Dungeon Magic
Release year - USA:1993
Company: Taito
System: arcade
Genre: Dungeon Crawler, Hack and slash
Players: 1-4

Review by: PrimeOp

Someone at Taito must've really liked the sword and sorcery theme. The Rastan saga and Cadash are well-known, this game pretty much slipped under the radar. Not to be confused with the RPG for the NES of the same name, Dungeon Magic (also known as Lightbringer) is one of those Taito sucker-punches that tricks you into thinking that it's typical only to surprise you game play features that you never expected.

Four adventurers are relaxing in a local inn when someone dashes in and tells them that the princess has been captured. Before they can even make it out of the door the group is ambushed by monstrous ransackers. They finish off their attackers and make it outside just in time to see the princess carried off by both a dragon AND a wizard (instead of the usual either-or deal). From this point on, the rest the adventure is all up to you. Why? I'll get to that in a bit. Let's talk about the characters. Ash the young Knight, Cisty the female elf Archer, Gren the Fighter and Vold the old Wizard form one really balanced group of adventurers despite having very different playing styles. No one really has a downside that makes them completely useless. Each is well-designed as is every character in the game right down to the drone enemies. From the richly detailed snake mid-boss to the kobolds yawning around an open fire, there's a lot of impressive touches. Even the background tiles look good here.
Choose from four D&D-esque character types with their own strengths and weaknesses. They're nicely balanced as no one seems completely useless. Well, that guy that looks like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, but he's not a playable character.

The magic attacks vary in range and strength depending on who you're playing as. Naturally, the wizard is the one with the best crowd clearing attack, covering the room with explosive goodness.
Battles take place on an isometric play field that usually has more than one level to it. You have the standard attack and jump button set-up as well as a FORWARD, FORWARD + ATTACK dashing move. There's also a bit of limited grappling and throwing in this game. It's useful for some characters, but don't expect that old wizard to start suplexing Kobolds like Chris Benoit or anything. If you hold down the attack button for a bit and release it, you perform another attack. Each character has a unique magic assault that's unleashed by pressing ATTACK and JUMP at the same time. These are limited with each life starting with three of them and more can be picked up during the game. Character-specific weapons can be found along the way that have magic enhancements that play on the weaknesses of enemies. Sweetening the combat pot are a collection of sidearm items that includes a five-shot crossbow, throwing daggers and shields. Dang, that's a lot of fighting options and the solid gameplay ties all of that together quite nicely.

Instead of a linear path you get branching points on the map that allow you to choose your own path to the final stage boss. Some of these areas can only be reached by using objects like crates and barrels or by finding hidden levels to open the doors. In other words, don't just break barrels as soon as you see them because you may need to move them to somewhere else on the field to use as a stepping stone to better items and different paths. Then again, a lot of the enemies will be happily break them for you so you won't get anywhere. You also need to be cautious when breaking open these same items since many contain traps that range from freezing mists, poison gasses and a shower of boulders. As much as this game designed for exploration, taking too much time in a scene causes a squad of mini-tornado ghosts to start roaming the stage to knock your health down. From the bats in Rastan to the meteors in Superman, that seems to be one of Taito's favorite tricks. One of my favorite features is that each player has their own specific dialogue in certain spots. In other words, you could beat this game four times and still not see all that there is to see. Now that's some serious replay value, people.
In a character-specific moment, Ash realizes that there's more to one of the bosses than meets the eye. Gotta love it when they weave a plot into the action storyline.

Dungeon Magic is a fine mix of Hack n' Slash adventure with a good does of RPGism to spice things up. In my opinion, it's one of Taito's best action games ever (which, for Taito, is saying a lot). You'll want to play through the game with all four characters not just for the fun factor but because of the hero-specific story bits. This lost gem finally gets to shine in the Taito Legends 2 compilation disc. For me, this game helped to make TL2 a must-buy.

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