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Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road (Riz Zoawd) hands-on preview

By Heath | July 20, 2009 at 1:14 pm

The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, known as Riz Zoawd in Japan, hurls the player right into the action by cutting the whole tornado incident down to about 30 seconds. It cuts out munchkins and falling houses as well, getting Dorothy’s fine ass right to work on the Yellow Brick Road. The player will assemble the full party of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man very quickly. The group then makes the Emerald City (or, Castle Oz) its home base.
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When in the city, the crew can buy items from the Wizard, restore HP/MP for free, and save. The player’s group of misfits will be pursuing four witches who are not just representing North, South, East, and West, but each of whom is presiding over one of the four seasons.

The Wizard of Oz is set up as a floor-based dungeon crawler. Each “floor” (an ironic term for areas which are almost entirely outdoors) consists of many long, often winding pathways. This would seem like an odd setup in most RPGs, but it’s mostly put together this way to accommodate the game’s “trackball” movement system. The lower screen displays a big green ball of sorts which players must stroke with the stylus. Dorothy then responds by walking or running (depending on the speed of the spin) in the direction the ball is going. Want to walk slowly to the right? Take some slow swipes of the DS pen from left to right. Want to dash straight ahead? Start zipping that mofo from bottom to top. When the player stops, Dorothy doesn’t — not until the ball loses momentum and slows down. If players want Dorothy to come to a screeching halt, they can hold the stylus still on the screen to stop the trackball, hence stopping Dorothy. While running so, our girl is bound to encounter some beasts.
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Players get four “ratio” points to use in each round of battle. Dorothy and Scarecrow cost one, Cowardly Lion costs two, and the Tin Man costs three. One’s gotta figure out what’s best to do. Only characters acting during that round can be attacked, but everyone gains the same amount of EXP at the end of the battle, even if they don’t do anything in the battle. At first it might seem like the player chooses turn order, but battle participants act in order of agility (the scarecrow will always go first, for example). Worth note is that each character is strong against a certain type of enemy.

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This is a very interesting system, especially at first, but once the game really gets rolling the set up leaves the Tin Man almost useless. Since the player can’t manually select the target — only the enemy group, akin to Dragon Quest or Class of Heroes — and can’t select turn order to boot, some of the battle system’s strategic potential is lost. To explain lightly, selecting the Lion or Tin Man might sound good because of their superior strength, but when they cost 2/4 and 3/4 of one’s overall turn, respectively, and will go second or last, what they’ll do all too often is waste that strength on weakened enemies. Scarecrow or Dorothy will go first, for example, and almost kill an enemy. So then there’s the big hulking giant with outrageous strength attacking an enemy with…like five HP left. Had that hulk gone first or been able to select an individual enemy, the character’s one-hit-kill potential would not be wasted. It goes on like this until some skills are learned which help to remedy the situation. Perhaps it will be completely fixed by the game’s late stages.

Along the way, Dorothy can mark her path on certain street signs. Many of the winding, long paths can look similar within the same dungeon, so lots of intersections have signs with arrows pointing down its branches. The player can mark them with X, O, !, ?, or a heart. What they mean is up to the player. One can assign one to mean “Went down there, but it’s a gate I need to open, so go back…eventually,” or assign another to mean “Went that way, don’t need to again,” and so on. Scatterbrained players, beware.

The music, graphics, and in effect, atmosphere in this game is pretty rad. It looks good enough and the music is always a nice touch.
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The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road will be released by XSeed this fall. An exact date has not yet been determined.

Thanks to my boy Athrun for the screens.

Topics: Jog at the Moon, Jog at the Moon 2009, Media.Vision, Previews, Riz Zoawd, XSeed