64, PC, Amiga, NES, Apple) on their web site and I suggest that anyone who wants to play this or other games should just download the version for the AMIGA or PC and play it directly instead of spending cash on this re-release.
I’m sorry Cinemaware. I still am very excited for the new Defender of the Crown game but this game gets our first ever Stinker Award.