Review by nastynate3118

Reviewed: 09/19/12

I wonder if the the NBA Jam guy did the voice acting in this game...

Introduction

Light Crusader is a virtually unknown title for the Sega Genesis released in 1995. A friend had given it to me in 2003 because he was getting rid of games he did not want and I did not want to see any perfectly working Sega games end up in the garbage. I played it at the time and was thoroughly unimpressed. I discovered it two days ago amongst my collection and decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. While overall it was pretty fun I was not exactly blown away by this game. At its core, it is pretty solid but ultimately this game feels underdeveloped.

Gameplay –5/10

The game is an action-adventure RPG with a heavy emphasis on puzzles. You play as Sir David, a traveling knight who stumbles across a town that has its villagers disappearing into a nearby labyrinth. You navigate the labyrinth, solving puzzles and battling enemies, until you reach the bottom level and resolve the mystery of the missing townspeople. Enemies are relatively sparse in this game and instead you focus more on solving puzzles and getting to deeper levels of the dungeon. There is a very Metroid-like quality to the gameplay that features plenty of backtracking to older areas to access previously inaccessible areas.

The combat system in this game is very light. You can hack and slash, use magic or jump in the air and do a diving slash. 99% of the enemies in this game, bosses included, can be killed with just a few simple sword slashes. The beginning of the game features a little bit of strategy in terms of avoiding enemy attacks and attacking them at the right moment, but once you upgrade your equipment you can easily dispatch enemies with no problem at all by mindlessly hacking at them. Sometimes they drop gold or power-ups/equipment, but this usually isn’t worth the trouble of dealing with the enemies. The only times in the game where you must fight enemies are in rooms where the game announces “beat them!” in order to proceed, and these are far and few between.

The magic system is really intricate but sadly plays an extremely small role in the game. You have four elements (earth, fire, air and water) that can either be cast individually or combined with other elements to form new spells. You are given access to these elements almost immediately so magic is available throughout the game. While there is a lot of depth and creativity to this, magic is really unnecessary for most of the game. I can only recall two or three instances where I needed to use magic to defeat an enemy; the only other spell I can recall using consistently is the healing spell.

Since combat plays such a small role in the game, puzzles dominate the gameplay and you will spend most of your time solving them. They involve block puzzles and manipulating blocks into certain tile switches to progress. There are obstacles involved and later in the game giant rolling balls and exploding barrels are thrown into the mix. Solving these puzzles can be extremely frustrating for two reasons. First, the physics in this game are pretty atrocious. When David jumps, he floats around and takes his time landing. This is annoying because certain puzzles force you to jump up and push something at the same time and the physics make this a tedious task. The second problem comes with the fact that the slightest touch that David has against an object will send it flying across the room. This is a huge problem with the rolling ball puzzles and how easily they can go sailing in the wrong direction, forcing you to restart the puzzle. It also doesn’t help that several puzzles in the game are extremely cryptic and without a walkthrough you’d really have to spend a tremendous amount of time engaging in trial and error to figure these puzzles out.

The gameplay has a solid foundation but the lack of balance is where it falls apart. There is a major emphasis on puzzles, so much to the point where combat takes a backseat and is barely noticeable in the game. Puzzles just come at you over and over and after a while it becomes really tedious since a majority of them are block puzzles. This lack of balance really is detrimental and leaves the player desiring more.

On a side note, I think it’s pretty silly how you can shove everything you see around. NPCs, treasures, enemies….nothing can withstand Sir David walking into them and pushing them around.

Interface- 6.5/10

The interface in this game is pretty ho-hum. I’m not a fan of how the text is overly large and you have to scroll several times just see the full sentence. There are several parts especially toward the beginning of the game where the text scrolls down automatically, which can be annoying.

The menu cursor is far too sensitive and moves too fast, often making you choose the wrong option. The inventory option is neat considering how much space you have to hold items, but half of the items you find are seemingly useless and the game provides no explanation for what they are. Finally, the map that the game provides is perhaps the plainest map I’ve ever seen and is of very little help when you are trying to navigate through the dungeon.

Story- 6/10

The story in this game starts off pretty strong but is unfinished by the time you reach the end of the game. As I stated before, you are presented with a mystery of villagers disappearing and David being tasked to find them. As you progress through the labyrinth that is outside of town, you discover a group of goblins that have an underground lair and are mining for something, but this point is unresolved and never expanded upon.

