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Video Game / Legend of the Ghost Lion

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A big plate of Covers Always Lie with a side dish of Foreshadowing and Wardrobe Malfunction.
Legend of the Ghost Lion (title screen) or Ghost Lion (packaging) is a turn-based JRPG by Kemco originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989 in Japan and brought to the USA in 1992. It is an adaptation of the 1988 Japan-only film Beyond the Pyramids: Legend of the White Lion. A very, very loose adaptation. Legend of the Ghost Lion is a Dragon Quest clone and in being such matches the foundation of a (nowadays) generic fantasy setting with a frugal layer of elements from Beyond the Pyramids: Legend of the White Lion.

The story starts with the disappearance of Maria's parents on their search for the White Lion. Distraught, Maria goes in search for them. The village elders are supportive and give her the spear of a young hero who once defeated the White Lion and whose spirit now resides in the spear. They also advise her to start by finding a lamp that houses a spirit too. Maria finds it, but when she tries to cross a bridge, it breaks down, causing the girl to fall in the water and lose consciousness. She awakens shortly after being saved by fairies, who tell her she is no longer in the World of Humans but has entered the World of Dreams. This being the world of the White Lion, she can continue her journey without delay in search for it and her parents.

The game is generally rated as average, with its two standout points being its female protagonist and its take on summoning. Its non-specialness is one of three reasons it sold poorly. Another is that, as far as the American market goes, it lost on name value due to the film never leaving Japan. And the third reason is the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which came out in Japan in 1990 (a year after the game) and in the USA in 1991 (a year before the game) with strong lineups. A late stage NES title like Legend of the Ghost Lion was easily lost in the console era shift.


