Monday, November 10, 2014

Nerdicus NES Review #149: Crystalis

Title : Crystalis

Publisher : SNK

Developer : SNK

Genre : Action RPG

Players : 1 Player

Release Date : 1990

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $15-$20

CRYSTALIS - the real question about this game is how do you pronounce the damn title? Is it CRYSTAL-IS? or CRYSTAAAHLIS? Debate - and choose...personally, I prefer the Japanese title: GOD SLAYER: SONATA OF THE FAR AWAY SKY. Tell me that isn't the most epic title you have ever seen? Why they changed it to Crystalis is beyond me, because I would have killed for a title like that on the opening screen. A tad long, but incredibly awesome.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to writing this review. Crystalis remains, to this very day, one of my favorites, if not my favorite game for the 8-bit generation. I don't care about it's flaws (which I'll get to), or the fact that it's nowhere near perfect, but for me this game holds a lot of special memories in this little gamer nerd's heart.

It was one of the first games I had ever owned that begged me to replay it. Crystalis doesn't even offer a lot of replay value. Hell, it's one and done type of game, but that didn't matter to me. It was the fact that Crystalis offered something that not many action RPG's had at the time. A legitimate story, and an emotional attachment to some of the characters you meet. In fact, there were only a few games out for the NES where I got that feeling from the characters I played as, but Crystalis was filled with intrigue, conspiracy, deaths of major characters, and a story line that was although a bit bizarre drew you in like no other game had at the time.
Excuse my bias while I review this. I can't help it though. This game is my baby. And for some reason unbeknownst to me, I do not have a complete copy of this game which is downright annoying me as I replayed this again for the hundredth time. Whether it was on the NES or the GBC re-release (which doesn't do the original justice, because they changed a lot of things around that detracted from the story / gameplay).

Surprisingly enough, the game didn't even garner that much commercial success. Like many of the NES games that are popular now, this game has received a cult following as of late. Sure, you can compare this game to the likes of Zelda, as there are a lot of similarities. In fact, I compare it a lot to games like Soul Blazer. It's a traditional top down action-rpg, but I don't know. There's something about it. Something special. 

I can't wait any longer. I need to jump right into this. 

You play as an unnamed hero, awakening from a cryogenic sleep over a hundred years after a global nuclear war. The world has pretty much reverted back to it's dark age roots, it is now in danger of being overrun by the tyrannical Draygonia Empire. With the assistance of four wise sages, and a mysterious woman, it's up to you to collect the four legendary swords, and put a stop to Empire's quest for global conquest.

Can't get much more fantasy than that, am I right? Sure the story is a cookie cutter RPG story line, but don't let that fool you. They milk the storyline for ALL it's worth in this game. And that's what I want to emphasize. Crystalis puts a lot of thought into connecting your character with every important figure in the game. It forces you to talk to people, and interact with certain elements and areas before moving on to the next, drawing you into the story and it's people.

It's one of the first few action RPG games that required you to go back and explore previous areas, and talk to people after certain events happened just to see dialogue changes. You didn't get that from many of these types of games, and it certainly was something that was common in the traditional RPGs.

The game is linear in a sense that your hand is held in telling you where to go and what you need to acquire in order to get there. Maybe you need a gas mask to get past a poisonous forest, or perhaps you need a fire orb to blast your way through an ice wall in a mountain. Still, each area that you progress to feels like an absolute accomplishment in discovering some place new. 

Oh...and let me just say there are teary moments in the game where your friends DIE. A LOT. Bastard Drayognians.....

Like most action-rpgs, you'll find yourself leveling up, collecting items, buying restorative gear, resting at an Inn, and killing a whole lot of monsters. What did you expect? That's the basic formula of an action RPG. Now, while most people find grinding to be repetitive, I find it relaxing. I admit, I enjoy the monotony of continuously slaying the same monster over and over again just to gain a few levels, but with this game, you actually HAVE to grind.

Some monsters won't even become damaged if you are too low of a level. Add to the fact that certain monsters are only able to be damaged by certain swords, and the game turns into a good old-fashioned item switch cluster. That's probably the one thing I didn't like about the game. I found myself having to jump into the item menu constantly, just to switch my swords because a monster couldn't be damaged. Then I'd find myself switching back since my other sword was stronger. A tad annoying, but you get used to it.

And don't even get me started on the bosses. They will prove to be insanely challenging at some points, but they all have a glitch that can be abused to beat them. I really suggest not using the glitches though. It detracts from the game as you may have guessed.

The best part of the game is acquiring new items that all serve some sort of purpose to moving you forward in the game. My favorite of course, being the jumping boots, as well as the dolphin caller. No joke, you get to ride a dolphin. How freaking cool is that!? And also probably one of my favorite segments of the game.

Swords are of course the focus of the game, and you'll find yourself collecting four different elemental based ones. Air, Water, Fire, and Lightning swords. Ultimately, you'll get a "master sword" too, but I won't spoil the fun on that. Swords have two forms of upgrades, which allow for special attacks that drain your MP. They come in the shapes of orbs and bracelets and all require a charge before being used.

But Swords aren't your only friend. The sages will grant you new spells the more you progress into the game and they'll certainly be of assistance to you. Anything from restorative spells, to transportation spells, to my all-time favorite of telekensis. Come on, who doesn't like sending a psychic message over to a sage, only to have him ignore you because you bothered him too many times.

Now, the game has issues. Don't get me wrong. It has a bunch.

Enemies are a LITTLE BIT annoying, and it mainly comes down to the fact that they spawn randomly, are always a pain in the arse to kill, and have horrendous hit boxes. You'd think you're smacking a spider in the face with your sword, but you're not. You'll need to take the time to learn what's effective for each enemy, and use your attacks accordingly.

The grinding is annoying for some people, but hey, I love it so I won't complain too much about it. But it's also the first game I've seen where you pretty much have to be certain levels or you won't be able to even come close to getting past the area. Unless you like hearing that metallic ding of your weapons being more or less ineffective.

But that's it...those are the only two things that bothered me about this game.

Visually, it's stunning. Sure, there are better games out there for the SNES, but this one is vibrant, and the animations and graphics of your characters are really impressive for an 8-bit game. The bosses are exceptionally well done.

The real kicker to this game though, is its phenomenal soundtrack. Some of the catchiest tunes can be found in this game, and it draws you into the world like no other game did at the time. Well, action RPG wise. Sure I can say that Zelda, and the Dragon Warrior series are better games, but this loved it.

Please, yourself a favor. Take a day, and play this game if you haven't already. Hopefully, you'll love it as much as I did. Now for my biased final score...who cares about the problems!? NOT ME!

Final Score (out of 5) :

Until next time. Keep on gaming!



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