The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Dorothy Gets Sonic Speed

By Ishaan . October 23, 2009 . 2:39pm


The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is such a unique mish-mash of ideas. It’s like Media.Vision decided to create a hotpot of random design elements and dub it an RPG.


The game begins with Dorothy and Toto — both of whom you get to name — being whisked off to the land of Oz by the famous tornado. Once in Oz, the game teaches you the basics of control, and this is where The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road starts to get interesting.


Everything in Beyond the Yellow Brick Road seems to be based around the concept of streamlining. The game is on-rails for one thing. It feels like an RPG-lite for another. Oh, and everything is controlled via stylus, including movement. Movement is handled via a very unique interface on the DS’s touchscreen called a "trackball." Spinning the trackball by swiping it with your stylus in any direction causes Dorothy to walk in that direction. Spinning it faster speeds her up to a jog, and going crazy with swipes makes her sprint.


¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!

Something that bears mentioning is just how much fun this is. At full sprint, Dorothy feels like Sonic, and her character is beautifully animated, too. Initially, I was a little skeptical about using the trackball to control movement, but it’s half the fun of the game. Because the game is on-rails, it feels awesome running through areas at full speed, while dodging enemies and watching the environment fly past you. I highly recommend blaring Fatboy Slim’s "Right Here, Right Now" at full blast and playing this game while listening to it. (Sorry Sakimoto!)


Speaking of enemies, they’re all visible in the game. That’s right…no random battles, which is automatically a huge plus in my book. However, since the game is on-rails, dodging enemies can be a bit of a tricky proposition. If you’re sprinting too fast, you’ll likely end up running straight into them unless you manage to alter course from a fair distance away, in which case you’ll nick past them and feel awesome while they eat your dust.


You can’t afford to dodge every enemy though, since this is an RPG and requires the usual grinding and leveling up and earning money to buy items and equipment for your team.


Here’s how battles work: Each battle is divided into "sets," similar to Dragon Quest. During each set, you get four turns to attack your enemies. You have four party members in Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man. Each of these characters has a "turn ratio" in battle. Dorothy has a turn ratio of 1, which means she can attack all four times in a single set if she’s the only character you take into battle. The same applies to Scarecrow.


Fair and square!!Lion, however, has a turn ratio of 2, which means he takes up two of your four turns. This means you can use Lion once, and Dorothy or Scarecrow twice — or once each. Or you can consume all four turns by using Lion twice. Being the strongest of the party, Tin Man has a turn ratio of 3, which means you can attack with him once and that leaves a single turn available for either Dorothy or Scarecrow (3+1). You can change your team in between each set. It sounds a little complicated in writing, but it’s not really.


Each of these characters also has a particular affinity — an element they’re effective against. This list is as follows:


Dorothy — Ghost
Scarecrow — Water
Lion — Shell
Tin Man — Plant


Based on what element your enemies in battle are, you’ll want to choose the appropriate party members to go on the offensive, so you can do the maximum amount of damage.


I called The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road an RPG-lite earlier, and this is because of how the battles play out. Party members automatically target the enemies they’re strongest against, and also use potions to heal each other automatically if they’re low on health by default. This makes it a great role-playing experience for beginners. You can, however, manually control both these options should you choose to do so for strategic purposes. All the default options serve to compliment the game’s streamlined nature, however, and the UI is very easy to understand and use as well. Battles feel very effortless in how they’re controlled.


Beyond the Yellow Brick Road also allows you to mark signposts in the environment so you don’t get lost. While the game is on-rails, there are lots of branching paths that all lead to different places…sometimes an item, sometimes a dead-end or a new area entirely. At each fork in the road is a signpost, onto which you can stamp a symbol from a preset list. Since there are only six symbols, however, you’ll have to plan out what you intend to use each one to indicate — something even the game points out.


I like how the bottom screen still says Something I’d like to touch upon very briefly is the art. The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road looks great for a DS game. Since everything is on-rails, Media.Vision were able to push a fair number of objects onscreen, and it’s always nice to see people try that on weaker hardware. Dorothy’s character model is really well animated, and just making her run around and make turns can be fun to watch. The environments look really colourful and vibrant as well, with lots of grass and plants and trees lining the roads you travel along. There’s even reflections in the water! So much detail.


The other aspect that’s worth mentioning is story — or the lack of one, to be more precise. Sure, the game follows the overall Wizard of Oz plot more or less, but don’t expect any character development or growth for your party members. It seems like Media.Vision were aiming for a fun, experimental game, and this is what they’ve ultimately delivered as opposed to a traditional RPG.


Food for thought:


1. The trackball really is fun. I almost wish Media.Vision had done away with the RPG elements entirely and made this a platformer instead. SEGA and Bioware, take a good close look. This is how you make a DS Sonic RPG.


2. While The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick road is great for newcomers to the genre, it also gets tough pretty quickly. Potions in particular become scarce quickly, and you’ll need to grind to acquire / buy more.


3. I love the way Dorothy screeches to a halt if you make her stop during a high speed sprint.

  • Guest

    Would have gotten it…but first person/random battles are a turn off.

    I refuse to play RPGs with those two design choice

    • iammia

      Shame you’re too spoiled to play old school games. I’ll just enjoy playing Shin Megami Tensei and Earthbound.

