Dark Wizard is a tactics-based, fantasy role-playing game developed by Sega for the Sega CD. It was conceptualized by Kenji Terada who was notable for his work as scenario writer for the first three Final Fantasy games. Released in Japan in 1993 as Dark Wizard: Yomigaerishi Yami no Madoushi and in the United States in 1994, Dark Wizard features turn-based strategic combat played on a hex field map that progresses from one battle scenario to the next interspersed with brief cutscenes to advance the story. This single-player game also features an orchestral soundtrack and long animated sequences complete with voice-acting.
The setting takes place in the once-peaceful lands of Cheshire now overrun by the demonic hordes of Velonese, a former wizard apprentice imbued with the powers of a dark god. The player chooses one of four characters who becomes the ruler of Cheshire to launch a counterattack from the remote kingdom of Quentin - the last stronghold under human control. The leader's task is to push back the invasion and liberate other kingdoms seized by the Demon Army. Each ruler has his or her own self-contained storyline and motivation for waging war against Velonese as well as unique powers, attributes and units available to them.
The gameplay in Dark Wizard largely involves the player taking command of a party comprised of warriors, priests, mages and summoned creatures against an opposing army of demons led by a powerful commander. Each side uses a turn to assign up to two actions per unit until the player manually ends the turn. These actions involve such choices as movement, or moving then attacking when in close enough proximity to a foe. Movement is governed by hex tiles on the battlefield. How far a unit can travel is determined by its ability to cross certain types of terrain based on its class and statistics. The objective in most scenarios is to vanquish the opposing commander as it is not mandatory to defeat all enemies on the map to win the battle.
Once a battle is won, several options open up. One of these is buying and selling equipment for troops all from within a handy menu. Another is to assemble a search party to seek out rare items, although members of this group will not be present for the subsequent battle. Troops can also be sent out to guard previously conquered maps as they can be retaken by the Demon Army. The option to advance to the next map is also available but is limited to land adjacent to the ruler's current location. As leader, the player is able to build an army from scratch and oversee its development. As long as the main character is situated on a castle, up to six units that are neutral or of the leader's own alignment can be hired or summoned per turn. Hirelings are all humanoids (dwarves, hobbits, elves and humans) who become warriors, mages and priests and are paid in gold with tax money collected from liberated castles and cities. The leader can also use magic points (MP) to summon a menagerie of creatures such as dragons, hydras, chimeras and griffins. Every unit grows in power by gaining experience points (EXP) through casting spells, inflicting damage, receiving damage, killing a foe or a combination of these actions. Once a unit accumulates enough experience points it will gain a level. When a certain level is reached (usually level five or ten), the unit is promoted to a more powerful class. Each of the alignments has its own unique class progression.
Alignment is an important gameplay mechanic generally divided into three categories: Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. It determines not only the types of units a leader can acquire and the weapons humanoid units can equip, but also adjusts their degree of power depending on the time of day. In the daytime, Lawful units gain a slight advantage and Chaotic units are slightly disadvantaged and the opposite is true of nighttime. A fourth alignment, Undead, is attributed to a number of units of the Demon Army as well as one of the main protaganists, the vampire Amon, and most of his summoned minions. Gameplay-wise, the Undead alignment essentially functions as Chaotic with principal differences being resistance to most spells, susceptibility to fire and the availability of certain creatures.
Reclaiming cities and castles plays a crucial role in sustaining the player's army. This is the primary means of maintaining a steady flow of income to insure all hirelings get paid, aside from selling various items to NPCs in cities. Each liberated city yields approximately 2 to 20 gold per turn while castles yield 20 to 100 gold depending on the leader's economic strength rating. During each battle, humanoid units are able to enter cities and interact with NPCs to buy or sell weapons, armor, potions and even alcoholic beverages. Speaking with NPCs allows the player to advance the plot, catch up on the latest gossip, or even accept side quests. Additionally, a sub-leader of which there are two for each main character can only be obtained through NPC dialogue. Sub-leaders are powerful characters in their own right secondary only to the ruler.
