The change from Color Dreams to Wisdom Tree is an interesting one. What started as an internal company joke eventually became reality, as story has it, when a Sunday School teacher pushed for the idea of religious video games. Nintendo policy at the time dictated NO
religious references in games. Sega, of course, wasn't so strict, but even so, religion was a bare minimum on game consoles. And at the time, Color Dreams was the only unlicensed publisher that Nintendo hadn't sued.
For whatever reason- a genuine desire to make the games, a marketing gimmick, or to dodge a lawsuit- Color Dreams morphed into Wisdom Tree. Many Color Dreams employees quit, and Color Dreams eventually moved on to become a camera company, while the game unit changed to Wisdom Tree. They made 7 games for the NES during this time, and by many accounts, were mediocre. The good ones- Exodus
- were simple ROM hacks of the Color Dreams game Crystal Mines
. Many didn't like Bible Adventures
or King of Kings
as they were mediocre platformers. Bible Buffet
was a release of a shelved Color Dreams game, and as such, all Biblical content was tacked on, and the game had little to do with Christianity as a result. Sunday Funday
was just a title screen edit of Menace Beach
with the cutscenes altered.
Then there was Spiritual Warfare
. An ambitious project, a Zelda-type overhead game that was not only very long, but very good. Not, not merely good. Compared to Exodus
. Of course, WT wasn't content to settle for one gaming platform. They ported their games to PC format, a few to Game Boy(as well as 2 text-cart verisons of the Bible), a single new SNES game called Super Noah's Ark 3D
(which used, oddly, the Wolfenstein 3D
engine- rumor was that iD let them use it ut of spite for Nintendo, but the simple fact is that WT licensed the engine from iD) and four ports to the Genesis, one being Spiritual Warfare
. Wisdom Tree must have been doing something right, all things considered. They are, after all, the only US unlicensed game console maker still in business, actively making new Biblical-themed(and even a few non-Biblical) PC titles. Yes, Codemasters still exists, but they're a UK-based company, and now a Nintendo licensee.Spiritual Warfare
is set simply enough- the city has quickly become corrupted as nearly everyone has been possessed by demons. You, an unnamed soldier in the Army of God Himself, have been charged with a quest- find the six pieces of the Armor of God, enter the Demon's Stronghold, and stop this infestation at the source. Shy of the overt religious tones, a fairly typical plot of any RPG/adventure game, really. Evil corrupts the land, you pick up arms against it. In fact, if you replace God with a more original character, you get something similar to Quintet's Soul Blazer.
Now, keep in mind this company, just before becoming a Christian-based publisher, was going to do a gory game based on the Hellraiser
films, and had done a gory "fight the demons of Hell" game called Robodemons
The game is a simple overhead adventure, owing much to Legend of Zelda
, but explored a bit like a top-view Metroid
in ways. Despite being yet another Crystal Mines engine game, the engine was completely rebuilt allowing for an expansive level layout and full Zelda-like play. You start in the park, empty. An angel supplies you with the pear, your first fruit of the spirit. A weak weapon with a short range, much like the starter beam in Metroid
, but it can also destroy piles of debris, yet can't pass through objects. You will gain other fruit as you advance. The apple moves slow but is powerful. The pomegranite moves similar to Metroid'
s wave beam, but has a short range. The grapes have a medium range and spread out in a three-way shot when fired. The banana moves fast and is powerful. You can carry up to four of each fruit, extras purchased from angels. More fruit means faster shots.
Granted, fruit as a weapon is strange at first glance, but considering the mythology and religious sources, it fits. It has to fit. But you also get other weapons. Vials of God's Wrath can be picked up. Much like Bomberman
, these blast anything in their range- except you, as you are immune to them. Set out in the park and fight the demon-infested citizens out to get you. Find the Belt of Truth under the park, your first armor piece, which allows you to move rocks. Head out into the city, the slums, the airport, warehouses, downtown, residential area, the beach, the forest, docks, and the prison complex to find the other five pieces of the Armor of God. Along the way, talk with the few humans not possessed, who will give you clues. If you get lost, the church in the residential area will tell you where to go.
