King Arthur and the Knights of Justice

    Once upon a time, there was a Saturday morning cartoon called King Arthur and the Knights of Justice. The plot was as follows: in the kingdom of Camelot, long ago, the evil sorceress Morgana sealed King Arthur and the knights of the round table away in a cave. The wizard Merlin, apparently getting senile, decided that the best solution to the problem was to travel forward in time and recruit an American high school teenager named Arthur King, and his football team, to fight against Morgana in the real Arthur's stead. Arthur King, being a heroic, handsome young man with Adventurous Spirit and Pluck (tm) took up the task without complaint.

    The cartoon was crap. Hell, the concept was crap. Yet, for reasons that still baffle gamers, Enix of America decided to publish a licensed game about the cartoon. Surprise surprise, the game was crap, too. It was, in fact, their final error. By the time the game had been released, the cartoon had bombed clean off network schedules, and the game fared little better. Enix didn't re-emerge in America for years.

 God help us all
Our heroes. Maybe it's not too late to surrender to Ultimate Evil...

    King Arthur is not especially innovative game. It's an adventure game in the Zelda mode, with players directly controlling Arthur in a 3/4 overhead view. You wander through fields, beat up bad guys, collect items for future use, converse periodically, and are asked to find things a lot. Incessantly, really. The game is an endless succession of fetch quests. Person A will ask for the Eye of Newt, Monkey's Nose, and Giant Turtle Stuffy, but Person B won't give you the Stuffy unless you bring him the Noose of Forgiveness, the Muddy Boots, and so on. Along the way, you must contend with evil Lords, aka bosses, who must be beaten up in order to retrieve key items.

    Accompanying you on your quest are the Knights of Justice, high school football players turned knights. A little more than half of them have decided to take up aliases, I presume. I can't imagine that many modern New Yorkers are named Breeze, or Lug. They have no personalities, are of little use in the game, and look utterly ridiculous. The game provides bar graphs that supposedly outline differences in speed, endurance, and so on, but these supposed differences never manifest in gameplay.

    The graphics are mediocre, the music is bland, the sound effects are lousy, but that's just the tip of the floating log of crap. This is a staggeringly ill-conceived game, from concept on down. The character designs are terrible. The controls are sluggish. The plot is as generic as it gets. There are no puzzles or intellectual challenges to overcome. In fact, one of the key problems with the game is that only one of the Knights is suited to battling each boss. If you don't bring the right Knight, then poor old Arthur must battle them himself. The problem being that the game gives no indication of when a given Knight might be needed. It's a crapshoot - maybe you'll guess and bring the right Knight, more likely you won't.

Fight! Fight for everlasting peace!
King Arthur: errand boy to the stars.

    On top of all that, we have the "what the hell were they thinking?" features:

    1) You cannot pass through a given screen of the game until all enemies have been killed. You will simply keep on ramming into that open doorway and going no further until that lonely evil knight you forgot about has been smote upon the head. There is no excuse made. No "you must kill all the enemies to get the Room Key." You just kill everything, or you can't walk through open doors.

    2) You can walk behind large objects. Chunks of wall, towers, trees, etc. You will be hidden from view when you do so, as will items, enemies, and anything else. The problem here is that you will often encounter the problem that enemies have fled and hidden, from the CPU's point of view, in plain sight. For poor players who are given no way to see behind solid pixel objects, they might as well be invisible. Combined with feature #1, you'll often find yourself groping around behind towers, swinging wildly to kill enemies you can't see, or you can't progress in the game.

  A volunteer?  Seriously?
One of the Knights tries to pull his weight for the first and last time.

    3) The Knights of Justice are the most useless clods in gaming history. They're slow, and are frequently baffled by such complex obstacles as rocks, trees, and bushes. They only see fit to strike enemies once every ten seconds or so, and will tend to wander off within five seconds of entering a new screen. Even more helpfully, they will almost never help during boss battles, instead opting to just sit there at the bottom of the screen and watch as you get your ass kicked. As if all of this wasn't enough, the basic conceit of the game is that you MUST use each and every one of these losers to retrieve their special Key, and must bring at least two of them with you at any given time. "For your own safety," Merlin assures you. Why Arthur is safer in the company of unreliable, stupid, cowardly football players, I cannot explain.

    Combat is a chore. Leaving aside the questionable support of the Knights, you, as Arthur, have a Power Gauge, that depletes itself every time you swing your sword. A full-power slash will kill most enemies, slashing as often as possible will take a bit longer. There are three problems here. First off, Arthur swings a sword like an idiot. When facing upwards, he swings up and to the right, which means that enemies that are anywhere to the left will be missed by your swings every time, even at point blank range. You can, in fact, fail to strike foes who are toe-to-toe with you, because of the bad sword arc.

    The second problem is the hit detection, or rather the lack thereof. It takes a keen eye to tell when hits connect in the game. Enemies pause for maybe a millisecond after being struck, and that's it. No flash, no recoil, no animation, nada. Likewise, Arthur and his Knights scarcely react to damage. So it's actually important to pay attention to your life bar gauge, since it's otherwise tough to tell when you're nearly dead.

That kid was fast as lightning
Arthur was kung-fu fighting

    Third, it's just plain goddamn boring. Besides your sword, you have a totally ineffectual Block move, and you can use Shield Attacks if you've retrieved a given character's magic shield. Shield Attacks are special moves like throwing pikes or energy bolts. And that, sadly, is it. That's the whole combat system, folks. Regular slashes and one special attack per character. No special items, spells, combination attacks, tools, weapon upgrades, or anything else that would make the system interesting to play.

    This is a very, very bad game. There is no reason to play it except morbid curiousity. It has no charm, depth, style, or intelligence. But the most galling thing about it is the technical skill with which it's done. The packaging is nice, the manual is readable, and there are no major glitches or bugs. It was clearly executed by thinking human beings, and that is what makes the game's existence so baffling. Why the hell would anyone ever agree to make a game this unambitious and dull? How could anyone come into the office every morning, eager to develop a video game co-starring a character named Sir Lug? I can barely stand to review it. I can only imagine what kind of toll it took on the sanity of the people who developed it from cradle to immolation. Frankly, all my technical dissection of the gameplay and concept really dances around the big issue:

 Lord, how I hate this game.
Please make the pain stop.

    Playing this game is like having your eyes slit open with straight razors, filled with baby spider eggs, then re-sealed, and then being treated to the sensation of hundreds of tiny, venemous little arachnids bursting into being behind your pupils, consuming everything they can touch, and feeling them tear through your corneas and trickle out of your bleeding eye sockets like jagged tears of black glass.

    Don't do this to yourself. Don't play this game.

Vault by Allan Milligan, GIA.
King Arthur and the Knights of Justice
Developer Enix of America
Publisher Enix
Genre Adventure
Medium Cartridge
Platform SNES
Release Date  None
King Arthur FAQ
26 screenshots / 3 ending screenshots / 11 character profile screenshots