Old RPG review #5: Crystalis

NuMetalManiak Crystalis is a top-down action RPG for the NES developed by SNK. Although it wasn't widely popular, it was more or less a cult classic because it was widely received by the ones who've played it. Let's see how my reception of this game went.

Gameplay: This NES game plays like a Legend of Zelda game. Your character wields a sword, armor, and shield. There are different types of armor and shields bought at the shops in the game, but the four elemental swords in the game have to be found in dungeons or caves. Something that is notable in later LOZ games, namely a Link to the Past and the Oracle games is that you can charge your sword by holding the button down. Well, you can do that in this game with your sword as well. And best of all, there's three levels. The second and third ones involve elemental orbs and bracelets, respectively. The second one is capable of destroying certain types of barriers depending on the sword used. And the third level uses up magic. I liked how you could just swipe at enemies with the sword or charge a sword and blast them with a long-range attack. Swords Grade: A+

Oh yeah, there is also magic in this game, which there are certain spells to use. Too bad that it could be consumed easily and there aren't many options of restoring MP. HP can be restored with Refresh, but it is the most costly spell. Magic Grade: B-

I have a good complaint about many enemies, and that would be hitboxes. Enemies hurt you when touching you, but some enemies make it feel cheap in how they could somehow collide with the player. The spider enemies are a big case in this regard, as I read somewhere about their hitboxes being too large. Now that I've mentioned enemies I will also say that some of them have long range attacks as well. Some just damage you, but with the enemies comes bad status changes as well. The most common two were poison and paralysis. Paralysis in this case prevents you from charging your sword, and both paralysis and poison don't wear off. Petrification also exists but it does wear off thankfully, as does MP Drain, but both suck regardless. But the absolute worst status I found was the slime transformation. It is the only one that prevents you from using magic and the only means of curing were Fruit of Repun or leaving the screen you were on. Although this being an action RPG, you can avoid these by dodging, or also having the right equipment. For being diverse, the creative enemies and bosses get an A.

Still, however, the big caveat with fighting enemies is that they may have immunities. If a certain elemental sword makes a clonking noise, it won't work, so I had to try another one. And even then one of the biggest problems with Crystalis was that certain bosses, and even certain enemies, were TOTALLY immune unless I was at the right level. I got to the second boss too early and was unable to even scratch him, figured out I had to be level 6 in order to harm the boss. This meant that I had to go back and kill a number of enemies for experience. There were a few places I found to help with the grinding process. The good thing about experience is that I can see how much I have on a current level, as well as how much more I need for the next. Experience gets a B.

Finally on the gameplay aspect, items. Plenty of good items here, like the Opel Statue that could help you continue when you die, as well as status-curing items. I didn't find the Rabbit Boots too useful, except for hopping across dangerous murks that sap HP. The Power Ring and Warrior Ring made for two OP items. The former doubles your attack beyond belief while the latter allows a Level 1 sword attack anytime. The key items, that's another story. There are a few hints on what you need. This being an NES game though, it's a scavenger hunt for these items, so I did use a guide on GameFAQs. The "Bow" items are required for the penultimate boss to show his true form, and they were pretty hard to come by. Items Grade: B-

Overall gameplay grade: B+

The gameplay is pretty grotesque with enemy hitboxes, but to counter this are the cool elemental swords and their long-range level attacks, plus magic, accessories, and armor to find that help your character's cause.

Characters: Not a whole lot to notice. Your main character is unnamed (so you choose his name). He has his assists with several other friendly people such as Akehana and Stom, as well as four sages named Zebu, Tornel, Asina, and Kensu. With those allies comes a vile cast of hostile villains. The big bad is some emperor called Draygon, and his "Finest Four" are pretty ruthless bosses, each hard to beat on their own and having their own unique elemental weakness. Worst of all, they all have to be fought twice (excepting Karmine, thank god). Draygon himself has a "final form" (yes, insert your favorite DBZ joke here) revealed by the Bow of Truth. The enemies and allies you fight are pretty dynamic, at least for an NES game, and I like it. Grade: A

Plot/Setting: So, your main dude wakes up with no memory of anything that happened before. He seeks help from the four aforementioned sages who help him and he learns more about the past. Much of the actual story happened before the game starts, which kinda sucks, but at least it has a bit of interest, as it is post-apocalyptic in story. Before the game starts, the world has apparent suffered a nuclear holocaust of sorts, which explains some of the monsters in the game, as well as the primitive living style of the remaining humans. A tower was built to prevent the same catastrophe from happening again, but this Draygon guy wants to take control of the tower in order to take over the world. So with that in mind, our player character must stop him of course. There are a number of sub-plots that accompany the main plot, and they're cool as well. At the end after beating Draygon, your main character reaches the tower and meets another one like him, Mesia, and she combines all four of your elemental swords into the game's namesake, the Crystalis sword. He later destroys the DYNA computer (the final boss, who is a pushover IMO) and the game ends with you and Mesia leaving the Tower. Grade: A-

Music: The music is a bit quirky, not exactly as decent as Final Fantasy games, but then again, the upbeat style of most of the tracks fit the places they are in well. I don't think that the music is too out of place, in fact, its quirky nature makes it good. Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

This is a strong example of what action RPG games should be about, combat-based sword action combined with being able to upgrade and charge your abilities. For an NES game, it has a cool plot and some quirky chiptunes as well. Enemies are very diverse, and dangerous to touch. The only true blemishes are the hard-to-find key items and the certain levels being required for harming enemies or bosses. Still, it's one of my highly recommended RPGs, especially for an NES game.