Review by Pako Pako

Reviewed: 05/06/05 | Updated: 05/11/05

Your Call: Tone-deaf Zelda on Training Wheels or Bad Port?

(updated) First off, read all the reviews for the NES original of the game, then the Gameboy Color Remake. Note the disparity.

Second, I am going to split my personal bias and high standards the original NES Crystalis set for me while reviewing this port, which is difficult considering that I think the original was perhaps one of the best Adventure/RPG of the 8-bit era, and in many respects, outshining even the classic Adventure/Action Zelda.

The new story is that you, a warrior-mage, are resurrected to combat the evil Dragonya who has combined his dark magic with forbidden technology to rule over the people with an iron fist. Assisting you will be your oft-abducted counterpart, Mesia, the four wisemen despite one being a woman, and an old man who saw "the last war on Earth". Helping free towns from Dragonya's oppressive reign, learning magic, rediscovering the 4 elemental blades, and even teaching the locals that knowing is half the battle is what stands between you and the defeat of Dragonya.

Graphics: 8/10 Cramming 8-bits of TV into the palm of your hand
(+) Perhaps the best this game has to offer are the bright bold colors; you can even notice a change when your character dons his armor.
(-) Unfortunately the palette isn't so diverse and the screen is very scrunched.
(-) The cinematics are horribly colored and are as murky as Mortal Kombat II on the Gameboy was.
(-) Compared to the original game, the amount of space visible is almost halved, resulting in compressed battle-screens; the original also had better cinematics

Animation: 9/10 Why does Simea remind me of a purple Luigi?
(+) The animation is crisp and fluid. You can see Simea's legs moving from when he stands still to when he walks, even as he jumps.
(+) Enemies also move very smoothly, as do attacks such as stabbing and magic.
(-) Don't expect the cinematics to be as good as this.
(+) This may actually be a field where the remake is better than the original, which had lots of flickering and slow-down.
(-) But a lot of the pyrotechnic animations were taken away.

Sound: 10/10 Sword... of.. Fire!
(+) There are bells and whistles everywhere, from charging your weapon to talking damage to being poisoned and when you're low on life
(+) There are even voices, garbled as they are
(-) You can't tell the difference between the *grunt* when you're hit and the *oof* when you take no damage
(+) The sounds are crisper than the original, not considering the garbled voices; it also has that neat "low on life" beep

Music: 1/10 Are we at Six Flags yet?
(+) Some (three) themes, such as Goa Fortress, the Icy Mountain and inside towns, are catchy progressive techno...
(-) ...everything else sounds like it was scraped off the floor and feels very inappropriate or too fast-paced for an Adventure-RPG; you actually WANT to be low of life so the BGM turns off
(-) William Tell Overture, this was never it, all but ONE (Goa Fortress) of the simple yet catchy tunes are GONE

Control: 9/10 Remember: people, nice; Monsters, bad
(+) Very simple and fairly responsive; you get a variety of swords different powered-up attacks, or you can just run up and stab enemies too.
(+) You can cast a spell while swinging your sword while encircling your enemy.
(-) Jumps feel like a quick shifts rather than jumps.
(-) The remake has none of the glitches of the original, making towns more friendly. However, combat has suffered instead with reduced visibility.

Mechanics: 2/10 Wait, which buttons does what to the whosis?
(+) Enough monsters around you to level up frequently.
(+) In-game hints via Telepathy.
(-) The screen area is small, but the sprites are large; enemies get to attack you from off-screen
(-) Not enough monsters to kill for GP make the game hard; no GP means having to make do with weaker armor and taking more damage.
(-) Menu screens are a chore to navigate around as you automatically de-equip items while the menu cursor "resets; you end up taking extra time navigating the sub-menus.
(-) You can't jump over anything, like ice-slopes, gaps in the floor, or enemies
(+) EXP rollover is a big bonus over the NES version
(+) Enemies now aim and are more aggressive, but the cramped screen hurts you
(-) Enemies do not respawn until you re-enter the area
(-) Enemies no longer have specific elemental weakness or immunities; it is wrong that you can kill swamp bugs with a Wind Sword while the game tells you to use your newly acquired Fire Sword.
(-) You can no longer jump up ice-slopes or over enemies (you could never jump over weapons or bullets, which was OK)
(-) Money, early on, is a pain to get
(-) The Mimic chests used to give you a warning if you got close by, now you have to "talk" to them so they get a free hit; they also used to give a LOT more allowing you to afford new armor
(-) Telepathy lost the colorful conversation, and the ability to recover MP (but that was when the game was hard)
(-) Lack of a higher jump slows you down

Challenge: 4/10 Bugs are weak against Fire, but everything else works OK too
(+) Lots of dungeons and puzzles to keep yourself busy
(+) Your character takes a lot of damage, more if they can't afford new armor
(+) If you rush, you may walk into an enemy around the corner
(+) Enemies are aggressive and aim at you and chase after you
(-) The power between elemental swords are negligible, so you'll be using Fire Sword at level 2 to hits multiple times instead of anything else; except for certain situations (like forming ice-bridges or blowing down walls)
(-) While aggressive, few enemies use projectile attacks
(-) The Wisemen always appear to tell you what to do next
(-) Enemies can be trapped next to a wall while you whack them
(-) Because some enemies can attack from off-screen, and do a lot od damage, the game may step over the line to "frustrating" at times
(-) Compared to the original, enemies move a LOT slower
(-) There are fewer re-spawning enemies which means you'll rarely get "swamped"
(-) Fewer enemies have projectiles that cause status ailments

Innovation: 9/10 I'm going to take over the world...! Uh, hel-lo?
(+) Lots of quests to do and people to meet.
(+) You travel across a vast area too, and nary a loose end...
(-) ...not accounting for the sappiness of the whole "meet the hero and suddenly see the error of your ways" and "Megalomaniac #847512" syndrome
(-) The loss of the original storyline of a mutated post-apocalyptic world makes this less interesting; in the original, you had people who were in love, afraid, angry, even sarcastic. In this game, everyone cheers just you on.
(-) All of the colorful dialogue when you were morphed was removed.

Fun: 7/10 Right after this, I have to stop another evil Wizard from that other game
(+) There is a lot to do in this game, with lots of different people to meet and dungeons to explore
(-) But the nagging issues of game mechanics & poor music rears their ugly heads every few minutes
(-) The game is also long, linear, and fairly slow-paced
(-) The original was a much faster-paced game with a better score and deeper dialogue

Replay: 0/10 My ears... they bleeeed!
(-) Nothing much to replay: no additional sidequests, high-speed action, interesting dialogue, or alternate paths.
(-) The NES game actually had a few of those!

How My Ratings Work
1.0 (Ow! My Eyes!)
6.0 (Rent it)
8.0 (Keep it around)
9.0 (Still Playing It)
10.0 (Still Playing It While Typing A Review for Another Game)

Average Score: 5.9/10.0
Reviewer's Tilt: -1.5 (what the heck happened to this classic?)
Final Score: 4.4/10.0

I would say it was a pretty-looking Adventure/RPG, although the cinematics are murky. The dungeons (and new dungeons) are challenging and the enemies are smart, but the powerful attacks from off-screen can get frustrating. The dialogue is fairly encompassing, with a lot of side-characters. However, it sounds like everyone is holding your hand in a patronizing way.

Bottomline: This game offers you a big world, even if you only want to see it once.
But do yourself a favor and play the NES Crystalis. The graphics & music may seem glitchy and dated, but you end up playing a better designed, better paced, and more interesting game.

Rating: 5

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