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MIA - The Lost Vikings

Wait...Blizzard made games besides WoW, Diablo, and StarCraft?

When talking about Blizzard Entertainment, it’s almost impossible to imagine the company before the creation of their core pillars of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. It’s even more difficult to think of the company making games for home consoles, but in the early 90s both of these unimaginable things were true. Under the original company name of Silicon & Synapse, the house that would be Blizzard produced The Lost Vikings—a beloved side-scrolling puzzle game that fell by the wayside for juggernauts like Warcraft.  We have some love for those quirky Vikings around here, so it was high time for them to get their very own MIA.

Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, The Lost Vikings was a different take on the ubiquitous platforming genre by adding  heavy puzzle elements. Even though it was a single-player game, the user had three characters to control, each with their own special abilities.  By switching between each character and utilizing their skills effectively, the player could break down each of the game’s large levels into manageable pieces and make their way to the exit.

The leader of the Vikings is Erik the Swift; the only person on the team who can jump.  He can also run very fast, using his horned helmet to break through certain walls.  Baleog the Fierce is the fighter of the bunch, able to take out enemies up close with his sword or far away with a bow.  Protecting the group from harm is Olaf the Stout, who can use his massive shield to deflect all manner of danger, from projectiles to dripping lava or hold it above his head and glide off of ledges.  The Lost Vikings stood out thanks to the detailed and well animated titular heroes, adding to the humorous undercurrent throughout the game. The Lost Vikings was one of the first games to use idle animation, with Olaf’s nose picking being one of the most famous. Little touches like this made the Vikings come to life in an age before voice acting and motion capture.

Our three Viking friends are enjoying a normal day of being all Nordic, when they are suddenly captured by an alien named Tomator, the ruler of the Croutonian empire. Finding themselves on a spaceship far beyond anything the Vikings have ever seen, they do what they do best: break stuff until something happens. In this case, the Viking’s haphazard rampage results in falling into a time machine, which sends them leaping from prehistoric jungles to Egyptian deserts.  Each time they reach an exit, they hope that the next leap will be the leap home.

The Lost Vikings was a unique gem that stood out from the cookie cutter platformers, fighting games, and beat ‘em ups that populated the 16 bit era.  The clever puzzles, comical writing, and detailed animation made it a hit, and looking back it’s possible to see aesthetic design choices that would go on to shape the way other Blizzard games look and feel.

A sequel came out a whopping 5 years later, well into the PlayStation and Saturn wars. Even so, The Lost Vikings 2 was released on the SNES. It sported the same cartoony visuals as the first game. The Vikings gained some high-tech new abilities this time around, and two new characters: Fang the werewolf and Scorch the dragon. The game was later ported to the PSX and Saturn, with new pre-rendered graphics. This port was also given a ‘punny’ new name—Norse by Norse West: The Return of Lost Vikings. Considering the aging SNES and the fact that gamers were hypnotized by the advent of polygonal graphics, neither version of the game did particularly well at retail.

Since then, the Vikings have pretty much remained lost. They have a few notable mentions in other Blizzard games, including Star Craft II. Their most recent appearance was in World of Warcraft, where the three Vikings appear in the dungeon of Uldaman as NPCs.

It’s high time for The Lost Vikings to return, but how should it be done?  Conventional wisdom would lead to a fully 3D game sporting vast areas to explore.  After all, 2D games are more of a novelty today, and it would be difficult to imagine a massive studio like Blizzard making a throwback like a platformer.

But that’s exactly what I would like to see for a new entry in the Lost Vikings series.  Trine has proven that this type of game can still sell in the right market, and a new Vikings game is perfectly suited for digital download.  With PSN, XBLA, Wii Ware, Steam, and iOS all available, The Lost Vikings 3 has the potential to reach a much larger audience than it ever did in the past.

Blizzard has come a long way with their particular brand of art design, and it would be great to see that applied to Erik, Olaf, and Baleog.  I envision this game to be a beefed up World of Warcraft played on the 2D plane. While this would probably make the game look simplistic by current triple-A standards, the animation would be key, as it was with the older games. The Vikings need to animate smoothly, with tons of incidental and contextual animations.  In this way, they would pop off of the screen like never before, with all the humor and personality that Blizzard is known for.

As far as the core game mechanics, why fix what isn’t broken?  If there’s one thing Blizzard does well, it would be polished iterations on tried and true concepts. While the basic idea of three characters navigating dangerous levels to find an exit wouldn’t change much, the actual design of those levels can benefit from the past 15 years of game development.  Imagine a Lost Vikings level that played with portals, for example.

Of course, we live in a connected gaming society now, so multiplayer is a no-brainer this time around. While it should still be viable for a single player to manually switch between the three Vikings, having three player co-op would really bring this game into the modern age.  Since the game itself really only needs a few buttons, there should be a way to put up waypoints for specific characters. For example, if you’re playing as Erik but need Olaf to raise his shield for a jumping off point, it should be as simple as a button press to tell the player using Olaf where to stand. Of course, the game would support voice chat, but in the realm of hostile gaming environments, having a way to communicate without words is a must.

The Lost Vikings stands as one of my favorite games of the 16 bit era. I’ve felt for years that it’s high time for these lovable Norse warriors to come back to the forefront, and we’re at a place in video game history where it’s easier than ever for this to happen. I’ve given my ideas for the future of this franchise, but what are yours? Let us know in the comments, and also any ideas for future installments of MIA.



Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/09/2012 at 10:40 AM

While it's not a franchise, the old Blizzard game I would most like to see make a comeback would be Rock 'N Roll Racing.  It was a flawed game (Passwords instead of saves on an SNES? Seriously?!) but man did I had some fun with that as a kid.  Also, you could use Olaf as a driver if you entered a cheat code.

Vic Roman Staff Alumnus

03/09/2012 at 10:41 AM

Rock 'n Roll Racing was awesome!

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/10/2012 at 11:23 AM

I love Rock 'n Roll Racing too. I think it would be harder to bring it into the modern age, as it was basically just an overhead car combat game with licensed rock music. Mind blowing at the time, but if you release that to a new generation, they will wonder what the big deal is.

I never played the pseudo sequel, Red Asphalt. I think it even took me a year or so to realize that it was related.


03/26/2013 at 11:38 AM

I remember reading an old nintendo power that talked about lost vikings 2.  I just had to play it, and I loved it.

I eventually found the psx copy norse by norsewest at gamestop for a few bucks and had to get it. 

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