RetroGamer84 Alright, GamerFan, time to dive into Heroes of the Lance. I’m excited for today’s session. This 1991 release certainly boasts some ambitious angles, doesn’t it? Horizontal fighting within a maze, switching between the eight characters of the Dragonlance series—it almost sounds too complex for its own good.

GamerFan For sure. I mean, it’s based on the Dragonlance book Dragons of Autumn Twilight, so we can expect some rich lore. But, I must admit, the intricacy seems to overextend the NES’s capabilities a bit. A different kind of AD&D game can be refreshing, though. Let’s start and see if the gameplay lives up to the expectations.

They start the game and navigate the 2D environment.

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GamerFan The side-scrolling action is a neat choice for sure. But, is it just me, or do these character sprites look more like stick figures?

RetroGamer84 Haha, you’re not wrong. They seem to be more reminiscent of paper dolls, though I must give them credit for attempting to pack all eight heroes into the game. It’s just frustrating how slowly they respond to commands. Feels like I’m moving through molasses here—and that labyrinth mapping? Even with doors, it feels more confusing than a real maze.

GamerFan True. Also, notice how the controls don’t provide a sumptuous feast of responsiveness. You try to attack an enemy, and then the character seems to contemplate what to do for a second too long. Switching between characters is intended to be a strength, but navigating the menu feels more like suffering.

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RetroGamer84 Speaking of, have you figured out the most useful characters yet? I read in Nintendo Power that Raistlin’s spells can pretty much pulverize any foe if you can figure out the wonky spellcasting system.

GamerFan Yes, having Raistlin in the party has been a lifesaver. But good luck casting spells consistently. A pro tip I found is to conserve his spells for the more treacherous encounters. Utilize characters like Sturm and Caramon for brute fighting to save resources.

RetroGamer84 Very true! Another gem of knowledge from GamePro suggested always keeping Goldmoon towards the end, because of her healing prowess. The later stages are unforgiving in terms of damage—which, of course, takes us to the grand finale!

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Both of them finally reach the last stages of the game.

GamerFan Alright, spoiler alert! Here comes the climactic challenge, fighting the last boss—the Dark Queen herself. Talk about a punishing end! She’s no joke if you don’t enter the fight prepared.

RetroGamer84 Oh, absolutely. Here’s a fun fact: did you know Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI), the team behind this, had been spearheading many Advanced Dungeons & Dragons titles? It’s a bit of a departure here, adaptation-wise, from their usual turn-based RPG formula. Maybe that’s why Heroes of the Lance feels like a mishmash sometimes?

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GamerFan: That’s enlightening and makes sense! As for the Dark Queen, make sure to switch to Raistlin and slam her with spells. If all else fails, throw tactics out the window and brute force with the remaining heroes.

After an intense final boss fight…

RetroGamer84 We did it! We beat the game. Not the most intuitive or elegant journey, but hey, it’s done. Watching that simple ending screen makes all the hardship feel a tad underwhelming though.

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GamerFan Agreed, but there’s satisfaction in simply conquering the game as clunky as it is. Sometimes it’s the struggle that makes the victory sweet. Also, let’s be honest—the lackluster mechanics are a fun reflection of how developers were exploring new horizons back in the day.

RetroGamer84 For sure. Heroes of the Lance maybe earns its spot in infamy, but there’s a sense of nostalgia in playing through it. Still, if you want a pro tip for navigating this game smoother: always know who your door guard is. Maps can truly be misleading but memorizing every path helps.

GamerFan And don’t underestimate the importance of keeping notes—you’ll definitely need them. This walkthrough has earned us bragging rights.

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GamerFan Until the next round, game on!

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