Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#155 – Magic Darts

So magical!

It’s darts but magical!

To Beat: Win each mode
To Complete: Win each mode with the high score against computer opponents
What I Did: Completed 301, beat the others
Played: 5/10/20 – 5/11/20
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Magic Darts Longplay

The game of darts is a pretty good metaphor for this project.  The random nature of the order I’m playing the games is equivalent to just tossing up darts at a dartboard and seeing where it sticks.  That’s true for novice darts players like myself, anyway.  I just came off of completing two long games to get this nice, short game, so it is true that just about anything can go at any time.  Naturally, since the NES library is so diverse, sure enough there’s a darts game.

The game of darts has origins dating back hundreds of years.  It is said that English soldiers would throw knifes or spears at the bottom of a wine cask and they began competing among themselves.  Later on, slices of tree trunks were used instead, and the natural rings of the trunk became an easy way of seeing who was closest to the center, spawning a rudimentary scoring system.  The game was played in pubs for years and years, and even nobles enjoyed the game.  In 1896, Brian Gamlin is widely considered to have created the scoring layout on the common dartboard that is used today.  There are a couple of organizations, the World Darts Federation and the Professional Darts Corporation, that host the best of the sport’s players in various tournaments.

Magic Darts was released on the Famicom and the NES in the US.  The game was developed by SETA and was published by SETA in Japan, releasing in April 1991.  The US version was published by Romstar and released in September 1991.  To my knowledge, this is the only game developed by SETA that appeared on the NES, though there were a few Famicom titles from them that were not localized.

Plenty of options in the game, including these game modes.

Magic Darts uses a standard dartboard that is used all around the world, one that you are probably already familiar with.  The board is round and broken up into twenty pie-shaped segments of alternating colors red and black.  Numbers along the perimeter designate the point value for placing a dart within its associated segment.  An outer ring around the board is worth double the points, and the ring splitting the center of the segments is worth triple score.  The two small, concentric rings in the very center are the bullseye target.  The outer ring of the bullseye is worth 25 points while the inner ring in the very center is worth 50 points.

To get started playing this game, you’ll have to wade through a slew of options, game modes, and settings.  First up after the title is the game mode screen where you’ll pick from one of six game modes.  Press Up or Down to go through the selections, and you can also press Left or Right to toggle the background music off and on.  Press either A, B, or Start to proceed.  Depending on the game mode, you may have to choose the in and out rules next before moving on.  Next, choose the number of players from 1-4 or the Watch Mode to watch the CPU players go at it.  Players 1 and 3 use Controller 1 and the others use Controller 2.  For each player, choose from one of twelve player avatars, then press A to go to name selection for that character.  Press Up or Down to cycle through each letter of your initials and press A to lock in each one.  After initials, then you select your dart weight from either Light, Medium, or Heavy.  After all players are entered, if there are any open slots remaining, you can choose Extra Player to set CPU players.  Now you are done and ready to begin playing!

Most of the game takes place actually throwing the darts.  The largest panel at the top left contains the facing of the full dartboard.  The score table is to the right of that with a section for each player’s scoring along with the round number and game name.  The bottom of the screen shows the player character and dartboard from a side view.  You can see the darts thrown from that angle during gameplay along with the associated controls for aiming the dart.  This layout is a pretty good use of screen space in my opinion.

Position and set meters for accurate throws.

The basic controls for throwing darts are pretty straightforward.  On your turn you’ll see a dart appear at the bottom of the board.  You can position this dart with Left and Right while at the same time a meter marker pans from left to right.  This represents the horizontal angle of your shot determined by pressing A with the proper timing.  Next, at the bottom, you will see a wedge shaped meter appear with a line segment than waves up and down.  This represents the vertical angle of your shot.  When it lines up where you want it, press A to lock it in.  After that, you will need to set the power of your throw using the vertical meter in the bottom right corner.  Again, when you get the power you want, press A with good timing to set it.  Once you set all these meters and positions, you’ll finally throw the dart as inputted.  It seems like a lot of hassle, but it gives you a ton of control over your throw, plus it goes quicker than you think once you get into it.

The first three game modes, 301, 501, and 701, all play the same.  In these games you will decide before starting what you want to do with the ins and outs.  Double in means you must hit a double first to open the scoring, otherwise any throws are invalid and worth 0 points.  Double out means you must end on a double.  Open in or open out means any scoring is valid at that end of the match.  In this mode you start off with points, either 301, 501, or 701 depending on which game.  The object of this game is to get your score down to 0 exactly.  On your turn you get three throws.  After the three darts are thrown, your scoring for the round is deducted from your total.  If your score at any time would drop below zero, you bust and any points you would have deducted in that round are instead forfeited.  For example, say your score is 10 and you throw a 5 and a 9.  That 9 would put your score into the negative, so your round ends and your score goes back to 10.  The first player to 0 wins, and all other players continue until all but one finish their game.

The other three game modes have different rule sets but are pretty simple.  In Count Up, you play eight rounds and try to see how many points you can earn in total.  In Round the Clock, you have to hit numbers 1 through 10 sequentially, using as many rounds as needed to hit all 10 in order.  Half It has somewhat more complicated rules.  You start off with 40 points.  In each of the eight rounds, there is a target value that you must hit to score points.  The targets are 16, double, 17, 18, triple, 19, 20, and bullseye.  Only hitting those targets in the assigned round add to your total.  If you miss the mark in all three darts in the round, then your total score is cut in half.

