Together Retro Game Club: Solomon’s Key

tr-solomonskey

Presented by ExedExes

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This month in Together Retro brings a unique experience. Combining elements of platforming and puzzle, and starting as an arcade game and making its way to home consoles, this is Tecmo’s 1986 release, Solomon’s Key.

solomonskey-screens

Gameplay

The object of the game is to guide Dana the wizard through 50 rooms to retrieve the Solomon’s Key, which is a magical item (based on a real Renaissance book) that will seal the evil that was accidentally released in a constellation of space.
To do this, Dana has several abilities. Dana can run, jump, create blocks, and use fireballs to defeat enemies. Blocks are used to move around the level and also to expose items on each single-screen level. They can be created in the direction that Dana is facing, and can also be made down to the left and right of where Dana is standing by simply ducking. Any of the orange colored blocks in the levels, including those created by Dana, can be destroyed by either standing under one and jumping at it two times, or adjacent blocks to Dana’s left or right can be taken out by pressing the same button used to create them.

There is a key in each level that must be reached to open the door, then Dana must enter that door to clear the level. This will not be an easy task, for there are many enemies that are stationary or constantly moving and can only be avoided by creative block placement or destroyed by special fireball items found in the stages.

In addition to the main levels, there also exists a number of secret levels and items that must be found by performing specific tasks, collecting these items and reaching the extra levels are the way to get a better ending.

Ports

The original Solomon’s Key came to arcades in 1986. The arcade version made its appearance on the compilation Tecmo Classic Arcade in 2005 for the original Xbox and also was released in 2015 on the PlayStation Network. The most notable port would be the NES version, which had different rooms from the arcade version and also featured a Game Deviation Value (GDV) at the end of each game, which was a composite score based on the player’s performance (levels cleared, time played, items found), the higher the score, the better the player did. This NES port appeared on the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Console service and later on the 3DS. A Japanese-exclusive port was on the Sega Mark III (aka Master System). It also made it to the popular computers of the time, such as PC (DOS), Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST . Later, a Game Boy port called Solomon’s Club came out in 1991. Another portable title, using Tecmo’s Monster Rancher franchise, came out on the Game Boy Color in 1999 under the name Monster Rancher Explorer. Finally, there exists a Spanish remake of Solomon’s Key for Windows.

Legacy

Solomon’s Key would receive a sequel on the NES called Fire ‘n Ice in North America and Solomon’s Key 2 elsewhere in 1993. The story takes place before Solomon’s Key, where Dana as an apprentice wizard has to stop a attack of evil fire from taking over Coolmint Island. Here Dana must use blocks of ice to put out the flames all across the land.

Discussion

Join us on the forums to discuss how you find this blend of puzzle and platforming to be.


One Comment

csanyk says:

Solomon’s Key was such an intelligent game. Very challenging puzzles, and clever design. You had to plan your strategy to solving each room, thinking several steps ahead like a chess player in order to have a hope of beating the level. It hasn’t gotten enough recognition and isn’t talked about much these days, which is too bad. It deserves appreciation. A modern revival wouldn’t hurt, either.

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