    • First-person, yes. Random, no. You can see and avoid enemies.

  • bubbba123

    This game is fun as hell. I’m having a great time with it…Great review Ishaan.

  • Aoshi00

    A couple of points that you brought up are exactly what turned me off in this game, weapon/equipment upgrades are a must to face the tougher adversaries, but coins are hard to come by unless you fight almost all the enemies in any given stage and even then you still don’t have enough to have all 4 members well equipped. Also I did expect a more robust narrative and character development since it was based on Wizard of Oz. I did like the DQ-like turn based battles, the battle theme by Sakimoto is even like DQ’s too, very epic, but I can’t stand excessive grinding in RPGs anymore just for the sake of advancing. The trackball running is fine, but your wrist could get real tired real fast if you hold the system w/ your other hand. what I hated the most was the signposts right before the branching paths, I thought it was kind of stupid to retrace all the linear paths for treasure chests..

    I don’t know, I liked the battle system and each character’s attribute and special moves, even Sakimoto’s soundtrack. But everything else, especially the grinding, makes the game get old fast. I had to stop in world 2 (or world 3 I forgot) and had no motivation to bring myself to finish the rest, since the story and narrative was minimal. If there’s a good story and intriguing interaction btwn party members, I would continue to play it. The witch bosses and their cat minions have interesting personalities I guess. I only have the Jpn version, but I don’t think this game is good enough to buy the US version again.. come to think of it, I still haven’t opened that bonus soundtrack that came w/ the game, music was definitely nice.

    I tried hard to like this game, but for me the cons outweighs the pros.. I guess I was really expecting more interaction btwn Dorothy and gang, instead each character was briefly introduced at the beginning and that was it, and it’s especially pity considering the interesting artistic designs for the Wizard of Oz gang.. I guess I would rather watch that old Wizard of Oz anime..

    Just curious, did they leave in the Jpn intro song in the US version? The theme song was quite nice..

    • ShadowYuri

      They did leave the intro song in the US version. ;)

      Otherwise, I agree with Ishaan, this game is very charming and I love all about it. All of the actions are done very fast thanks to the well used stylus, even if we have to grind, I don’t feel like we have time to bore ourselves… But +1 about the coins… Very hard to come by, and this is a little disappointing for me too. Although I do like the way the story is told; it is done with simplicity and some sense of humour. I actually find it quite lovable. But I understand your points! :)

    • You know, I think I just like it this much because it’s “different.” I don’t see myself completing it, but I’m having fun with it so far. There’s a lot of interesting ideas in here that would probably work well in other games.

      Now, Witch’s Tale on the other hand…

      • Aoshi00

        Like the others I actually liked the game a lot at first due to its charm, but it’s because after I put it down I can’t seem to pick it back up that made me dislike it. A truly good game is supposed to be so fun you can’t stop playing, something that gets you hooked which I find Wizard of Oz lacking. The signposts get ridiculous later on as each path would keep branching out into more long and linear paths, so there’s so much trackball running that feels like a chore. If I could pick up the US version for cheap (not $30) I might give it a second chance. I guess part of my dissatisfaction also comes from the fact I spent $60 on the game, so I felt it could’ve ben better.

        BTW, the SD illustrations in the tutorials were very cute, I wish they would’ve used more of it.

      • tim_mbp

        I was going to ask how it compares to Witch’s Tale. Guess I won’t now ;)

        • Yea, more on Witch’s Tale next week. I actually love the art. It looks really smooth and beautiful. Once you actually get into battles is when it starts to get iffy. I’ll be doing some coverage on our FB leading up to the playtest.

          @Aoshi: Yeeeeeeea, that right there is your problem my friend. It’s good, but $60 good? How much do you pay for importing Square DS stuff including shipping?

          • Aoshi00

            That’s what I meant by the game being mediocre at best, if I like it I would think it’s worth $60 even for a DS game (the price of a console game). I totally didn’t expect the little to no story and character development for an RPG w/ such a lively cast, an opportunity totally wasted since the 3D graphics is some of the best on the DS. I guess we need to watch this oldie for some true Wizard of Oz goodness,


          • I can understand that. It seems they could have done a lot more with the iconic characters (Arcana Heart 2 tried a little). Since I just bought the game for my niece maybe she’ll take an interest and read the story herself to enjoy.

            I just hope the trackball is kind to her small wrists…

          • Aoshi00

            I think this game might be too hard for kids since you’re constantly underpowered, it was hard for me. I have a hard time imagining a kid would find this fun, battles might as well be random since you want to fight all of them anyway to gain experience and coins.

            I just can’t stand grinding anymore, but recently I’ve been doing just that w/ FF12 (w/ hunts and all, lots of fetch quests.). I actually did not like that game and in a sense I still don’t, but I want to bring myself to finally finish it once and for all before FF13 comes out in Dec.

            Unfortunately any DS game that requires sole stylus control would be a strain to your wrist, let alone spinning the trackball nonstop in this long RPG. I suggest you tell her to go straight to the book..

  • Gestahl

    Love this game, one of the best pick-ups this Fall. Btw, yes, the Japanese intro song is there.

  • this and witch’s tale has bad gameplay but pretty visuals…

  • Ereek

    So many good comments. I’m a bit sad that I can’t play this yet, but I’ll probably bump it a bit higher on my “Do want” list.

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