Few NES RPGs are as challenging or overwhelming as Pool of Radiance.
You start off in the city of Phlan, surrounded by doors that all look the same and a first-person view that the NES struggles to render. Once you find your way around, make your party (the customizing options here are excellent), and venture outside Phlan’s safe walls, it’s combat time. If you don’t die on your first battle, congratulations. You are either incredibly lucky or versed in the ways of the game’s unforgiving combat.
Either way, before your next battle, save. Save after every battle. Save before every battle, or a time will come (multiple times, realistically) when you’re caught off guard and your whole party is wiped out. Unfortunately, because Pool of Radiance is an early RPG, you have to grind a lot, so avoiding combat is not an option.
What is there to do besides combat? Well, you can talk to NPCs and even enemies just to see what they’ll say. The color palette range is limited to stark gray and poop brown, painting everything with that dull, bitter flavor Nintendo D&D games are known for. Pool of Radiance isn’t the worst D&D excursion on the NES, but it demands your allegiance. Not for lesser folk.
Like all Dungeons & Dragons titles for the NES, Pool of Radiance should have just stayed on the computer, where it began its life in 1988. The computer version is often hailed as one of the greatest Dungeons & Dragons video games of all time, while the NES port is not something anyone should play unless they have absurd quantities of time and patience.
PUBLISHER: FCI DEVELOPER: Strategic Simulations (port by Marionette)
GENRE: RPG RELEASE DATE: 06/28/91 – (JP), 04/1992 – (US)
ALSO AVAILABLE ON: Amiga, Apple II, C64, Mac, PC, PC98