Knightmare II: The Maze of Galious is the most influential game you've never heard of.
Developed by Konami, the game is a sequel to notoriously hard MSX Shoot 'em Up Knightmare (wasn't expecting that now, did ya?) and was released in 1987 on the same system. The Maze of Galious has you control two knights, Popolon and Aphrodite, on their quest to rescue the baby Pampas. To do this, you must platform your way through a side-scrolling castle and fight the Great Demons hidden in the depths of ten worlds. Popolon and Aphrodite play slightly differently (for example, Popolon destroys boulders faster and Aphrodite can last underwater longer), but for the most part they act as two separate life bars. To fight each Great Demon, you have to get the Great Key to its world, fight through the world, discover its name, go to the Demon's lair, and type the name into the keyboard to summon it for battle... and kill it, of course. Doing so rewards you with the Great Key to the next world. Repeat until finished. Simple as that!
The Maze of Galious is most notable for being one of the first Metroidvania games. The entire castle is explorable, with treasures and weapons hidden throughout its corridors, as well as "shrines" where you can commune with the gods to save your game, buy weapons and items, and get advice on the game's various puzzles.
Like its shoot 'em up predecessor, the game is also relentlessly brutal. Character death is permanent, and while each character can be revived once (and only once), it is much more common to restart from the last time you saved if Popolon or Aphrodite die. Furthermore, items are not described in-game, and their function is not always obvious; for example, the Dagger allows you to kill all bats in a room by typing "UMBRELLA," and that's one of the more sane ones. And then there's the Great Demons themselves, who generally deal somewhere between half and all of your life with each attack (and that's with the Cape that reduces their damage). In short: your typical late-eighties video game.
The Maze of Galious has gained somewhat of a revival since the release and popularization of the freeware (and now WiiWare) game La-Mulana, as the latter is explicitly inspired by (and even contains significant shout outs to) the former.
Note: Due to the nature of the game, the names of the bosses (besides Galious) are spoilers and should be treated as such.
This game provides examples of:
- As You Know: Many of the gods' advice consists of things that Popolon and Aphrodite, as characters, should already know, such as Aphrodite being able to breathe in water.
- Ballistic Bone: Launched by the first boss.
- Battle Couple: Popolon and Aphrodite.
- Blob Monster: The fourth boss.
- Boring, but Practical: Out of all the items, upgrades, and weapons you will acquire throughout the game, the one you will come to love the most is the ring that teleports you back to the save point.
- Dem Bones: One common enemy.
- Fan Remake: The Knightmare II has been remade by Brain Games, giving it different graphical and music sets that can be switched out on the fly, a save feature, and is available a wide variety of platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, as well as Dreamcast and Wii homebrew). The original Knightmare was remade by Demon Video Games, boasting remastered presentation while keeping the original gameplay intact.
- Giant Enemy Crab: The sixth boss.
- Guide Dang It!: The title screen happily tells you how to start a new game. It does not tell you how to load an old game. (Press L.)
- Good luck finding out how to cross the water pit in World 2 without a walkthrough. You need to be carrying the doll, and a bridge will form. The doll can be found by hitting a completely unmarked piece of wall elsewhere in the world until it is destroyed. The only hint that this piece of wall is special is that it makes a different noise when you hit it.
- Noob Bridge: A gate blocks a corridor in the first dungeon, and it's not obvious how to open gates. (The way to do it is to stand next to the gate and hold down the direction control towards it for a certain amount of time.)
- Old Save Bonus: The game could be made easier by having Knightmare or Q*bert in the MSX's second cartridge slot.
- Password Save: The passwords used in the game are 45 characters long! Luckily, if you have a disk (or are playing the remake) you can press F5 through F9 to save your password to disk instead.
- Schizo Tech: At the end of the game, you are equipped with: a sword, arrows, two varieties of magic fire, and... land mines.
- Sound of No Damage: A hollow "ping", accompanied by the projectile ricocheting off.
- Steam Vent Obstacle: The game has spots on various platforms that produce periodic bursts of steam.
- Stock Femur Bone: First boss throws these.
- Super Drowning Skills: To be fair, they're wearing armor. (Although Aphrodite is perfectly fine with breathing under water for some reason.)
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: How did a Nintendo Hard shooter game later became a Metroidvania game?
- Wake-Up Call Boss: Conditionally. Most bosses have a weapon that is meant to be effective against them (not a weakness per se, more a tactical advantage). If you don't have that weapon, they will promptly inform you of such in no uncertain terms.
- Where It All Began: That door in the room where you start the game? That's sometimes where Galious lives. (Said door's location changes each time the game loads, but one possible location is right at the starting screen.)