Thank you dart monkey!

This is my first time playing through Magic Darts.  I have played real darts before a few times but with nothing approaching actual skill.  I don’t spend a lot of time in bars, and that is where darts are typically played.  As a kid, I really wanted an electronic dartboard, the ones with the tiny holes all over that you throw plastic-tipped darts into.  I didn’t end up getting one until I rented an apartment, and even then I didn’t bother actually hanging it up proper.  Knowing me, I would have ended up with a bunch of holes in the wall anyway so maybe I dodged a bullet there.  Good thing I have my cart copy of Magic Darts anytime I need a darts fix.  The game isn’t too common but it’s not expensive.  Typically it is around a $5-$7 game cart only, but they are teetering closer to $10 right now.

In beating this type of game, it makes sense to play through every mode just to see if there’s something unique about beating each one.  So that’s what I did.  Taking it a small step further, after reading through the manual I noticed that, while a little cumbersome to configure, you can play against CPU opponents.  For 301, I played with double in, double out rules against three CPU opponents, choosing the self-proclaimed expert player and the next two in line.  (I see now re-reading the manual I missed choosing the expert female player.  I think that’s a big miss and I should have played against her too.)  I did play a little bit before recorded attempts just to get a feel for the game.  After that, I went right into this setup of 301 and ended up winning in Round 6 on my first try.  For the remaining games, I played them all solo.  The winning screen is pretty much the same for all modes regardless of number of players or CPU opponents.  The winning player has his or her picture displayed along with the placings of each participant.  For Count Up and Half-It, a high score is also displayed.  I assume the default is 100 points for the high score; it only shows up after finishing the mode.  In Count Up I scored 466, but in Half-It I only got 96 points on my first go which fell just short of 100 points.  I played again and had a much more robust 300 score the second try.  I don’t think there’s much left to do other than beat CPU opponents in every mode.  It would not be hard to accomplish, but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary as far as completion goes.

You can fly solo for a more leisurely game.

I developed some minor strategies with this game.  I always made sure to hit center on the first meter indicating horizontal curve.  For the vertical angle and power, I roughly set those proportional to how high on the board I was aiming.  For instance, to hit dead center I would aim for middle angle, middle power, adjusting both meters higher to aim higher and both lower to go lower.  It wasn’t an exact science but it tended to get me close.  Since it is a lot easier to aim horizontal than vertical, when I needed a double, I aimed for the ones on the far left and right of the circle, giving me the tallest band of vertical space to aim for.  It would have made more sense to go after the double 11 on the left, but I preferred the double 6 on the right during gameplay.  Maybe because I’m right-handed.

This game has a few interesting secrets.  A few of the characters have secret trick shots.  My player character was the robot, and in 301 I inadvertently triggered the trick shot.  It seems to have to do with hitting the center angle both ways just to get the random chance to do it.  I was aiming for the double 6 on the right.  The trick shot has the robot stretch his arm out all the way across the room to place the dart directly on the board, which is definitely cheating!  The shot ended up on double 9, almost on the complete opposite end of the board.  I needed a double to start, so I’ll take it.  Sometimes there is a fly buzzing around the board.  The alien character has a trick shot allowing you to freely point to where you want the dart placed on the board.  Pulling the trick shot off to nail the fly changes your character to some weird looking dude.  It’s strictly a cosmetic change.  You can actually play as the weird looking character from the start by entering SEX as your initials.  So there you have it.

Magic Darts is a well made adaptation of video game darts for the NES.  It is quite similar to Championship Bowling, also published by Romstar.  This is a game pretty much about setting timed meters, just like in bowling.  The graphics are both functional and clear, with nice window dressing in the different characters and their throwing animations.  The music is done well, nothing too memorable but blends in well with the gameplay.  The game controls accurately and responsively, leaving it all down to setting the right timing to make your best throws.  The gameplay includes much of what you could ask for, with multiple game modes and ways to play them with friends or against the computer.  I suppose there could have been additional gameplay modes added to fill the game out even more, but as it stands it is a well-made darts game done as well as I think can be done on the console.  

#155 – Magic Darts

Posted In: Finished
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comment : 4
  1. Peco de Guile

    Another enjoyable, or… MAGICAL read!

    Do you ever rate the game on an “enjoyability” scale, kind of like how you do the difficulty? It’d be cool to see what kind of deep cuts you’ve ran across that you really freakin’ enjoyed.

    Thanks for the post, amigo!

    • arnpoly

      I just realized I haven’t replied … oops!

      I tend to think most NES games are good, or at least have good qualities. It might be hard for me to be objective there.

  2. Hong Il Yoo

    Haha I totally agree with Peco about that “MAGICAL.” Never heard of this game before, it sounds like something that I should hunt down – I’ve sunk tons of hours into dart mini games in every instalment of the Yakuza franchise.

    • arnpoly

      I imagine it won’t be near as good as what you can find in Yakuza, though it plays well for what it is.

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