Winged Realm's creator (A dude named Feenicks) is always sharing screenshots of his progress, so this is a game I've been looking forward to. I knew that it was going to be old-school 8-Bit, but I didn't realize how much that was going to translate into the game mechanics. You have to look for oddly colored walls in the first dungeon... when's the last time a game expected you to do that? Some of the "towns" on the world map are equally tricky to find, which may not be intentional. Hell, you have to really look to determine whether a staircase is going up or down.
It's asking you to pay an awful lot of attention, especially when the maps are overwhelmingly one color: bluish purple in the first dungeon, orange for the outside world map. It's not exactly ugly, the shapes are good. The colors hurt my eyes a little in a way I don't remember ever happening from an NES game though, and it feels like they could be tweaked a little. (Which I believe he's already doing. Not tryin' to be a nag.)
The music, ripped from Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei according to the Readme, is fantastically appropriate. It gets you pumped for dungeon crawling, excited for battles and relieved to be in town. If it weren't for this excellently chosen music, I wouldn't have stuck around long enough to figure out some of the weird parts. And there are some weird parts!
While I was in the readme, I noticed you can hit X dive in and out of pits. I never found a place to do this, and tried it constantly. I assume the game will tell you when it's appropriate to do so. What I didn't notice, and it cost me a lot of time, was that you can use spacebar to "Confirm/Vault". I assumed that meant standard textbox kinda stuff and ignored it, Major mistake! The "vault" command is necessary to get over these weird empty blue bar lookin things in the first dungeon, and I wandered around FOREVER trying to figure it out. I tried pushing Enter on them out of curiosity, like I always do for NPCs, and nothing happened. It was at least an hour later, after exhausting every other possibility and double-reading the readme that I went back and tried Spacebar, finally making progress.
It's one of the dangers of the OHR, some people use spacebar, others use enter. Some people use escape, others use Alt. When you're doing a custom system you have to be really careful to either make sure it works both ways, or go out of your way to explain that you have to use a certain key. I've got no idea what the blue thing is meant to represent: it could be water, it could be a block, it could air, who knows. It could be clearer, at any rate. It could also be clearer why Harpies can fly over some holes and get sucked into others. And why can't they fly back out? I do like that the wings on their walkabouts adjust from "walking" to "flying" when over a hole, though.
I'm making it sound like I hated the game, and I really didn't. The battles are tough, but fair. There's a lot of grinding involved, but there's convenient inns and save points so you don't risk too much. The three protagonists skillsets are varied, one of 'ems the "Hit stuff/Get Hit" kind of guy, the other one can steal items, drain the enemies stats, or turn their strengths against them. The third one is a wizard. Balanced pretty nice and everything seems to work. The attack animations are great, especially this one where one of your guys gets hit by lightning and it arcs to everyone else in the party. Sound effects have some good oomph to 'em, too. Keeps it exciting.
The story is intriguing. As the somewhat melodramatic intro notes, a mysterious light has recently appeared in the north and our heroes feel drawn to investigate. The other harpies feel it's better to stay safe in the tower where they've been semi-trapped, semi-content for years. They understand the way our heroes feel though, and decide to test to see whether or not they can really make it on the outside. There's some good world-building in the early game, you get a feel for where everyone is in the hierarchy of this society and there's some excellent imagery/mythological parallels. One of the elders compares the protagonists to moths drawn to flame, and I found myself wondering if like Icarus, they would fly too close to the sun and get burned.
After they leave the tower, I lost a little interest. "Investigating" is kind of a weak motivator, there could've been a more urgent threat/need to go the way they do. This is also where I didn't find the second "town" and was thus trying to get through the second dungeon without the help of healing. Needless to say, I didn't make it very far in and wasted a whole hell of a lot of time on it. After reloading a save back at the Tower and grinding a bit, I was better prepared to explore the outside world, and on that second trip I was able to find the second town. It seems like I'm meant to grind these respawning miniboses on the world map to get "cards" to trade for equipment before venturing into the second dungeon.
It's a fair challenge, but after I wasted so much time like a moron, I don't have the patience to keep going now. Callin' it quits at the three hour mark. It's grindy, but a fun grind. Visitable places on the world map could be more obvious and it could do a better job of teaching you its dungeon exploration concepts, but generally enjoyable if you don't mind some of the boringer parts of older RPGs.
(Note: I got called away before I had a chance to re-read this. If I repeated anything or got confused, I'm sorry. Will fix it when I get a chance and if necessary!)