WILLOW / Capcom / Arcade

Willow was a big-budget Hollywood movie that was a real flash-in-the-pan; if you weren't around in 1988 you probably haven't have heard of it, although it was on every Burger King cup and schoolkid lunchbox for a little while. It's a Tolkienesque fantasy story starring little people who can do magic, and Val Kilmer as some womanizing swordsman. They were on some quest to save the babe with the power or whatever, I really don't recall as it's been twenty years since I've seen the film and my brain was rather underdeveloped then anyway.

The important thing is that during its brief time at the cultural forefront it managed to eke out a couple of video game adaptations. The rarest is easily this arcade run-and-gun from Capcom, that has you alternating between Willow and Mad Martigan as they blast through levels full of orcs, dark wizards, etc.

It's OK as run-and-gun games go, kind of a cross up between Ghosts N' Goblins and Rolling Thunder. It's not quite as good as either, though, and nearly as head-bangingly difficult as the former. Willow plays a bit like Mega Man; he has a fireball that he can only throw straight forward, but can also charge his shots to deliver a more powerful version. Mad Martigan is kind of the Zero to Willow's Mega Man, and you'd think he'd be more powerful, but you'll actually grow to dread his sequences. All he has is his cumbersome short-range sword, which is wholly inadequate against the mostly ranged enemies you'll be facing. A cart ride in the second level where archers continually hover out of your range and pick at you with arrows is a particularly irritating sequence, and it's followed immediately by a sequence where Willow goes up against common guards that take literally a good ten shots to kill.

Capcom fans may want to withstand it's shortcomings, however, as you can see many ideas from games of that period recycled either into or out of this one. Aside from the Mega Man connection, the guards that you fight look suspiciously like medevial versions of the Badds from Bionic Commando, and the cinema sequences echo the arcade version of Strider.

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