Dorothy, The Lion, Tin Man, Strawman (a.k.a. Scarecrow), and Toto find their way into this Nintendo DS exclusive fantasy guided by “The Great Wizard of Oz”, seasonal witches and some quirky cats. The developers have expanded on the basic story and created an all-ages friendly battle system, which non-gamers and more experienced players can both enjoy and customize to their liking.
Even though Dorothy's trip to Oz may be well known, and this game does follow that general outline in an RPG format, players can't anticipate some of the twists and turns that take place in this version of the tale. As an example, while the story still has the tornado, "The Great Wizard of Oz” makes an appearance early in the piece, unlike the famous 1939 film, which most people probably remember more than the source novel by L. Frank Baum.
Here, players only use the stylus for movement, which features a “trackball” visual on the bottom center of the touch screen. One can try to avoid battles if they move fast enough, but most confrontations are unavoidable. Once players engage antagonists like Gummy Ghosts who guard the path from “intruders,” they can run away, attack, defend, or use items/special skills.
As good as the story may be, the level designs could use more variety and less confusing navigation. Backtracking is easy with the fluid, “crystal ball” trackball, but improved design would avoid the all-too-often necessity of covering old ground repeatedly.
Three witch sisters and their mother, The Witch of the Winter, oversee lands with natural season themes. Maps are available, but only provide a rough overview instead of leading players through each level. Useful navigation comes from a marker system with several different symbols. These prove crucially important at crossroads. It is also somewhat confusing and a “radar” type level navigation map would have worked much better.
The familiar “win, lose, or flee” battle system shows status in HP (Hit Points) and MP (Magic Points). As the characters get added to what will become the party foursome, developers utilize a unique ratio system where users are given a total of four points amongst the party for attacks. The game's strategy gets deeper within the battles as well. For example, attacks with one strong character keeps the remaining characters safe behind lines. Other elements also factor into battles including affinity match-ups between characters and special elements (water, plant, etc.)
Players get three save profiles and great replay value in this reasonably priced game ($29.99 suggested retail price). High production values; a solid musical score from Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII), Masaharu Iwata (Final Fantasy Tactics), and Kimihiro Abe (Odin Sphere); and great 3D visuals make this yellow brick road even more appealing.
Wizard of Oz Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for mild fantasy violence.