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I believe some tales stand the test of time. The same is true of certain videogames. Unfortunately, this update/variation on a theme doesn't hold up to the fond memories¯ of games gone by.
As Robin Hood, you and your band of thieves attempt to hold your own against the petty baronies that vie for power in the absence of King Richard, and eventually you will challenge the growing might of the villainous Prince John. You amass men and money through small raids, tournaments, and larger campaigns against the power players in England at large. One of the bonuses of this game is that the nobles you come up against are chosen in a (mostly) historically accurate manner in accordance to their names and locations.
Probably the most unforgivable part of this game is the lack of updates for the battle sequences. Although the element of nostalgia can be a good thing, the battles here are so simplistic that it takes no skill during the fight (merely in the choosing of the type and number of your troops in the fray). Basically the battles look like several statues lobbing arrows or brandishing weapons (I would say chess pieces but that might denote more complexity of movement than is appropriately applied to this game). This is the major point at which the game would have benefitted from an update. To put it even more forcefully, Battlechess is a lot more challenging and interesting to watch than the battle sequences of Robin Hood.
During raids,¯ the player is perched in a tree shooting arrows at riders on horseback. You can pivot in a 180 degree radius, aim up and down, but other than that, there is no movement allowed. The tournament screens are a bit more interesting, but still suffer from a lack of possible movement and require minimal skill. This leaves the major battles¯ between forces on the full map of England as the focal point. For these battles, it makes a difference how many and what kind of troops you use and what kind of alliances you've made during tournies, but the actual battles themselves, as I've mentioned before, are so uninteresting that one is only concerned with the outcomes. Getting there, in this case, is not half the fun.
There are very few upsides to this game. The aforementioned historical accuracy and figuring out which nobles to make alliances with are two of note. The other is the fact that this game has very good voice acting. Unfortunately the dialogue makes Maid Marion sound bitchy and Robin Hood seem like a pouting prima dona. Little John and Ivanhoe fare better, but I wish the writing would have supported such a nice ensemble of vocal actors. The musical score was lovely but was used minimally.
The graphics in the cinema screens are good, as well as in the raid/tournament areas, but the gameplay is so limited that there isn't really much of a chance for graphical diversity. One might say that this criticism of graphics could be applied to the game as a whole. The game is limited, fairly short, and has little replay value.
When looking at updating an old favorite, the key is to keep the spirit of the game alive yet sill make the title fresh and able to meet current expectations. This game appears to have been pulled from the files, dusted off, and given a coat of paint, as opposed to having a major overhaul. Past fans could probably give this game a try; nostalgia might carry you through. If you're an Anglophile, by all means rent this, but you'd be better served putting your pennies toward airfare to England. For everyone else, Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown should be a pass.
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