Fortress of Narzod (Vectrex) Review

Fortress of Narzod is a classic arcade game from a bizarro universe, where it’s a huge hit with countless clones and knockoffs. Through an intricate series of misadventures by a legendary Seminole mystic in the 9th century, an extra-dimensional rift was created. The only end results of this (which a human psyche can comprehend) are twofold; 1) the Seminole mystic went insane and ate his own arms off, and 2) Fortress of Narzod was quietly released in our dimension, albeit only in the United States.

Assuming you’ve played a video game before, Narzod’s gameplay will be instantly familiar, but it’s concept is as unique as anything out there. If Gyruss is Galaga after having the screen rolled into a cylinder, Narzod is Centipede after having it’s screen mangled by a 10.0 earthquake. Okay, that analogy wasn’t so good, so maybe I should explain. Most of the game takes place on zig-zaggy polygonal corridors, with a fortress in the distance (see the above picture). This allows for some unique gameplay situations, such as enemies hiding behind the portions of the tunnel that are blocked by walls, but the real twist is the fact that bullets (your own and those of enemies) can ricochet off the walls. So rather than lining yourself up with your target directly in front of you, it’s usually safer to try to nab him with a ricochet, since a straight shot will often bounce off the distant fortress and come straight at you. That’s right, you can shoot yourself in this game, possibly a historical first for the game industry.

Like most of the arcade classics of Dimention Ô, Narzod starts out frantic and doesn’t relent. Before you know it, enemy bullets are splitting into two and you’ll be twiddling the tiny Vectrex joystick with the frantic precision of a masturbating chipmunk. You’ll quickly learn to fear the murderous eagles, which shoot small, speedy bullets directly at you. If you can overcome your jitters, these aquiline foes can serve a strategic purpose, since they serve as temporary shields if you shoot them out of the sky in an advantageous location. Apparently Narzod himself isn’t the type to get his hands dirty, but you do get to clash with his toughest minion; the Mystic Hurler. These battles tend to be anticlimactic, since the Hurler doesn’t have much fight in him, but at least it breaks up the action a bit, and it’s pretty novel having a boss fight in the first place.

Overall, Fortress of Narzod is one of the best games available for the venerable Vectrex. It’s addictive, unique, frantic and fun. When the lead starts flying, the hardware visibly shudders and churns, but in never slows, never chops, never gives in. If this is the sort of thing people in other dimensions are playing, we should fear them.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on December 2, 2008.

One Response to “Fortress of Narzod (Vectrex) Review”

  1. I’ve feared the Targzissians for years. I know they’ve been training with this and Robotron.

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