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Back in 1987 Tecmo ported Solomon's Key to the NES. Originally an arcade game, Solomon's Key fit nicely on the system. Now, over twenty years later, it has found its way to the Wii Virtual Console. It stands the test of time well, although it is one of the most difficult games for the NES.
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Solomon's Key is actually a book with the power to contain demons. Someone has unleashed it and Dana, a wizard (who dresses like Robin Hood for some reason) has to use his incredible block building and destroying power to seal the demons away again. It's not the most interesting story in the world, but at least it is original. I can't say "Oh, not another sealing demons away with block power game!" like I can with a number of games these days.
Dana is also an unlikely hero. He dies with one hit from an enemy, and unless he has fireballs he can't really hurt enemies (he can destroy a block they were standing on or pick up a special bottle which destroys all enemies in the area). However, it is a breath of fresh air to play as someone out of their element. Sure, it is frustrating, but I already said the game was hard.
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The gameplay of Solomon's Key might seem simple. All you have to do is move through sixty different rooms and get a key to open a door. However, each room is set up in such a way that Dana must make and unmake blocks in order to solve the puzzle of the room. Also, each room is filled with the danger of constantly re-spawning enemies and the player's own mistakes. You can make a room impossible to beat by putting blocks in the wrong places. Oh, and did I mention that each room is timed? Yep, you have a time limit to complete the puzzle in each room or poor little Dana will die.
The controls are easy to use. The directional pad is walking, jumping and crouching. 1 and 2 control Dana's block building and destroying powers, along with the fireballs you can collect along the way. While a little stiff at times, Dana usually does what I want him to do. He can be a bit slow, but it is an NES game.
Also, you can collect fairies in each room by getting the bell and going to the door, and collect extra lives as well. Oh, and there are secret doors that are hidden behind blocks. Simple? I think not.
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Graphics and Sound
This game is from the late 1980's so there is really nothing to note about the graphics. They remind me of Kid Icarus in a way, since most of the backgrounds are black. But that isn't the point of this game either. Solving the puzzle of each room is the focus, so the graphics aren't important.
The same goes for the music. The soundtrack is forgettable and the sound effects are like every other NES game's sound effects. They are there, and they make sense while you are playing, but they don't really stand out as good or bad.
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Yeah, I have to say Solomon's Key is a lot of fun. Sure, it is a very hard NES game. You may have to play rooms multiple times before you can figure out the puzzle and pass it. The re-spawning enemies can be very frustrating, especially when there is nothing you can do to harm them. But all of this adds up into a truly unique experience.
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Solomon's Key isn't for everyone. If you only enjoy simple platformers, you probably wouldn't like it. But if you love puzzle games, or the puzzles in RPGs, this is a game you might enjoy. For only 500 Wii points it is worth it, but be warned you may be playing for a long time.