Two years after Gate of Doom, Data East once again ventured dangerously close to a Dungeons & Dragons intellectual property infringement lawsuit. Wizard Fire (know as Dark Seal II in Japan) upped its game in the graphics department thanks to new hardware, but was it a better experience than its prequel? Let us crawl into this dungeon.
The first noticeable difference is in the playable roster. Carl F Greystone the Knight, Freya Edirne the Wizard and Hark Riger the Bard make a glorious return but the stealthy Kirikaze the Ninja is nowhere to be found. Since he was the odd one out that didn't really fit the whole AD&D vibe, he's instead been replaced with Eminna Jozestore the Elf and Jade Greataxe the Dwarf (who, unsurprisingly, fights with axes).
The two-button control scheme is back, with ‘A’ used to attack and ‘B’ to cast whatever magic transformation is displayed in your magic book. While most of these are rather handy and come with extra firepower, it pays to avoid transforming yourself into a harmless pig. Characters have slightly different play styles this time with Carl and Freya able to build up power before unleashing stronger attacks, while Hark and Eminna can unleash a flurry of rapid-fire attacks by mashing the ‘A’ button. Despite the different classes they all pretty much play the same which is not a real deal breaker for an arcade game.
Your characters move in eight directions on an isometric playfield. From the earlier ruined village all the way to the final stage, colour and detail are far more abundant than in the previous adventure. Presentation has been beefed up since the first game with cutscenes delivering the plot between levels, now voice-acted with hilarious Shatner-style overacting responsible for such hilarious snippets such as the memorable line uses for this review's very own tagline. Music and sounds effects are a bit on the loud and distorted variety, something that would indeed feel right at home in an arcade.
Despite sometimes being an incredibly frustrating coin muncher (especially on some of the bosses) and a confusing one when your characters get hit by curses such as poison and confusion (which will invert your controls for a set period of time), it still manages to be a compelling experience if you have a friend to play along with. But don’t expect to do a run without losing a single life; much like most arcade games, the developer really stacked the odds against you with this one.
Unlike the game's improvements over the prequel, Flying Tiger Entertainment’s emulation wrapper remains static from the very first release of Johnny Turbo. There is still no access to DIP switch options and despite some graphics filtering, you can never disable bilinear filtering which will always upset pixel purists. There is an option to stretch the screen to 16:9, but since the original game was designed in 4:3 you will never want to use that. A real shame since we know improvements on this would elevate the whole experience.
Wizard Fire might not have set the world ablaze but is still a more than adequate sequel to a more than adequate dungeon crawler. Even today the sprite work is fantastic and it most certainly worth a few runs to try out all the characters. But don’t expect long-term replay value, it is, after all, a coin muncher first and foremost. A solid, if unspectacular, option for those looking to expand their range of arcade titles on their Switch library.