While The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was originally a book written by Frank L. Baum more than 100 years ago, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the more popular Wizard of Oz movie. And now you can explore the mystical Land of Oz with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man on the DS. And here’s the big surprise, Beyond the Yellow Brick Road plays like a well made RPG, similar to Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy!
As Dorothy, you’ll meet up with the rest of your party early on down the Yellow Brick Road after being swept away from your home in Kansas by a tornado. When your group arrives at the Emerald Castle and speaks with Oz, they learn that four witches are trying to gain control of the land, and the wizard enlists your help to stop them. Dorothy and pals then explore the lands based on the four seasons as they gain experience points in battle in order to teach those pesky witches a lesson! The DS game seems to be more influenced by the book rather than the movie. And it also has a bit of a Japanese anime cartoon vibe to it as well. The Tin Man, for instance, looks like a steampunk mech!
The 3-D graphics are some of the best on the DS, and the music is equally as good, with solid instrumentation and even some vocal tunes. Play control is unique in that you move Dorothy around by sliding the stylus along a virtual trackball on the bottom touch screen. And it actually works pretty well. In battle, tap on the touch screen to activate the various menu commands.
Speaking of battles, the fights against the kooky magical monsters of Oz play out like a typical turn-based RPG. Thanks to the game’s ‘ratio system,’ you’ll have to do a bit of strategy and pre-planning for each turn. You see, you can attack four times per round as Dorothy or Scarecrow. The Lion takes up two spaces, so he can only go twice per turn, or once along with Dorothy or Scarecrow twice. The Tin Man takes up three slots, so he can only go once a turn, with either Dorothy or Scarecrow one time. However, the people in the front line will also take the brunt of the enemies’ attacks, too. Certain enemies are weak against specific characters, too. For instance, plant-type enemies are easily defeated by Tin Man and his axe.
There are a few problems with The Wizard of Oz on DS, mainly in how you navigate around the 3-D areas. The maze-like corridors and paths look similar, so when you come to a fork in the road, there are signposts that you can mark with symbols so you know where to go. But sometimes that’s not enough, and a map would’ve been a helpful addition to this entry-level RPG.
The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is best for RPG beginners, but veterans will still find some challenge and fun to be had here. And of course, this game is a must have for any fan of the Oz legacy.
The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Fantasy Violence. And the violence really is low-key. Defeated enemies just disappear or run away, and most of the wicked witches apologize and become friends when beaten. Strong reading skill is a must, because the text-heavy plot progresses through a series of scenes that’s akin to reading a picture storybook. The Wizard of Oz is great for a young gamer’s first RPG, or for a kid who enjoys playing Pokemon styled adventures. Or any child who just loves The Wizard of Oz, period!
Cary’s Oz Memories
While I’m talking about The Wizard of Oz, I figured I’d also share a few of my Oz memories a well. I never read any of the books in the series, and I’m not a huge fan of the film, either. But when I was little, the movie used to come on TV every year around Easter time, and I would always watch it and feel bad if I missed it. Keep in mind this was before VCRs and DVDs and Blu-Rays and On-Demand!
A few months ago, the film was on cable TV on the classic movie channel, and little brother Jeff and I were bored so we watched parts of it. I don’t think Jeff has ever seen the movie before, but we had a blast making fun of the cheesy dialogue and special effects. After the overly happy song in the Emerald City, we finally couldn’t take it anymore and changed channels. But don’t worry, even though we poked fun at it, I still respect the classic Oz movie for what it is.
When I was a little older and we had our first VCR, I rented Disney’s Return to Oz once. It was a movie based on one of the other books in the Oz series, and it was REALLY trippy if I remember correctly. I never wanted to admit it as a kid, but I also thought it was kind of cool in places, too.
When I was in high school, the drama team put on a Wizard of Oz play. One of my friends in marching band was going to play the Cowardly Lion, so I HAD to see it. Since our high school mascot was the Cougars, he used the lower half of the cheerleaders’ mascot costume for his lion outfit! Most high schools who have drama classes will open their plays for the public for a minimal fee, and I think it’s a great family outing to introduce kids to theater arts. I highly recommend it!
I do love a good Wizard of Oz spoof, and one of my favorites was one that Futurama did. I loved Zoidberg’s part in it, “And I’m the third guy. Courage…I need some…”
And of course, I’ll certainly add this new DS game to my list of good Oz memories. It’s certainly thousands times better than the Super Nintendo Wizard of Oz game! In the comments section, why not share your Oz memories and fandom, too!