Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II’s Bosses Were Cheap, But Its Music Wasn’t

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Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II’s Bosses Were Cheap, But Its Music Wasn’t

Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. Today it’s time to take stock of the eerie pulsations that power Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II, an incredibly little 8-bit adventure game with an even more incredible 8-bit soundtrack.

The first time I played Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) I was immediately taken in by its main menu theme. The bizarre contradiction of a game starring an armoured knight being represented on the cover by a bronzy, bare-chested Fabio Lanzoni was pushed out of my mind as the zig-zagging chiptune organ took hold and played my 8-year-old head into a ghostly trance. 24 years later it still blows me away:

Rare / Acclaim / GBelair

I have a confession to make: Prior to Kotaku editor Alexandra Hall diving into the music of Wizards & Warriors several weeks back, I had no idea David Wise of Donkey Kong Country fame had composed the music for Wizards & Warriors and its sequel. Now it all makes sense, why such an otherwise below-the-radar series had such incredibly memorable and unusual melodies percolating throughout.

Of all Ironsword’s stage themes, the underwater one is by far my favourite:

Rare / Acclaim / GBelair

The staccato electronic piano up against the howling synth flute sends me every time. The level itself was great, with a series of interlocking chambers beneath the ocean floor leading up to a fight against a giant puddle-face, but Wise’s music filled it with all the wonder of hunting for buried treasure beneath the mystical island of Avalon. It’s not just Ironsword’s level themes that are great. Every place there was an opportunity to make noise Wise filled it with beautiful vibes. Even its game over screen is unforgettable, and not just because I died all the time while playing it:

Rare / Acclaim / GBelair

Ironsword had a high-score screen, and watching the cursor blink while waiting for me to input my initials after once again burning to a crisp inside the lava mountain filled me with a special kind of ennui. If I listen to the track long enough I can hear my parents telling me to shut the NES off for dinner as I’m left to contemplate the latest hour I wasted ramming my head against the cruel and unusual logic of an ‘80s arcade-style action game.

What are you contemplating this morning? Whether the bone game was rigged? If Fabio will ever make it onto another video game cover? Our current geopolitical hellscape? Let me know which distant memories are clawing their way out of your subconsciousness this morning in the comments while I go perform another blood ritual in the hopes of one day compelling Nintendo to bring Wizards & Warriors to Switch Online.

Comments

  • I remember playing the game vividly (I was a little older than 8) but couldn’t remember the music at all.

    Cueing up the video, I was amazed I could hum the tune within seconds and knew how the next parts went. Looking back, it actually is an impressive theme for the NES to be pumping out!

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