Capcom has had a long history with side scrolling beat em ups. Most credit them with popularizing the genre with Final Fight but they also released plenty of other games released around the same time, such as Magic Sword and King of Dragons. Like the aforementioned games Knights of the Round attempted to add RPG mechanics to spice up the formula with some success.
Knights of the Round was released in arcades in 1991 and ported to SNES in 1994. Arthur succeeds in pulling Excalibur from the stone and becomes King. Merlin sends Arthur along with his companions Percival and Lancelot to defeat King Garibaldi and unite England. KOTR has many of the same features as King of Dragons and also unfortunately shares some of its failings. However the core action is executed more competently and thus is a superior product.
As any of the 3 characters you travel through 7 levels on your way to dethrone Garibaldi. All 3 heroes represent the standard archetypes: Lancelot is fast but weak, Percival strong but slow, and Arthur is balanced. The experience system allows you to level up, increasing strength and upgrading your armor at set intervals. This is the sole defining feature of the game as the rest of the action is pretty straightforward.
And that’s what’s disappointing. More could have and should have been done with it. While it is cool to see your character’s armor increase as you go along, the effect is purely cosmetic. The difference between each character isn’t so pronounced that you’ll notice it immediately. Adding different stat upgrades endemic to each character would have gone a long way towards making each feel unique. As it is you’ll spend the majority of the time using the same basic combo attack for the entire length of the game, only broken up by the occasional opportunity to fight on horseback. Imagine if you gained new attacks with each level to go along with the armor upgrades. This would have relieved the monotony of the staid battle system.
The levels aren’t overly long but at least they’re pretty. The SNES color palette gets a full workout as it renders the verdant fields, castles, and medieval landscapes of the arcade game so well. There is a decent selection of enemies to face and the bosses are giant lumbering monstrosities; you can definitely see Knights of the Round’s arcade heritage. The music, while it isn’t spectacular, matches the action well, with the right amount of tension to drive home the urgency of the action.
It’s too bad the RPG mechanic wasn’t fully explored because the rest of the action is solid if a bit unspectacular. As an arcade port it’s pretty faithful but as a home console game it doesn’t stand out on its own merits. God I would have killed for home ports of the two Dungeons and Dragons arcade games in America (yes I know they came out on the Saturn but only in Japan).