The first Nintendo developed Disk System exclusive which was never released outside of Japan, Nazo no Murasame Jō’s steep difficulty and decidedly Asian influence may have been instrumental in preventing a Western release.
Nazo no Murasame Jō
Japanese Title: 謎の村雨城
Translated Title: The Mysterious Murasame Castle
English Release: none
Release Date: April 14, 1986
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Genre: Action Adventure
Product Code: FMC-NMJ
Disk Format: Double-sided
Notable Credits: Produced by Keizo Kato. Directed by Minoru Maeda. Designed by Minoru Maeda and Kei Homna. Music Composed by Koji Kondo.
Much like Metroid and Kid Icarus, Nazo no Murasame Jō and The legend of Zelda share not only a game engine, but also numerous visual design similarities. The games play from a 3/4 top-down perspective and the action in both is confined to single screens that only scroll when exiting one for the next. This, however, is where the similarities abruptly end.
Rather then the open world exploration of Zelda, Nazo no Murasame Jō is a fast paced hack and slash action game with gameplay that more closely resembles something like Contra crossed with Ninja Gaiden, with only the outward appearance of The Legend of Zelda.
Nazo no Murasame Jō’s cleverly crafted sword mechanics and excellent soundtrack are somewhat hampered by a rapid escalation in the games difficulty. While certainly a challenging game, the challenge is not insurmountable and memorizing the different types of enemy patterns and deployment of twitch reflexes.
It is unknown why Nazo no Murasame Jō was never ported to cartridge like nearly all of Nintendos first party Disk System releases. It most likely has to do with the steep difficulty level and the stylized Asian-centric influence throughout the game.
Whatever the reason, Nintendo of America has since corrected their error by releasing the game in North America for their Virtual Console service. Released under the translated moniker The Mysterious Murasame Castle, the title comes completely unaltered, Zelda-like save slots and all.
With Nazo no Murasame Jō, Nintendo has provided us with the unique opportunity to go back and experience a game that passed them by. Even without the re-release, this game would’ve been worth the effort required to experience it; it invigorates as much as it frustrates, all within a slightly familiar yet total fresh construct.