Eyes On Me is a series of brief articles remembering the obscure, the underappreciated, and the unknown.
How many non-Final Fantasy games can you name which were published by Square, designed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, and composed by Nobuo Uematsu?
Well add this title to your cache of useless trivia, folks, because King’s Knight was released in September of 1986, about fifteen months before the first Final Fantasy, published by Square (later Squaresoft, later Square Enix, later an irrelevant fossil). It was designed by Sakaguchi (his first title on the Famicom) who would later pioneer the Final Fantasy franchise. This title’s soundtrack represents just the third time that a young and green Uematsu composed the music for a video game.
And these aren’t even the most interesting things about it.
King’s Knight is a fantasy vertical-scrolling shooter where you play (in succession) as a knight, a wizard, a monster, and a kid thief. Yes, you read that right. No need to grab a Thesaurus. While still adapting the familiar and generic swords & sorcery setting of many a game from the time, with its ghosts and goblins, magic and dragons, King’s Knight isn’t an RPG or more properly JRPG. It’s a shmup, belonging to a genre of games dominated by spaceships and alien mutants, not medieval heroes.
Ray Jack the knight, Kaliva the wizard, Barusa the monster, and Toby the kid thief each play fairly similarly on their eternal march northward, but their stages vary. Still, the gameplay maintains itself with blasting apart rocks and mountainsides in search of power-ups and helpful items or secret passageways, while trying to avoid a host of enemies that spit fire and swoop toward your character.
I found this game to be pretty difficult, perhaps unsurprisingly since it’s on the NES and despite having access to multiple power-ups through the game. It’s not even a shooter with one-hit kills, but it’s easy enough to deplete your health. Once your character kicks the bucket, you’ll jump over to the adventure of the next character in line until you reach Toby the kid thief and then game over after that.
This is a pretty rare NES game which nobody ever seems to talk about, hence why I decided to pick it for this first “Eyes On Me” post, but if this all sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because King’s Knight saw a remake called King’s Knight: Wrath of the Dark Dragon for mobile. Or, you might remember King’s Knight from references in Final Fantasy XV (good on them to include a shout out for this game, and thank you to the Infernal Accountant Mage for reminding me). Unfortunately, the mobile remake of King’s Knight is no longer supported.
I guess if you really want to play the game, you’re going to have to tackle the hard as nails original! It’s what Ignis would want. You say you’re a hardcore classic Square fan and you’re boycotting FF7R… but are you a bad enough dude to beat King’s Knight on NES?
If you’re interested in another Square/Sakaguchi/Uematsu game on the NES that’s not a Final Fantasy, check out my critique of The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner!
-The Well-Red Mage
Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in promoting honesty and quality to games writing through thoughtful, long-form critiques. We’re building a future for games writers to get paid and find a fairer and happier alternative to mainstream coverage and culture. See our Patreon page for more info!
Categories: Eyes On Me