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Title of Review
- Pros: Key pros of the game
- Cons: Key cons of the game
- Score: score out of 10
Knights of the Round (ナイツオブザラウンド) is an arcade game released by Capcom in 1991. A side-scrolling beat 'em up based loosely on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the game features an RPG-like level advancement system, with fighters getting new weapons and armour as they advance through the game, however the player can not choose how to upgrade his/her character - the level up system is static.
Arthur, who had been training himself to be a great knight, pulled out the sacred sword Excalibur from the rock. After pulling it out, Arthur realized his destiny was to become the first King of the Britons. Merlin then sends Arthur and his two closest companions, Lancelot and Perceval, to overthrow the evil king Garibaldi and to unite England.
Arthur, the main protagonist, is a well-balanced character, and is excellent for intermediate skilled players, due to his slow powerful attack. His weapon is the sword Excalibur. He can perform a special attack, a powerful slashing blow, by pressing attack then holding the joystick toward the enemy's direction. Upon first selecting him, Arthur wears chain mail, wears leather armor on his shoulders and chest, and has white pants and a red tunic. When he gets new level-ups, Excalibur becomes stronger, and he eventually gets more body armor, (later in silver and gold colors). Arthur is the most devastating character, when mounted.
Lancelot is a talented swordsman and has been traveling all over the world to find a worthy king he should serve. Lancelot is the fastest character but lacks in strength. Since the game favors maneuverability, he is very good for beginners. His special attack is the jumping kick, done by pressing attack then holding the joystick up. Lancelot's weapon of choice is a sabre. Lancelot starts out wearing a blue clothes with a yellow cross. In eventual level-ups, Lancelot gains plate armor and a broader sabre.
The son of a blacksmith, Perceval is a strong warrior with a gentle heart. Unlike his sword-wielding friends Arthur and Lancelot, Perceval prefers to use a battle-axe. He has never been defeated thanks to his well-built body. Perceval is the strongest character but lacks in agility, making him good for intermediate players. He is the only character who can dash by tapping the joystick forward twice, cancelled into a "Giant Swing" by pressing the attack button while dashing. At first, Perceval has blond hair, wears armor on his left shoulder, is barechested, and wears green pants. In eventual level-ups, Perceval becomes bald with a beard, and gains partial armor, though most of his chest is bare.
As with many other Capcom games in this genre, the characters are ranked in a number of categories (in this case strength and speed) and intended to offer a balanced set of abilities with each slanted towards a certain style of play. Perceval excels in strength, but lacks speed while Lancelot has the advantage in speed, but has less power behind his blows. Arthur on the other hand is balanced between speed and strength.
The fights rely strongly on blocking ability, which is triggered by pressing both attack and back direction, then hold them down waiting for the opponent to strike. If nobody strikes player's character while holding the block, it will get tired and will relax, making him vulnerable to attacks. So, it is vital to block at the right time or to release the block if opponent didn't attack. Stronger opponents will sometimes wait in front of a blocked player, waiting him/her to get tired or to release the block. Blocking is vital, the game is not possible to be completed without blocking and not dying, since some bosses will be vulnerable only after their attack has been blocked by player. There is only one attack in the game, that can't be blocked - the Garibaldi fire-prayer. Like in the game The King of Dragons, It is also possible to block an attack by pressing back on the joystick on the moment before the attack hits one's character. A correctly timed move is equal to the previous block command.
There is one more game mechanic, that together with the blocking made that game to shine among many other fight games of its time - experience point gaining. The system works as follows - one can kill sequentally 2,3 or 4 enemies of the same type, and then the next attack that kills any number of enemies will give major experience points, depending how many enemies of the same type exactly the player has killed. After the magic attack, the sequence is cleared, and must be made again to score experience that way. This means, that killing enemies of the same type gives more and more experience each time, until the fourth enemy and then starts again. One way to continue the experience rewarding killing is to kill four enemies of same type and then kill every other enemy via the mount - by jumping on them or by releasing the mount towards them.
The mount itself is worth mentioning also - it can be acquired by two ways - sometimes there is hidden mount figure, that can call a mount for you or by attacking mounted enemy and to take his horse. When mounted player can made very powerful crushing strikes, can jump over the enemies and can release the horse toward them.
The gameplay is very similar to other Capcom beat 'em ups, such as Final Fight, but perhaps closer to other Capcom titles such as King of Dragons due to the emphasis on armed combat and fantasy themes in the latter as opposed to hand-to-hand grappling combat in the former.
There are 7 stages, each with its own boss ranging from the poleaxe wielding Knight known as "Scorn" (billed as the "First Challenge") all the way up to Garibaldi, the golden-armoured final boss. The fantasy element of the game is clear in bosses such as Muramasa the fiendish samurai warrior and the mechanical "Iron Golem" that appears as a mini-boss halfway through the last stage of the game.
There are a variety of generic enemies that try to stop the players' progress, which like the bosses go from the humble and lightly armoured "Soldier", the most common enemy, all the way up to the "Tall Man", a palette switch of the first stage boss "Scorn". Highlights include the "Mad Tiger", which explodes in flames when slain and the "Sorcerer" who teleports around the screen hurling magical bolts at the players.
Blocking an attack is executed by pressing the attack button, then pressing the joystick away. As in most beat 'em ups, a desperation attack is performed by pressing both the attack and jump buttons simultaneously. This knocks out most enemies on the screen, but the player loses a little bit of health every time he uses it.
