Devil World (NES)

Game Review

Devil World Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

Heaven a good time

As far as obscure releases within the NES library go, Devil World is certainly one of the most interesting. Originally released in Japan in 1984 and in Europe in 1987, this is a title that to this day has never been available to purchase in North America — not even through the wonders of Nintendo’s Virtual Console service. Nintendo of America originally passed on the title at the time of release due to self-imposed rules it had on the use of religious icons and themes appearing in its games. The subsidiary's stance has evidently relaxed since then, yet Devil World nevertheless remains in the depths of unreleased game hell in the region; policies are clearly more relaxed in Europe.

With that said, the fact that a Nintendo-developed game contains such overt religious symbols is rather surprising. Designed by Shigeru Miyamato and then-newcomer Takashi Tezuka, Devil World isn’t an in-depth critical work that explores the underworld. Instead, it’s merely a PAC-MAN clone, albeit a rather creative one that exudes more charm than you’d expect from a game with such a sinister-sounding title.

However, that’s not to say that Devil World is all lollipops and rainbows. In fact, it’s pretty punishing as far as the gameplay is concerned. The basic premise evokes that of Namco’s yellow, pellet-gobbling mascot in that the main goal of each standard stage is to collect objects known as Boa-Boa dots, which are scattered across various dungeon mazes. You play as Tamagon, a miniature dragon who is tasked with collecting these dots as a means through which to “attack the Devil World”.

Whereas PAC-MAN doesn’t hold back when it comes to munching pellets, Tamagon has the good grace to only do so while holding a holy cross, an item of which you’ll find plenty in the maze. Once firmly in his grasp, a mystical power compels him to not only eat delicious Boa-Boa dots, but to also shoot flames from his mouth. The latter comes in especially handy given that each stage is littered with enemies, and the only way to temporarily halt their advance is to roast them. Doing so will even turn certain enemies into fried eggs — we can’t help but think that both Miyamoto and Tezuka were under the influence while making this one.

It’s a premise that sounds straightforward enough, but what sets Devil World apart from its obvious source of inspiration is the way in which the stages behave. The view of the playing field isn’t fixed in place, and instead the level will scroll in one of four directions as chosen by the Devil himself. Those that have played any Super Smash Bros. game since Brawl will likely be already familiar with this chap — he’s that pain in the backside who pushes part of the stage out of view.

In Devil World, he’s doing more or less the same thing, although his primary goal here is to crush poor Tamagon between the edge of the screen and a wall. Naturally, this has a pretty big impact on the way in which you play the game; how you go about collecting Boa-Boa dots is always influenced by the direction in which the stage is moving, and some foresight on your part is required if you want to avoid inadvertently trapping yourself. The mazes are surprisingly intricate in certain stages, featuring long stretches of wall that will speed up your journey to the afterlife if you don’t take care.

There are three different types of stage that crop up per round, thus ensuring that there is variety, albeit in a rather formulaic way. Upon completing the first stage — which revolves around eating Boa-Boa dots — you’re next tasked with collecting four bibles and placing them into the Devil’s seal in order to close it. Bibles dish out the same fire-breathing powers as crosses, so you’re still able to attack enemies in this stage should you need to. Following this, a bonus stage will appear in which you have to collect up to six bonus boxes. Here, you’re able to control the direction in which the screen scrolls by walking over arrow panels on the floor; only through the efficient use of these can you acquire everything.

Although it may be a very simple concept, especially when compared to modern games, Devil World is nevertheless very playable and challenging as a result of its unusual gameplay mechanics. The game can be played cooperatively with a second player, which makes it a little bit easier (although you can hinder and even kill each other if not careful) and an ideal choice if you want something simple and easy to understand. The charming visuals and upbeat soundtrack should be at odds with the theme of the game, but they actually just make it that bit more appealing when played today. The repetitive nature of the gameplay and stage format, however, may prevent Devil World from holding your attention for very long.


