The early days of my Nintendo play were dominated by action and sports games. I’ve detailed how Pro Wrestling was my first true Nintendo love, and the other games I owned at the beginning of my fandom were Alpha Mission and Top Gun. Those were followed by Double Dribble and Rad Racer. All of these games were ones that featured constant action and re-action but offered little in the way of role-play.
My game tastes would switch to role-playing when I first got to play The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link that I borrowed from my friend Geoffrey. After that, I bought my first role-playing game, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, and it would quickly shoot up to the top of my favorite games of all-time list and stay there. It wasn’t just the role-playing aspect that hooked me, it was also the strategy element involved in the game that really set the hook. I didn’t realize at that time just how much I was going to enjoy a pure strategy game until I borrowed another game from Geoffrey called Defender of the Crown.
Defender of the Crown was a strategy game set in England in 1149 during the middle ages. You had a spot of land to begin the game, and you attempted to conquer neighboring lands. Pretty simple concept don’t you think? You had several ways to go about that though. You could siege their land, or covertly go in and try to take over. And if you needed help, you had the ability to call on Robin Hood. Throw in the fact that you had sporting events as well like the joust and sword fight for the action quota, you were left with a pretty fun way to kill time on a Saturday afternoon.
Besides the strategy part of the game, what I liked best about Defender of the Crown was laying siege to an opponent’s castle. You had catapults with which you could launch boulders to knock holes in the walls. After holes had been created, you used the catapult to launch fire or plagues into the castle to weaken their defenses. Before you knew it, your opponent surrendered and you had acquired a new land to rule. But you had to watch because while you were out conquering new lands with your army, your enemies were plotting to invade your home territory. If you didn’t leave enough troops at home, you’d find yourself without a place to return to.
Growing up a fan of Robin Hood and medieval stories in general, this game was a big hit with me. And the strategy aspect had me engaged to the point I was playing it every afternoon after school. I never actually owned Defender of the Crown but would borrow it from Geoffrey and keep it for months on end.
Defender of the Crown really set me on a path of loving strategy games that continues to this day. I moved on to games like Genghis Khan and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego for Nintendo, and on to Act Raiser and others like it for Super Nintendo. Most people may have never even heard of the game, but Defender of the Crown was a transformative title in my gaming life.