The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is a strange game. Essentially, it is what The Wizard of Oz would have been if it was told by the Japanese: an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it rarely lives up to its potential.
The story of The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road diverges from the movie almost instantly. Your characters, Dorothy and Toto, are sucked into Oz by a tornado, but upon arriving there are no munchkins to sing to you. Instead you are greeted by a large and sinister shadow proclaiming himself the Wizard of Oz. He asks you to visit him at his palace in Emerald City, and then leaves you to find out how to get there. On the way you meet and fight the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man, all of whom join your party for no apparent reason after you defeat them. Upon arriving in Emerald City you’re greeted by the Wizard of Oz, who explains to you why he wanted to meet you. He proclaims himself the all-powerful King of Oz, but says there are some witches who don’t like him being the self-proclaimed ruler and are fighting against him. Thus, he wants to send you to kill these witches. Once you do so, he’ll return you home.
From this point on you basically run through completely linear levels, fighting a somewhat diverse array of creatures, all of whom will either be very easy to kill, or very difficult. This is a long game, but mainly because of the distance you have to run through each of the 40 levels. There really aren’t any choices in this game either. Every member of your party has one class of weapon and armor they can use, they have one type of enemy they are effective against. You can’t wander off the Yellow Brick Road even if you wanted to.
The best thing that can be said about the battle system is it is unique. You have four slots you can fill with attacks from any of your four members you want. However, the Tin Man and the Lion use more than one slot when they attack. Their attacks are more powerful, but it will always be a trade-off you’ll have to make- power or more attacks. Unfortunately, this decision is largely rendered pointless because of the other half of the battle system. The second half of the battle system is comprised of a series of advantages against enemies. Each party member is particularly strong against a certain enemy. This leads to completely disregarding the strategy of the four slots system because the Tin Man and the Lion are not powerful enough to make it worth ignoring each character’s bonus against enemies.
The control system is very distinctive, and actually made the game much more enjoyable. In order to move, you must roll a trackball on the screen with the stylus. With this method, you can run by moving the trackball faster, and you can turn or even stop yourself instantly by changing the angle of the trackball’s movement or by stopping your stylus on top of the trackball. It takes a little bit of practice, but eventually you’ll be running across Oz like a wild man on steroids.
The graphics of Beyond the Yellow Brick Road are reasonably good for the DS. Everything is 3D and the environments are vibrant and fitting for each area. The character models are fairly unremarkable as well as the soundtrack.
Some of the design decisions in Oz are just confusing, as you can only save in Emerald City. Additionally, all shopping for items, weapons, and armor can only be done in Emerald City. It is amazingly hard to buy anything, though, because gold coins are very scarce. This makes the game take longer, as you’ll have to backtrack anytime you want to upgrade or save your progress.
The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road could have been a resounding success, especially considering the unusual take on such a classic story. Unfortunately, it never cashes in on its potential.
ESRB: E for Mild Fantasy Violence-if you can watch the movie, you can play the game
Plays Like: Well…it is a generic RPG, but it has a control scheme unlike any other
Pros: Controls are intuitive and responsive; Has lots of potential
Cons: Never fulfills potential; Plot feels rehashed; Unique story and location undone by poor design decisions