Archon (NES)

Archon Box Art


System: NES

Release Date: December 1989

Developer: Bullet-Proof Software

Publisher: Activision

Genre: Strategy

I had never played Archon before I got to this one. I wish I would have had it as a kid. I remember the first time I saw Battle Chess, what I thought I was going to get is what Archon is. This is a two player board game similar to Chess, but different enough. You can choose either the light side or the dark side. Each has their own special units with particular strengths and weaknesses. There are light colored squares, dark colored squares, and shifting color squares. The light units get a bonus when fighting on light colored squares. The dark units get a bonus when fighting on dark colored squares.

Units move on the map either on the ground or through the air. Ground units can’t pass through other units, whereas flying units can. Each unit has a set number of squares it can move. When two units occupy the same square, you are transported to the battle map. Here, you need to drain your opponent’s energy before they can do it to you. There are three types of attacks based on the unit you control. Melee, Ranged, and short area of effect.

Knights and Goblins do melee attacks, which are weak, but fast. Archers, Valkyries, Unicorns, Basilisks, and Manticores are your work horses, they shoot from afar at varying speeds. The Shapeshifter morphs into whatever unit they fight. The Phoenix is invincible as it attacks at melee range. The Banshee attacks similarly, but not with invincibility. The Djinn and the Dragon are the mightiest of units. I found if I could get them behind enemy lines, I could wipe a good chunk of them out quickly. The Wizard and Sorceress start off strong and weaken as they use their spells outside of battle.

The battle screen has obstacles that may slow you down, may stop projectiles, or may stop you in your tracks. The computer is good at moving back and forth and reacting to your attacks, but you can learn their patterns and give yourself a chance. Many times, especially when on a colored square, it’ll be a one hit challenge. Whoever gets an attack off first will win. At first I was mashing the A Button to get an attack off to no avail. Then I realized you have to press a direction, as well. You also have to pay attention to the different sounds so you know when you can attack again.

There are two ways to win. You can control all five Power Points on the board. These are the center square and the four cardinal directions. Two of them are immediately occupied by the Wizard and Sorceress units. These two have the ability to cast spells, which can turn the tide of the battle. There are seven different spells of varying usefulness, each with one use per game. If you accidentally lose your favorite unit, you can revive them. You can teleport your strongest guy deep into enemy territory. You can even summon a strong elemental to fight for you. The second way to win is to wipe all enemy units off the face of the map. The game can also end in a draw if both sides run low on units and don’t battle with one another within 12 turns.

Graphics: 1.5

The graphics are two-toned and not that great. The battle maps are alright, but nothing special.

Sound: 1.5

I don’t mind the music at all, but the sound effects are pretty grating.

Gameplay: 3.0

There’s enough depth in the gameplay to keep you engaged. Figuring out your favorite unit will occupy you.

Difficulty: 3.5

The computer isn’t a pushover and will beat you if you make mistakes in your strategy, or if you don’t do well in the battles.

Fun Factor: 3.5

I had a lot of fun with this game and wish I would have had it 30 years ago.

Overall Grade: 2.6

Archon earns a B -. I’m going to recommend this one. I think it’s a total sleeper for one of the better games on the system.

Archon Video Review on YouTube