At various points in the game, the players get to ride a horse, where they can attack enemies on horseback. The horses can stomp on enemies by pressing the joystick two times forward. But it is worth noting that more than one of the bosses in the game rides a horse and that the enemy "Buster" is always keen to get into the saddle when presented with the opportunity.
- Stage 1- Village On Fire - boss: Scorn, a tall knight who laughs at his opponents.
- Stage 2- Confused Fight - boss: Braford, an acrobatic man who wields two swords in combat.
- Stage 3- Battle at the Castle Fort - boss: Arlon, a large man who can cause earth quakes.
- Stage 4- Knights Festival - boss: Phantom, a fast ghost who looks similar to Marvels Ghost Rider.
- Stage 5- Expedition - boss: Balbars, a huge knight who may not be fast but is twice the size of Arther and Lancalot.
- Stage 6- Knights in the Strange Land - boss: Muramasa, a samurai who can control fire.
- Stage 7- Decisive Battle at the King's Castle - sub-bosses: Iron Golem, basically a medieval robot & Phantom - boss: Garibaldi, the evil king who wears golden armor
As is common for the genre, the enemies in the game are drawn from a cast of characters that appear on many of the levels with small alterations to their colour schemes and the length of their health bars.
- Soldier: The basic grunts that make up the bulk of the enemies that the knights face. Armed only with a shortsword and protected by a helmet (that shatters when struck) and padded doublet, the only danger they represent comes if they sneak an attack when the player is distracted with bigger foes. They can also roll and dash with their sword extended.
- Sword Man: Better armoured than the Soldier, the Sword Man is nevertheless slowed by his huge blade. This lack of speed makes the Sword Man an easy target, but beware of the fact that he packs a huge punch when he manages to land a blow.
- Fat Man: A peasant armed with a poleaxe, the Fat Man is similar to the Sword Man in that he is slow to attack but can cause some damage when the player's guard is down. The Fat Man is most dangerous when he is just out of the player's range and they are within the reach of his polearm, so get up close to deal with him.
- Mask Man: Dressed as a jester and wielding a rapier, the Mask Man is one of the few characters in the game that favours speed and dexterity over brawn and huge amounts of armour. Jumping around the screen and often hurling throwing weapons about, the Mask Man frustratingly hits the dirt with very little effort meaning that he takes little damage with each and eats away at the precious time needed to clear a stage.
- Sky Walker: Pretty much the same as the Mask Man without the mask and with a larger health bar.
- Bird Man: Named presumably for the pig-snout helmet he wears, this character attacks with a handaxe and is quite handy at defending himself with his shield. Due to his heavy armor he seems to be always out of breath when he stands up from a knock-down and remains defenceless for a few seconds allowing the player to attack him freely.
- Buster S.: Perhaps the most potent of the standard enemies, the heavily armoured Buster (whatever the initial after the name) wields a spiked mace and shield and boasts a nasty jumping attack into the bargain. Often arrives onscreen on horseback and always keen to mount a horse from which a player has just been removed.
- Buster F.: Aside from wearing armour that is coloured differently than that of Buster S., this enemy does not fall down after leaping for the player and missing.
- Magician: The Magician lives up to his name by hurling magic bolts around the screen and teleporting from one point to another. Surprisingly the Magician also throws himself into physical combat with the ability to grab a player and throw them around. The Magician is best dealt with quickly to avoid his magical projectiles.
- Barbarian: The Barbarian wears bronze armour and fires arrows into combat before rushing at the players in a shield-bash and then slashing with his scimitar. Though he's more tenacious, has more health and a bigger bag of tricks, the Barbarian is really a beefed up version of the Soldier and is dealt with very quickly as well.
- Mad Tiger: Living up to its name, not only does the Mad Tiger attack viciously, it also bursts into flame when slain.
- Bad Falcon: Carried and released by the Mask Man enemy, these are birds of prey trained to attack the players with the daggers they clutch in their talons. Although flying attacks work best against Bad Falcons, well-timed ground attacks work as well.
There are several points in the game, where player can be rewarded with additional lives and levelup, mainly based on breaking special crates after killing one enemy in a special way:
- Just in the beginning of the Braford scene, there is a barrel with a plate filled with fruits. Sometimes, when broken into pieces it gives two more lives. The probability is higher when you have no more lives left.
- Just after the Braford boss, at the beginning of the third level there is a barrel and some fortification. There are two Bird Men waiting - pull first one, damage him until he is about to die, then let him run towards you and kill him with a powerful strike. Break the upper barrel and it will reward you with two more lives, if you have no more lives left.
- The same tactic as above, made with the second Bird Man will reward you with a free level up from the fortification that is below the barrel.
- Just the same damage-wait-for-run-and-kill tactic works in the next scene of the third level. Kill Buster S., do the trick with the incoming bird man and break the barrel - one more life.
This tactic works sometimes every single time (beginning of the third level), sometimes more randomly.
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- The highest level a character can obtain in the game is level 16, although there is only enough experience in a play-through to allow one character to reach that level.
- Large items of treasure such as chests, platters of food and sets of crockery can be struck and split into smaller items that usually amount to a higher value in points, in rare cases they are replaced by a special bonus such as an extra life or a magical scepter which instantly raises the character's level. A magic scepter does not raise the point requirement for the next level until a character uses both lives and continues (in the SNES version).
- At the end of the first section of Stage 3, when the character destroys the barricade and leads the knights into the castle, an enemy knight can be seen amongst those entering the gates.