There are four main characters or rulers to choose from, each of whom has a reason for wanting to slaughter Velonese the eponymous Dark Wizard - whether it be a commendable fight for freedom or simply to prove one's superiority. Every leader will be joined by two sub-leaders who vary depending on which ruler is selected.
The noble prince who is the rightful heir to the throne of Cheshire after his father, Armer VIII, is killed in battle against the Demon Army. He is joined by a sorceress, Marie, and Dianna, a warrior.
Considered the finest warrior in the land, Robin takes the reigns as ruler out of loyalty not only to Cheshire, but to her slain sovereign as well. She is joined by an old priest, Kail, and David, a mighty warrior.
A sorceress tricked by Velonese to kill Armer VIII under false pretenses, Krystal will stop at nothing to sate her thirst for vengeance. She is joined by a warrior, Marcus, and Katrina, a priestess.
Vampire and lord of the undead, Amon refuses to acknowledge Velonese or even the dark god Arliman as masters of the night and vows to prove his point. He murders the king and assumes his form to take charge of the assault against the Demon Army. He is joined by a sorceress, Susan, and Andrew, a vampire hunter.
Three hundred years ago, the noble king Rishon ruled over the prosperous lands of Cheshire. At the time, the harmonious synergy between Sabrina, the goddess of daylight and Arliman, the god of night, reigned supreme. The people of Cheshire benefited greatly from the abundance of life provided by both deities and the wise leadership of their king. However, Rishon's high priest Zahark, sought to upset the balance of power and set a devious plan in motion.
Knowing full well the jealousy the dark god Arliman harbored for Sabrina's divine radiance, Zahark set out to use this to his advantage in his powergrab for Cheshire's throne. Using a forbidden spell to bring Arliman to life and grant him physical form, Zahark was rewarded with arcane powers to assist in the dark god's impending conquest.
Sensing the imminent threat, Sabrina acted swiftly and soon discovered who was responsible for the distressing break in peace. She appointed two renowned leaders to battle the demonic onslaught and granted each of them holy powers. One of these leaders was the beautiful and wise Armer, and the other a mighty warrior named Vian. Armer was charged with eliminating Zahark, while Vian was left with the monumental task of facing Arliman with the aid of the grand wizard Gilliam. In the heat of battle, Gilliam cast a powerful spell that encased Arliman into what became known as the Jewel of Darkness. Although the dark god was defeated, Vian disappeared and was never heard from again.
With the threat of eternal darkness across the land thwarted, the people looked toward a new leader as the great Rishon had been slain during the war. Armer, the celebrated heroine, ascended to the throne as ruler of Cheshire which ushered in a new era of peace. Heeding the wise edicts of Rishon, Armer presided justly over a once-again prosperous land.
Meanwhile, Velonese, the head apprentice of the grand wizard Gilliam, began performing forbidden rituals of the dark arts in secret. He was eventually found out, and needed to be made an example for his grave indiscretions. Velonese was sentenced to solitude on the isle of Raven to forever guard the Jewel of Darkness that imprisoned the malevolent god Arliman. Gilliam, being a wizard of tremendous power, possessed knowledge of the Spell of Immortality and cast it upon Velonese so that he may carry out his sentence for all eternity.
For three hundred years, the hatred Velonese held for the outside world festered as he finally discovered a means to draw upon the vile essence of Arliman from within the Jewel of Darkness. Using the forbidden knowledge which sentenced him to damnation in the first place, Velonese unleashed onto the world the powers he mastered during his excruciatingly lonesome captivity. With these unholy powers, four monstrous demon generals were spawned from the ribs of Velonese to lead his armies and decimate the lands of Cheshire as he prepares to free Arliman from the Jewel of Darkness. The unexpected ferocity of the Demon Army forced King Armer VIII's legions to cede more and more land until they were pressed into a corner. This last bastion of freedom known as Quentin is the only hope of rallying the troops and striking back against the Dark Wizard.