Find the Breastplate and your damage is cut by half. The Boots allow you to cross dangerous areas. The Helmet makes you immune to dynaamite explosions. And finally, the Sword, a powerful throwing weapon which explodes much like the Vials. Locate more fruit, and heart containers to extend your life meater- you start with a measly three. Find the railroad ticket to move quickly between areas, and locate keys to unlock the doors in your path. Finally, infiltrate the Demon's Stronghold, defeat the demon's guardian, and be awarded the Helmet, a powerful item that saves you from the fireballs of the lesser demons.
Now, find the demon himself, unnamed but quite clearly Satan
, and do away with him.
Spirit points are your currency. Generally dropped by enemies, they come in either 1, 5, 10, or a rarer 25 points. You can also gain points by meeting the random angel who will ask you five Bible questions. Correct answers net you spirit points. Of course, meeting this angel and answering questions is optional, but helpful int the long run. The subscreen is where you will control a lot of the game. Select the fruit weapon to use with the C button, and your other weapon to use with B- the Vials, the healing Anointing Oil, the torch for dark rooms, the raft, Samson's Jawbone(boomerang), or if you wish to sacrifice a few spirit points, pray to refill health. Ten points refills one half a heart. You also have an intuitive area map, color-coding each section and (if outdoors) highlighting your location.
This is a very long game. Several hours worth of play, and perhaps not possible in one sitting. While Wisdom Tree was never able to incorporate battery backup saves into the game, they do give you a password system, obtained by either selecting to end your game early from the subscreen, or an option when you die. Effectively, the Genesis port is nearly identical to the NES version. Sound was enhanced, as were graphics and color depth, eliminating the "blank space" problems sprites suffered from on the NES. Given the extra control button, a run feature was added that the NES lacks. The basic pause was removed, retaining only the subscreen when you pause the game, due to the lack of a select button. Sure, they could have kept the standard pause too, but given you have a subscreen anyway, it wasn't needed. I'd rather have the run function.
Now, the game is near perfect, but not quite. First, a few problems it had on the NES were not fixed. One is that you have the same background music for the entire game. Not an irritaing song itself- to its credit, rather long and doesn't loop all that often- but it's the only one you get for a 4+ hour game. Not even the Demon's Stronghold gets new music. Second, the password system. Occasionally, you may get a bad password so it may help to stop and write your password down frequently(you can continue playing at the password screen rather than quitting). The password is also long at 32 characters. These were the same frustrations that kept me away from Kid Icarus. Thankfully, they printed the entire characetr set the passwords use along the bottom of the screen. Not so thankful is that the use O, 0(zero), L, l, i, I, and 1(one), rather than a simpler character set with no lookalike characters. I have yet to get a bad password myself, truth be told, but it is a known problem. Check your written passwords for errors, compare characters to those on the bottom of the screen. Make sure you copied it correctly. However, the Genesis version may be based on the slightly revised NES version 6.1, a version that may have somehow fixed the password issues.
There are also spots where it is possible to get stuck, especially in the few screens where enemies are capable of pushing blocks that you can't. Situations such as this typically require an end game, and a continue to place you back in the entrance to that sector. This happens rarely, if at all, but can happen regardless. But need I mention the key problem in Link's Awakening
's 8th dungeon, or other games, where it can become impossible to advance if you do something wrong, and unlike Spiritual Warfare
, you have no way to escape. So yes, it is nitpicky, but not totally tragic when it happens as you have an escape.
So? It's a fun game, all things considered. A few issues, which if done from a licensed company would get a much lower mark, but for an unlicensed company, this is an unexpected bit of greatness from a sub-industry pretty well known for bad games. The fact we got an enhanced version on the Genesis was fortunate as the game really had a way to shine. The Biblical themes will attract some, but may push away others. While we can generally ignore the made-up religions present in many RPGs, people tend to be a bit more mindful when actual religions make their way into such games. Especially for games from a time when such games did not exist prior.