Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
In 1990, a video game was published by Data East for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console, developed by Takara, called Werewolf: The Last Warrior. This unabashedly epic action platformer stars a titular werewolf protagonist out to defeat the nefarious world-conquering schemes of the evil Dr. Farya by ruthlessly slaughtering every foe in his blood-splashing path.
The player controls the werewolf, who begins the game as a man but, after defeating the first mini-boss character very soon into the game, collects a token to become the werewolf; afterward, the state of man or werewolf is determined by health. In either state, the game takes a rebellious stance against traditional NES platformers by having the A button attack and the B button jump. As a man, the player jumps, punches, and can launch a projectile attack by holding the A button and releasing. As a werewolf, the character is a tougher, meatier, nastier beast, slashing with long claws, leaping through the air, and using the holding-A-button attack to level the entire screen, at the cost of some units on the heath bar.
Gameplay continues through challenging platformer levels, moving from an outdoor scene in the woods to more inner, fiery realms of inner lair sanctums; fighting dozens of enemies, ranging from quick blue-robed ninjas to tough boss bouts; gorgeous cutscenes, including the spirit of Kinju serving at the werewolf’s guide throughout, and the iconic transformation sequence. This is a fast-paced, action-packed, fairly difficult, hack-and-slash, unapologetic scrolling-screen monster of a video game.
To put it simply: This title looks great. Between the hues both subtle and stunning of the cutscenes, the intimidating guardian characters, and the constant onslaught of precision-jumping obstacles or knock-’em-down foes, the entire experience is bathed in pleasurable visuals.
The music is real solid, with the synth providing layers in bass notes, treble, and some kicking drum shots. The sound effects are wet, punchy, and effective, even if Data East is just as guilty of reusing noise from other titles; although, in cases such as the complex, classic pause effect, this is surely excusable. The only complaint may be that the background music does not always seem to fit the on-screen action, such as in the case of some of the boss rounds, with an oddly mellow track.
This is a video game that knows exactly what it is and delivers it without watering it down: Rip-roaring, body-tearing, bash-and-grab, smash-mouth action. This is not your grandfather’s werewolf: This title character has enormous claws for hands, can move while crouching, and can use the claws to hang from certain ceiling sections, boasting quite an impressive array of moves compared to most NES protagonists. Even details such as the background visuals, appropriately atmospheric or claustrophics, to the boss fights, challenging but pattern-based in demanding a player both cerebral and nimble-fingered, are tightly developed and well-honed.
Thusly, though the basic formula (transformation-gimmick protagonist in two-dimensional action platformer) may not be 100% original, the presentation is thoroughly deep, rich in character, and very distinctive. This is a wonderful video game, whether as a testosterone-fueled guilty pleasure or a scientific case study of how to develop a great cartridge, very much deserving its four stars out of five.