There is no development at all and the characters in the game are all very one-dimensional. David is a goody-two shoes kind of guy who has the most boring lines I’ve ever seen from a main character. As you progress through the dungeon you find villagers and supposedly rescue them, but this does not result in any reward or plot advancement. Eventually you do uncover the reason why they are being abducted and discover a pretty sinister plot, but it is never really developed and the whole goblin storyline is completely dropped. The ending of the game is pretty much a cop-out; be careful if you blink during it, because you just may miss it all.

Graphics -5/10

Graphically, this game struggles. Variety is a major problem in terms of the environments. You only explore a town, a castle and the labyrinth. The town and castle look incredibly generic so it is up to the labyrinth to be unique. Most of the areas look pretty much the same with different colors employed. While the backgrounds are reasonably detailed, there is not a lot of variety to them and most of the dungeon floors look the same. There is one area that really stands out, however. In the fifth floor of the labyrinth is a dark crystal world that has several areas you can access, with the crystal as a hub. They all have a “theme” such as an Ice World, a Darkness World, etc. The graphic designers did a great job with this part and creating eight separate mini-dungeons. Sadly, this creativity is not really carried over throughout the rest of the experience.

Depth is a major problem in this game. The camera is in an isometric view, similar to Sonic 3D Blast or Xenogears. There are some parts where you have to jump on moving platforms and other objects and it is very difficult to tell depth and where you are going to land. There are also parts in the game where you can’t tell if something is part of the background or not.

The character sprites look pretty generic and the animation is very stiff. I don’t understand why David is always standing there panting. Why did they design him like that? Also, the way he and the goblins walk is very unnatural and looks robotic. Finally, the avatars that the game uses for text boxes look absolutely hideous.

Sound/Music - 7/10

The audio is the high point of the game. There is a lot of great battle music and some of the dungeon themes are pretty catchy. I really like the menu music as well; it has a serene sound that is pretty relaxing. On the other hand, some of the music is pretty obnoxious and goes overboard with that funky Genesis sound.

The sound effects are a mixed bag. The major complaint I have is that they are so limited and some of the sound effects do not match what is happening at all. For example, you could be killing a monster and it will make the same sound effect it makes for a human screaming. It makes no sense.

The voice acting in this game is absolutely hilarious. Sometimes you will walk into a room and a mysterious announcer will yell “beat them!” and thus you must defeat all of the enemies present. Sometimes you will hear “answer the riddle!” (in a faux-British accent that is not present on any of the other voice tracks) which means you need to solve a puzzle in that particular room. My favorite is “IT’S GONNA KILL YOU!!” which you hear when you are low on health. It’s as if the game is telling you that you fail at playing and need to stop before you die. The only complaint I have about these random one-liners is that the voice acting is pretty muffled, which is common on the Sega Genesis. Personally, I think it gives the game some charm and personality, so I really enjoyed it.

Play Time/Replayability - 6/10

For an action RPG, this game is extremely short. Following a walkthrough, I finished the game in 4 hours and 15 minutes. I spent one hour grinding attempting to find a rare armor that an enemy will randomly drop. Without a guide I could see this game taking well over seven or eight hours to finish simply due to the fact that many of the puzzles in the game are extremely cryptic and this artificially increases the game length. There is not a whole lot of content and the game feels unfinished. The replay value is pretty minimal considering there are no sidequests or anything extra to do while playing the game. After you beat it, you’ve pretty much experienced everything the game has to offer. Alternate difficulty settings and sidequests would have really increase the replay value.

PROS
+Magic system is intricate and creative
+Mystery presented at the beginning of the game is interesting
+Dark Crystal area has fantastic graphics
+Catchy dungeon and battle music
+Voice acting gives the game some charm

CONS
-Lack of balance between combat and puzzles
-Physics in this game are atrocious
-Combat (especially magic) plays a very small role in the game
-Various interface problems
-A major plotline is abandoned halfway through the game
-Various narrative problems
-Animation is stiff and awkward
-Not a lot of variety in terms of environment
-Some of the music is obnoxious
-Sound effects often do not match what is happening on screen
-Minimal replay value

Final Recommendation

Overall, I wasn’t terribly impressed with Light Crusader. It was a decent time-passer and I got a few laughs out of the voice acting, but it is a mid-lower tier Sega Genesis game. There are far better games out there, so you should check out those instead. If you do come across Light Crusader in your collection like I did, you may want to give it a shot, especially if you enjoy puzzles. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

Final Score: 5.916/10 rounded to 6/10

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Light Crusader (US, 05/25/95)

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