It’s all too easy to label Devil World as a PAC-MAN clone given its obvious similarities, yet to view it as only being that would be a huge mistake. This is a game that takes the basic formula of the arcade original and builds upon it in an inventive and unique way; the scrolling maze mechanic inserts an added layer of challenge that can be remarkably difficult to anticipate and overcome. It does become a bit repetitive over time, however, due to the fact that the stages are very similar throughout and always presented in the same order. Despite this it’s the challenge that will keep you coming back, not to mention the quirky theme that’s arguably more interesting as a result of it being something you wouldn’t typically expect to find in a Nintendo-developed game.

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User Comments (18)



Kaze_Memaryu said:

A game fits the word "obscure" perfectly, when even Nintendo doesn't seem to have an official trailer yet.

Looks fun, though. And I finally know the game this stupid devil assist trophy is from!



Gridatttack said:

I remember playing this on those weird chinese consoles that have like 100 games in one.



KeeperBvK said:

@Dipper723 What does the ESRB have anything to do with this? They don't rate religious content. Also, it's still an image thing for Nintendo in the US with all those radical Christians living there.



Sean_Aaron said:

I really enjoy this so I'm happy to drop 99p to double-dip and not go to Wii Mode to play it on my Wii U.

Nice to see there's someone else out there who can appreciate a good maze game. Now that's a genre I'd like to see make an indie comeback.



Obito_Sigma said:

Whenever I rate a Virtual Console game in Club Nintendo, this is what I also write when asked about the Virtual Console service:

"Bring SNES, N64, and GBA games to the 3DS Virtual Console. Also, bring Devil World to the Virtual Console."

I have sent that message at least 50 times in the past year and a half... :/



unrandomsam said:

@KeeperBvK Do they do disproportionately well in the bible belt places ? (I can see why if that is the case they want to keep it that way maybe).



JJtheTexan said:

1980s / early 1990s Europe, where a game featuring the devil was totally okay, but words like "Ninja" and "Contra" were strictly forbidden in video games. O_o

Nintendo has always had some weird policies.



JJtheTexan said:

Obito_Tennyson I do the SAME THING. I don't know if they're getting the message.

I'm resigned to the fact Nintendo has probably decided it is not worth the financial investment to them to get a development team working on bringing games for Nintendo 64 (or any other console, for that matter) to the 3DS and Wii U (beyond the clunky Wii Mode).



manu0 said:

@JJtheTexan Why would they have been forbidden? They just thought they could come up with better names (which they didn't, but still...)



Kevlar44 said:


I thought Clu Clu Land was terrible when i played it on NES remix... until i got good at it going for Rainbow Stars. It has a unique control scheme that comes with a steep learning curve but it feels natural once you get used to it. It's certainly a challenging game but i think the biggest flak it gets is from the unique, but sensible, way it controls being so foreign.



MeloMan said:

Lessee, there's a cross on Link's shield in Zelda I and in the manuals for both games (And I think on the magic book in Zelda I). Zelda I had crosses on the tombstones I believe. Zelda II had a cross that let you see Moas in the graveyard. the Castlevania had holy water and a cross (boomerang in some circles). I guess my point is, I've seen all kinds of things that could raise a flag with Nintendo from way back when, and other than the title (which a simple title change is all that was needed), I really don't get what's wrong with this game that it "couldn't" have made it to the US. And I STILL don't understand why it's not coming to the US. I mean, wow...



JJtheTexan said:

@manu0 apparently there were laws that effectively prohibited using those words in video game titles:

"The title referred to the two robotic soldiers modeled after Briareos Hecatonchires, RD-008 and RC-011, who replaced Bill and Lance in this version. This was presumably done due to the German Federal Agency BPjM, which banned the sales of media deemed too violent for children, including "content which glorifies war", thus necessitating the change to robotic characters." (From the Contra wiki)

"Upon TMNT's first arrival in the United Kingdom and Ireland the name was changed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" (or TMHT, for short), since local censorship policies deemed the word ninja to have excessively violent connotations for a children's program." (From Wikipedia)



manu0 said:

@JJtheTexan Contra just means "against", definitely not a forbidden word. Seems like they did change humans to robots in the European version of Contra, but they could've called it Contra anyway.

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