Deadly Towers is an action role-playing video game developed by Lenar and exclusively-licensed by Irem as a software title for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was released in Japan on December 15, 1986, and in North America in September of the following year. One of the earliest published role-playing video games for the NES in North America,Deadly Towers was a best-selling title in 1987.
In Japan, Deadly Towers was titled Mashō (魔鐘), literally meaning "Evil Bell". It is a pun of the word mashō (魔性), meaning "devilishness", and in keeping with this theme, the Japanese cartridge contained a red LED at the top which illuminated when turned on. Irem intended the game's English-language title to be Hell's Bells, but Nintendo of America refused to issue the game a Nintendo Seal of Quality unless Brøderbund changed the name.
On the moonlit eve of his coronation ceremony, pensive Prince Myer sits at the lakeside to ponder the future of the kingdom. Suddenly, a shadowy kami called Khan rises from the lake and coalesces into the form of a man. Although he doesn't identify himself, the figure greets Prince Myer by name, and informs him that Rubas, the "Devil of Darkness", is preparing to overtake Willner Kingdom by using seven magic bells capable of summoning an army of monsters.
To ensure peace, Khan says, Prince Myer must travel to the northern mountain to burn the Seven Bells in the sacred flame, burn down the seven bell towers in Rubas' magic palace, and, ultimately, defeat Rubas himself.
Presentation and gameplay
Rubas' palace is presented in one-point perspective. The screen scrolls sideways only, except in bell towers, where the screen scrolls vertically. Prince Myer can walk in eight directions, and attacks by throwing a sword. The player earns coins (a currency called ludder) by killing monsters, and can trade ludder at shops in the palace for new equipment. The shops are in fixed locations throughout the palace, but the inventory may change.
The palace is vast, and has ten labyrinthine dungeons. The first dungeon-maze has 167 screens, and the tenth has 235. Seven of the ten dungeons leads to a bell tower, at the top of which is a boss.
Hidden throughout the palace are invisible portals to a secret area called the Parallel Zone, where the player can find equipment superior to that available in the shops.
When released in 1987, the game became a best-selling title in North America. As one of the first Japanese action role-playing games to be published in North America (alongside Rygar), Computer Gaming World described it as a new kind of role-playing game that differed from both the console action-adventure games (such as Castlevania, Trojan, and Wizards & Warriors) and American computer role-playing games (such as Wizardry, Ultima, and Might & Magic) that American gamers were previously more familiar with at the time. Deadly Towers was particularly notable for its permanent power-up mechanic, which at the time blurred the line between the power-ups used in action-adventures and the experience points used in RPGs.
Despite the game's commercial success in its time, however, the game has received a more mixed reception from retrospective critiques. In the Video Game Bible, 1985-2002, author Andy Slaven reports that he found the game's varied levels entertaining, whereas Sean Reiley, writing in 2001 for his comedy website Seanbaby.com, dismissed it as the worst Nintendo game of all time.