Knights of the Round (1)

Genre: Beat ’em Up
Year: 1991
Developed by: Capcom
Published by: Capcom
Platforms: Arcade, SNES
Feeling Like: Nostalgic Knights

As I begin to approach another tier on the 500, I’m finding that I have to justify rankings less often as the quality generally increases. Any list is going to be completely subjective and not relevant to the video game zeitgeist; mine is no exception. However, when it comes to games like Knights of the Round, I do feel a nagging urge to defend my choice and also explain why it is at spot 368 and not significantly lower.

It’s not a better game than Mortal Kombat, Half-LifeMetroid, or Streets of Rage. Not even close. Most gamers nowadays won’t even have heard of it. It didn’t leave a lasting legacy, and you’ll find dozens of other Beat ’em Ups that are far superior. Dust in the Wind. So…why?

Knights of the Round (4)
The badass cover on the PAL version is a good start.

Dave V was, and is, one of my best friends. We lived within a block of each other growing up in Oak Bay, a municipality of Victoria that is about as bland and pleasant as a neighborhood as you could ask for; you were always near a school, or a beach, or a park, or a corner store. Dave and I rarely had to actively seek something to do and we never let boredom win.

Whether it was creating soccer obstacle courses in my backyard, helping Dave’s father with his pottery, heading to Casey’s to spend the entirety our allowance on chocolate, or, inevitably, riding our bikes to Blockbuster to rent a video game for the weekend, we found fun. This is how we found Knights of the Round.

It’s not like we had the internet to do research on whether it was “good” or not. If it allowed us to play something on the Super Nintendo at the same time, then it was “good” enough.

Knights of the Round (2)
Murdering evil bandits with King Arthur and co.? Very good…enough

Dave’s basement felt as much as home as my own bedroom. Annie and Peter often lurked, but were far more interested in doing their own thing than to be seen with the likes of us non-teenagers. As long as we didn’t make a mess, or helped out around the house briefly (I’ve never unloaded a dishwasher so quickly) we were free to do whatever we wanted. That meant either Red Dwarf marathons, or video games or both.

With a few button presses, we were off to the races. Lancelot was always the best choice with his elaborate sword swings and Super Saiyan haircut. Percival didn’t feel like wearing a shirt, so he mostly rode the pine. Ancient, legendary battles against hordes of knights and warlocks hardly seemed like a good opportunity to work on your tan.

Knights of the Round (3)
Birdies and horsies and burly axemen, oh my!

It all felt so comfortable. Dave and I were usually on the same skill level, so we never experienced one dragging down the other. In reality, I was a head (or two) shorter than Dave at all times, to say nothing of my lack of muscle. I distinctly remember a time when we were sailing around Vancouver Island with his parents – we had docked at a harbor when a group spotted Dave and, knew he could help them carrying massive bags of oysters. They didn’t even bother asking me, and I didn’t blame them. I didn’t feel jealousy so much as gratitude that I had a much bigger friend to protect me, and grab things from high shelves. And lug about crustaceans, if need be.

So here’s an opportunity to feel just as useful and powerful as Dave. Our digital counterparts were on even ground. We both mimicked our heroes when a stage was cleared, they raised their weapons in a victorious pose, and let loose the most mediocre battle cry you can imagine…”Op!”

Knights of the Round (5)

It’s strange that I’ve placed this one so far ahead of Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder at 436. They’re virtually the same game; medieval beat ’em up with very little depth and can be cleared in about a thirty minutes. We only rented it once or twice and beat it without very much challenge. We would sometimes finish games so quickly that we’d bike back to Blockbuster and convince them to let us rent something else on the same bill. It often worked.

No doubt about it, familiarity of Dave’s home on St. Patrick St and memories of summer days that never ended bump this big time. There were many other cooperative video game excursions to be had together, but this little known whack-a-bad guy game has stuck with me, long after we defeated Garibaldi and obtained the Holy Grail. Man, being 13 was awesome.

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