Windwalker is an action RPG created by ORIGIN Systems and initially released for Commodore 64 and Apple II in 1989. In 1990, it saw releases on Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, and Macintosh. Windwalker serves as the sequel to Moebius: The Orb of Celestial Harmony, an original RPG that combined top-down exploration with beat 'em-up-style action scenes. Moebius, released in 1985 for Apple II, followed in the footsteps of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, another title born on Apple's home computer. However, its 8-bit origins were evident with simple graphics and rather limited audio, which didn't improve significantly even with the transition to 16-bit. The Amiga conversion, in particular, faced criticism for its graphics and animations. In this regard, Windwalker sets itself apart from its predecessor with a definitely improved audiovisual presentation, though still not at an excellent level. Notably, the choice of a 16-color palette remains consistent across versions on Atari ST, MS-DOS, Apple IIgs, and Amiga. Considering this was in 1990, more could have been achieved, especially on the Amiga and VGA PC. The music, or rather the absence of it, and the lackluster sound effects would disappoint even on the Commodore 64.
Nevertheless, Windwalker remains a highly original title that was appreciated by many at its time, perhaps mainly due to its very approachable difficulty level (a rarity at the time). Exploration occurs from a top-down, isometric perspective reminiscent of Ambermoon (though with graphics not comparable to Thalion's masterpiece). The game world feels very "alive," featuring a day-night cycle and populated with characters and enemies that appear to follow their own logic. The story and atmosphere draw inspiration from Japanese fantasy, infused with a touch of Eastern philosophy and religion.
When it comes to combat, Windwalker employs a "dueling" mode with a side view that resembles games like Budokan: The Martial Spirit, to name one of the many one-on-one fighting games. This is a decidedly original choice that may or may not appeal to everyone. Unfortunately, the combat sections are slow and certainly not comparable to the best fighting games, even though the animation of the sprites is well done. Players can choose between a "concentration" mode, which resembles turn-based combat, and real-time combat.
Windwalker may not go down in history as the best game of the 1980s, but if you have an appreciation for Japanese settings, martial arts, and RPGs with rich worlds to explore, it's worth taking a look.