For almost 30 years, Shigeru Miyamoto’s Devil World has remained elusive – but now it’s available for Nintendo Switch Online members.
Now counted among the industry’s few celebrity designers, Shigeru Miyamoto’s body of work is easy to list. Most people even tangentially familiar with Nintendo will be able to list most of Miyamoto’s games – in varying capacities, he’s had a hand in everything from the Donkey Kong to the Super Mario Bros series to F-Zero to The Legend Of Zelda to Pikmin and more besides.
One title western gamers are less likely to throw out, though, is Devil World – a maze game originally released for the Family Computer in 1984, and given an apologetic European release for the console’s western counterpart, the NES, in 1987. For reasons that will soon become clear, it never got a release in the USA at all – at least until now, thanks to a surprise appearance among Nintendo Switch Online's growing library of retro games.
As designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and frequent collaborator Takeshi Tezuka, Devil World is like a more elaborate Pac-Man. The player guides a dragon around a maze, eating dots and collecting crosses – the latter enabling the critter to breathe fire and murder enemies. The twist on the Pac-Man formula sits at the top of the screen – none other than the Devil himself, who controls which direction the screen scrolls in. If the dragon isn’t careful, it can get caught between a maze wall and the deadly ropes that border the screen.
At the time of its release in 1984, Nintendo of America had some strict policies about the depiction of religious symbolism in games, and it seems that Devil World’s imagery – crucifixes, bibles, skulls, and Old Nick – were considered beyond the pale for US audiences.
Almost 30 years on, though, western players can finally get their hands on one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s more obscure works.
Nor is Devil World the only game to emerge as part of Nintendo’s line-up of October games. Also on the service you’ll find Castlevania Legends, a handheld spin-off which first appeared on the original Game Boy in 1997, and The Mysterious Murasame Castle.
The latter will be of particular interest to Nintendo historians, given that it was essentially developed as a kind of sister title to 1986’s original The Legend Of Zelda. Released in Japan at around the same time as Zelda for the Family Disk System in Japan, it’s a top-down action-adventure, this time with a Edo-period setting rather than the fantasy theme of its more famous counterpart.
Like Devil World, The Mysterious Murasame Castle was initially a Japan exclusive; it’s likely that Nintendo thought that the game was too steeped in eastern culture to be successful in other territories. It’s a cracking little game, though, and it’s fascinating to compare and contrast its fast-paced flick-screen action with the more famous Zelda.