Developer Ocean once was a powerhouse that grabbed any brand it could as fast as possible. Like EA in the present day, they burst out game after game, but with quite a low success rate. Hell, these are the guys that not only had faith in the Waterworld franchise, but were so confident they brought it out on Virtual Boy. Luckily, they also produced such cIassics as Worms, Road Rash and Syndicate, so it's not all bad. The Legend of Prince Valiant is yet such a franchise that scored some popularity with its cartoon series in the early 90's.That's reason enough to spit out a Gameboy game for it.
The story is as short as it should be for attention deficit kids to follow: Prince Valiant is the good guy leading his army against the identical army of his foe Cynan; for good one would assume. And with that you get a view of a board with squares and castles to be conquered, in both light and dark colors, according to the army. Much like Othello, this strategy game also allows you to take in squares by occupying all adjacent squares next to it. You can win a set game by either destroying the opposing army or conquering every castle, but a stronghold can only be taken by controlling all touching squares.
Prince Valiant and his royal chums are all combat ready and so are his slaves, I mean loyal servants. So whenever you walk into an opponent's square, a battle ensues with 2 people entering and one man literally exploding in the end. You can also pick up powerups and healing items in the battle environments to give you a leg up. But for the large amount of powerups I found, I didn't find any advantage to any battle. Sure, you can pick up a hat, a cane, a shield, etc, but it won't do a lot more than appear on your bottom screen. And that bottom screen is already fairly cluttered.
Other than that, graphics are ok enough for a Gameboy game. All characters, settings and surroundings are defined enough to know what the hell is going on, even if you can't always get a clear view of your opponent. The sound however is subpar at best and slightly annoying at times, certainly when poisoned.
A strongpoint of the game is that it's an easy, skirmish, pickup game. Turn on your Gameboy and play a match according to your time preference. You can set the world from small to large, difficulty from easy to extreme and even chose an additional board handicap for the light or dark side. The game instantly throws you into the fray with no story and from there you can go crush the opposition. Or you can strategically position your guys to take in terrain or defend your side, because the enemy might move in on you. Yes, the enemy doesn't just stand around, waiting for you to come crush them like you'd expect from a strategy board game.
But unfortunately there are also some major flaws in the game. The biggest one is that combat is fairly one-sided and unbalanced. Any ranged unit can just spam attacks and easily overpower an enemy without a lot of tactics. And there are a lot of ranged units to choose from. In fact, for a game called The Legend of Prince Valiant, the only character that is fairly useless is the Prince himself. Since he only has a sword, he has to move in and that will get you hit and get you killed. Even the Queen can throw, I don't know, used handkerchiefs or something to hurt even the biggest giant. Someone didn't focus on their priorities when making this game, that much is certain.
Also, there is no other option than the skirmish; no campaign or different missions or levels or anything really. There's just one map and that's it. While it does create an instant playthrough, it might make the game less compelling to play or make it feel short.
Still, I enjoy playing The Legend of Prince Valiant. As a casual skirmish, it does its job well enough to entertain you for a few minutes. And if you want a stronger challenge, you'll find that the customization is fairly spicy and will give you a run for your money. It might not be strategic glory such as, let's say Fire Emblem, but it's easy enough not to be completely boring and rubbish. If you can spot the game for cheap and are in dire need of a strategy game, this will tide you over while you wait for that shiny new game come out.
Someone has to be the underdog.