Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road


Sam Marchello

It's probably best we don't pet the crab
It's probably best we don't pet the crab.

I love the The Wizard of Oz. It was my favourite movie growing up and when I saw scans of RIZ-ZOAWD, it was literally a game I thought I could write off for a North American release. This year, however, The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 70th anniversary, and XSEED has quite the surprise in store: The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

During our visit, XSEED gave us an exclusive look at Oz, and though it might not be a game for everyone, it was definitely unique. The story begins with Dorothy already in Oz, and in order to save it, she must defeat four witches of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter in order to return to Kansas.

First off, the combat system is done in a first person style similar to Dragon Quest, but with a fun twist. There are four characters to use in combat: Dorothy, Tin Woodman, Strawman, and the Cowardly Lion. Before beginning combat, players must select which characters they wish to use. Each character has a numbered ratio in which they can be used in battle, and there are only four ratios slots to make the character selections. For example, using the Tin Woodman in combat costs three points, and Dorothy costs one point, equalling four points. Both Dorothy and the Strawman have one point, the Cowardly Lion has two, and the Tin Woodman has three.

Instead of having a variety you could have Dorothy act four times or the Cowardly Lions move twice, each doing something different on their turns, such as one could heal, one could defend, one could use an item and one could attack. Each character also has a type of enemy that they are strong against. Tin Woodman is strong against plants, Dorothy against ghosts, the Cowardly Lion against armoured monsters, and the Strawman against water. The first person point of view shows attacks on the top screen, though it didn't show a variety in animations.

Wandering about in Oz.
Wandering about in Oz.

Another thing that has to be mentioned about the combat is that there is an auto-mode in which the game will input its own suggestions and attack. However, if you select the "Switch Characters" menu, the player can see what the suggested formation and commands would be and the player can change these commands at his or her own discretion.

One of my favourite aspects of Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is its absolutely breathtaking visuals that really push the limits of what kind of 3D work can be done on the DS. Environments are crisp, luscious and full of life. What is also unique to the gameplay is that there is a trackball on the bottom screen to make Dorothy run. The quicker the player rolls the trackball with the stylus, the faster Dorothy will run in her ruby boots. She can bolt from one area of the yellow brick road to another in seconds. Also, by clicking the Toto button, Dorothy can stop and give Toto a quick, encouraging pat on the head which allows Toto to learn new tricks depending on the how much attention you give him, though be careful as he might not want to be petted all the time.

Visiting Castle Oz (or the Emerald City as it is referred to in the original story) throughout Dorothy’s adventures is also important to progressing in the game. By visiting the Wizard of Oz he can heal your party members and sell you items. There are other places to visit on the map, but I just stuck to wandering on the yellow brick road as our time with the game was fairly short.

I will reiterate once again that this game will not be for everyone. However, there are a lot of innovative things that Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is trying to accomplish at once, and there will be a lot of different gameplay aspects that will take some getting used to. Even so, I am very excited for this game, and I'm sad that my time with it was so short. However, with the game's visual style and playful dialog, I can see this game appealing to people who are looking for a very fun and charming story. I cannot wait until I can once again return to the merry old land of Oz.

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·Fall 2009

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