Spiritual Warfare

Today I sold back a bunch of crappy Playstation 2 games to Reset Games in Bellingham to get in-store credit, then I hit the retro wall to see what they had. I spotted a NES game named Spiritual Warfare in a black cart (read: not licensed by Nintendo). I looked at the cover hard. Could it be? Yes! The game was published by Wisdom Tree, the company responsible for Bible Adventures, Exodus, and Super 3D Noah’s Ark. Unlicensed cart, high irony value, possibly worth money as a collector’s item, only eight bucks—I had to get it.

It turned out that the game isn’t really worth that much. If I’m lucky I could sell it for twenty bucks (I guess that’s pretty good for a NES game), but I’ve already derived way more than $20 of entertainment value out of it. Turns out Spiritual Warfare is a Zelda clone where you force sinners to repent by pelting them with fruit. You might be walking through a park, minding your own business, when a crazy-looking guy with a switchblade runs at you, so you throw a pear at him, he sinks to his knees, repents, and starts praying. Awesome! Or you can really kick some ass with “vials of God’s wrath,” high explosives good for killing demons, clearing bushes, or showing sinners the error of their ways (with fire). Sometimes an angel appears and quizzes you on Bible trivia, then rewards you with money.

But as much as I mock it, Spiritual Warfare turned out to be a pretty playable, entertaining game, at least compared to the dreck that got published for the NES. And cynical atheist that I am, I was hoping for a more scary conservative-fundamentalist take on Biblical videogames, the better to ridicule the people I disagree with and reaffirm my own views. I wanted a game where you turn homosexuals straight by hitting them with divine fruit. But, despite a title that evokes religious crusades, Spiritual Warfare was pretty moderate and tame. It’s the kind of game your friend’s well-meaning mom would’ve bought when you were kids. The most offensive it got was when, in the airport level, you forcibly show some Hare Krishnas the light of God by braining them with apples.

In a weird way, I kind of have to admire what Wisdom Tree was doing. They were a DIY developer who found their games at odds with Nintendo’s content policies, so they published their work without Nintendo’s official seal of approval. And they did it very well–Wikipedia tells me that Bible Adventures sold 350,000 copies, mostly at Christian bookstores (Nintendo threatened to cease business with dealers who stocked unlicensed carts, but Christian bookstores weren’t likely to carry videogames). If you manage to track down a copy of Spiritual Warfare, get it. It’s part of a weird chapter in gaming history, and I highly recommend it. At the very least you’ll get some laughs out of it. Encyclopedia Obscura has an entertaining review of the game.

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~ by Ian D. on April 20, 2008.

One Response to “Spiritual Warfare”

  1. Oh my god. Rad. Will says he’s played it too!

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