Legend of the Ghost Lion provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Deviation: Oh, so many. Friendly reminder that this is a loose adaptation.
    • The game has summon spirits, which have nothing to do with the essence of the film's story. But more important is that Moja and Twana, Maria's human companions in the film, are now summon spirits too. As a consequence, their arcs are missing. Twana's gets spared somewhat, but Moja's is reduced to a backstory.
    • Also a big one is the change from "Hell's Gate" to the "Gate of Evil" in a semi-case of Never Say "Die". The way this affects the story is that Hell's Gate is not supposed to be a place of evil, but the grounds of a really tough challenge that must be accepted willingly.
    • The two adults that disappear are referred to as Maria's parents. In the film, the people who disappear are Maria's mother and her beau. The film often enough refers to them as Maria's parents anyway, but unlike the film, the game never mentions that Maria's biological parents are divorced and the man is neither legally nor emotionally her adoptive father yet. Arguably a case of Related in the Adaptation.
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    • In the film, Maria goes to the other world first and its her self there whose parents are missing. In the game, another layer is added. Maria's parents go missing, which prompts her journey. She then falls into a river and ends up in the World of Dreams. From this, she awakens after defeating the White Lion. And she awakens in the arms of her mother, who scolds her for playing near the river. On Maria's defense she came to save them from the White Lion, her mother retorts that that's just a legend. So... the intro of the game is some sort of in-between linking this world and the other world.
    • Adaptation Explanation Extrication occurs in tying the disappearance of Maria's parents to Twana's goals. In the film, their disappearance is part of Maria's lesson to be a better person, which is more or less what the trial of Hell's Gate is about. In the game, there is no significance to the disappearance beyond the immediate motivation. Twana's goals similarly have no purpose beyond dressing up the ending.
    • In the film, everyone of the village tells Maria not to go because it's too dangerous. In the game, they literally respond to her decision to go with "finally".
    • In the film, Twana leaves the group after being badly mauled by a lion he tried to protect the children from. In the game, Maria raises a magical statue to defeat the dragon that blocks her path. Before she can, Twana jumps out of his lamp, grabs the statue, envelops the dragon in a blue light with it, and all four, dragon, statue, Twana, and the lamp, disappear in that instant.
    • In the film, Moja gives Maria the amulet for being his companion. In the game, Twana gives it to Maria in honor of her defeating him.
    • Unlike the film, the game makes it very clear that Twana is the White Lion. Which, honestly, is an improvement over the vague trail of hints the film resorted to.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Compare the American metal album wannabe cover with the cute, happy, and bright Japanese cover that emphasizes teamwork.
  • Anti-Grinding: You cannot level up by fighting enemies. All that gets you is money. In order to level up, you have to find fragments of hope, 25 in total for a maximum of Hope 26. This makes the game easy to get into, but merciless to complete. A little past the halfway point, there's a big difficulity spike that makes it essential to have attained all fragments so far. It also has the unfortunate side-effect of making battles tedious because you get as good as nothing out of them and they won't get easier either.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Happens when you deal with the dragon. You know it's tough, you know the statue is the only means, and you know only a person imbued with magic can wield it. Still, it is a shock when Maria uses the statue, Twana springs from his lamp without summon command, grabs the statue, uses it, and disappears along with the dragon.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Legend of the Ghost Lion does not have mere levels, health, and magic. No! It has hope, courage, and dreams. Which, all things considered, works pretty decently with the game's themes.
  • Character Portrait: A particular oddity that occurs during combat is that, while almost every combatant gets a full body depiction, the three main characters only get closeups. Maria furthermore is the only one with multiple portraits, one for making a decision, one for getting hit, and a wink when she's victorious
  • Covers Always Lie: The American cover deviates from Maria's in-game design, giving her an older, '80s action hero look with jewelry aplenty, but that's about it, in part because there's just not a whole lot going on in the cover art. Quite the opposite of the Japanese version. Firstly, the blue-haired woman is Elf, the third summon spirit to be acquired. She is not in any way or shape relevant to the story. Only Maria, Moja, and Twana are. She also doesn't wield that rapier, as the cover suggests. It's her summon item, but she herself is a magic user incapable of physical combat and only ever depicted in-game as holding a staff and a shield. Speaking of summon items, Moja's spear is duplicated on the cover due to being carried by both Maria and Moja. They're also depicted as using it for battle, which might be true for Moja, but not for Maria. In the game, Maria uses the spear as a walking stick, but has a dagger as her signature weapon and eventually upgrades to swords and whips.
  • Dungeon Town: Ranya Tower, Kapi's Tower, and Spirit's Tower are towers filled with monsters on every floor but the top one. That's where a town is located. Several bits of dialogue show the inhabitants have no trouble interacting with the rest of the world but how is not explained.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: One quest has you bring water to a lost Rainbow Child so it can create a rainbow and return home. It will also make a rainbow bridge for you so you can cross a dungeon.
  • Flying Broomstick: Serves as the game's Warp Whistle. You get a broom from a witch early on, which allows you to instantly warp to places you've visited prior.
  • Foreshadowing: Take a look again at the Japanese cover once you've learned that Twana and the White Lion are one and the same.
  • Human Shield: The only one who must survive a battle is Maria. Any summon spirits that go down can be brought back by her. As such, all summon spirits, even the late ones, have at minimum the usefulness of being another target for enemies and thereby lower the chance that Maria gets attacked. Because the cost of summoning depends on their hope, early summon spirits are expensive but can take a punch, while late summon spirits are an easily KO'ed but cheap distraction.
  • Knows the Ropes: A non-summon item found is the rope, which allows one enemy to be bound for the duration of the battle. Obviously, it doesn't work on bosses.
  • Late Character Syndrome: The later a summon spirit is acquired, the more useless it is. This is because they level up along with Maria. And Maria only levels up when she finds fragments of hope, of which there are a set 25 to be obtained in the game. Summon spirits always start at Hope 1, so the early ones will end up maxing at or towards Hope 26 while the last ones aren't likely to go over Hope 6 or so. However, this is played with in that the cost to summon a character goes up based on their level, making weak late-game summons useful when you need inexpensive fodder to distract enemy attacks or just don't want to pay to bring out your heavy-hitters for an easy fight.
  • Limited Loadout: Easily the game's biggest cruelty. Your inventory is limited to 8x4 (ie 32) spaces. You cannot ditch items that cannot be replaced, so all those summon spirit items you collect will take up a third of your inventory eventually. So will various tools and weapons. So far, that's fair, but the problem arises when it comes to health items. There's only one type in the entire game, bread, meaning that by the end, you'll need lots of bread on you to make a significant difference on your courage. And those things don't stack either.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: As in the film, Maria's adventure could've been a mere dream if not for the fact she still has the amulet she was given inside her "dream" with her.
  • Race Lift: It's like the game doesn't remember it's set in Africa at all. None of the NPCs are African-looking and worst of all is Twana, who is decidedly white-ish both in skin color and overall face shape. Only Moja is spared change, though he's still lighter than his film self.
  • Rock–Paper–Scissors: As one NPC says, the slug is weaker than the frog and the frog has nothing on the snake, yet the snake can't move at the sight of the slug. All three together, therefore, are deadlocked. You get hugeslug and hugefrog as summon spirits and need to defeat a hydra (described as a two-headed snake) at one point. Guess what is the only way to win that particular fight.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Couple of cases.
    • A literal one, as the game changes Tswana's name from the film to Twana. Note that the kana for "t" in this case is "tsu", which is why the absence or presence of the "s" (and of the "u") can't be deduced from the original spelling.
    • In Japan, the film is called Beyond the Pyramids: Legend of the White Lion while the game is fully called Legend of the White Lion: Beyond the Pyramids. The English name of the film is White Lion, which the English name of the game mostly sticks to aside from the choice to use "ghost" instead of "white".
  • Summon Magic: Type Genie in a Bottle pulled along by Gotta Catch Them All. Although Maria and her dagger are good when it comes to the enemies wandering around in the early part of the game, her true power lies in summoning. Access to summons is gotten from finding items or small animals that house or are a spirit, of which the game offers eleven although you'll lose Twana before the end of the game, so the maximum to have is ten. Once obtained, Maria can call upon them in battle for the amount of dreams equal to half a spirit's hope (rounded up if applicable). There are no repercussions to a summon spirit being defeated in battle and not only can Maria immediately call them back, they join the battle in the very round they're summoned in.
  • Whip It Good: There are two whips in the game for Maria to wield: the regular whip and the lightning whip, which annoyingly are both called whip. The regular whip is a decent weapon at the time you can first acquire it, while the lightning whip is the best weapon the game has to offer.


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