A month ago, I posted a hands-on preview of Manomio‘s iOS version of the classic Cinemaware strategy game Defender of the Crown. I’m happy to report that the game has finally landed as as Universal application (for iPhone and iPad) in the App Store [link].
Defender of the Crown was originally released for the Amiga in 1986 — but that’s really not saying enough. The Amiga will always be remembered for, among many other things, being one of the most notable gaming platforms ever created. And, for a long while, Defender of the Crown was the system’s undisputed flagship game title. I will quote Brian Bagnall from his excellent book On the Edge: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore, to help convey just how actually jarring an experience it was to see the game for the first time on the Amiga back in 1986.
[Amiga co-creator R.J.] Mical saw artist Jim Sachs push the Amiga to its full potential. “Jim Sachs, what a God he is," marvels Mical. “Jim Sachs is amazing. These days everyone sees graphics like that because there are a lot of really good computer graphics artists now, but back then, 20 years ago, it was astonishing to have someone that good."
The final game was a landmark in video game production values. As game designer Bob Lindstrom recalls, “The shock of seeing Defender for the first time was one of those experiences that changed the gaming stakes for all of us."
Compared to other video games of the time, Defender of the Crown established a new level of quality. IBM had Kings Quest by Sierra On-Line, a decent but primitive adventure game. The Macintosh had games like Checkers or Backgammon, or board games like Risk. Defender of the Crown had richer graphics than any computer, console, or even arcade game could boast in 1986. It was a revelation.
Of course, the above seeks to convey the magic of the title as seen 25 years ago, but despite the passage of a quarter century, the visuals still look magnificent and are a testament to both the Amiga’s then-revolutionary graphics hardware and the pixel savvy of designer Jim Sachs. The accompanying audio score is superb, as well.
The game was originally mouse-based and, in this iOS release, is running under Manomio’s iAmiga emulation system. As such, completely native iOS controls were not possible, but the studio has done an admirable job of converting the iPhone and iPad screen into a virtual track-pad for swipe and tap controls. Given the extra screen real estate, the game is best played on the iPad, but it’s still a great experience on the iPhone and iPod touch.
The preview I posted last month is basically a review of the release version of the game, as all that was left to finish at the time of that post was the in-game documentation. I’d urge anyone who’s never played the game to give it a read. I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who has played the game before already jumped right to the download link on seeing the title of this post.