Introduction: Cleopatra no Mahō features the historical Queen of Egypt as its titular hook — Cleopatra appears at the very end of the game in spirit form, who frees the protagonist Daisuke Kusano’s father from his imprisonment by demons plaguing the area. Daisuke has to acquire the Tears of Isis, items left by the Queen, in order to resurrect her. This is one of Square’s earliest RPGs, helping launch the careers of Nobuo Uematsu, Takashi Tokita (director of Chrono Trigger), and Hiromichi Tanaka (director of Chrono Cross).
Character Design/Personality: You only see Cleopatra’s face in game from what I can see, which is rendered as the stereotypical “beauty of the Nile” passed down in history. She has jewelry that seems appropriate for her time period, as is her skin color and hair, but I’m not entirely sure how often Egyptian people have blue eyes, which seems a bit of an embellishment to me. Her sprite differs a bit from her box art rendition, which heightens the makeup around her eyes and gives her more decadent clothing that still seems apropos. Her skin color, however, is whitewashed in the art.
She does speak to the player at the end, but I am not fully sure of how her personality is conveyed in the original Japanese. There is an unofficial translation of the game that VGMuseum utilized to document the ending of the game here, but I don’t want to cite it beyond mere mention due to it being a fan work.
Impact on Narrative: Daisuke needs Cleopatra to save his father, so she is quite important! She also is in the title!
Positive Aspects: In-game she comes across as culturally appropriate visually, which is huge for 1980s Japan. Square was not above horrific racial depictions (see their Square no Tom Sawyer Famicom game for evidence of this), so this is a plus. It might just be because she’s Cleopatra, but still. She demonstrates great spiritual energy to free Daisuke’s father as well, an indicator of her power (and why the antagonists sealed her away in the first place).
Negative Aspects: She is still a damsel when you get right to it. You have to collect a bunch of key items to free her from her sarcophagus tomb, and she is still a reward for the player due to her very beautifully drawn face.
My Reactions: Overall, this isn’t the best or the worst example of a woman in a NES/Famicom game — Square may be falling into the same old damsel trope plaguing several other games in this series, but they at the very least handled her character with some cultural sensitivity and demonstrated she was a powerful force that scared the enemy to the point of sealing her away…but wouldn’t playing as a badass ghost Cleopatra be more interesting than an average son looking for his father?
Future Appearances: To my knowledge, Square has never returned to this well to revisit the lore or characters of this game.
HG101 Page for Cleopatra – http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/cleopatra-no-mahou/
Chrontendo Episode 20 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Udt0Av_zldY
Wikipedia Page for Cleopatra – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra_no_Mah%C5%8D
VG Museum Ending page for Cleopatra – http://www.vgmuseum.com/end/fds/a/cleopatra.htm