Review by transience
A fun action RPG forgotten over time.
Crystalis is a simple, enjoyable action RPG for the NES that has fallen out of the public consciousness over the last 15 years. Crystalis was relatively popular when it came out, landing in Nintendo Power's Top 10 for several months, but gets more and more obscure with each passing year.
Crystalis constantly gets compared to Zelda 1 due to its top-down view and hero with a sword/shield, but it's a completely different game. Crystalis features multiple swords that you'll have to switch between in order to finish the game, experience points and levels, lots of different consumable items and a thin plot.
Crystalis's plot is nothing to write home about, but it keeps the game moving and the translation can be pretty funny at times. The game follows a linear path, but when you reach a new area you'll have a few different locations to explore as you try and figure out where you're going. Crystalis is pretty good at letting you know what you need to do and where to go, though you may need a FAQ to figure out some things near the end.
Crystalis's gameplay is where it shines. In true NES style, it's very simple and charming - B attacks, A casts spells or jumps if you have a certain accessory equipped. Gameplay generally revolves around elemental swords - you'll find four swords throughout the game and you'll need to switch between them in order to defeat different enemies and to pass through different barriers. You can charge up your weapon and shoot a blast of whatever element you have equipped and you'll find powerups that will increase the strength of your blasts.
Dungeons in Crystalis are mostly in the form of mazes. They can get a little frustrating because every room looks the same and it's really easy to go in circles, but they still manage to be fun. You get experience for killing enemies too, so it's not a complete waste of time. You'll learn eight different spells in Crystalis, all of which are useful: your standard heal spell, a telepathy spell for when you need guidance, a spell that heals status, a teleport spell that lets you warp to towns, etc etc. Crystalis features a decent difficulty level -- the regular enemies are pretty simple to kill but the bosses can really tear into you if you don't know how to dodge their attacks, especially near the end. You can die without blinking if you walk into a big attack.
The music in Crystalis is some of my favourite chiptunes on the NES. The main world map theme is one of the most catchy songs I've ever heard and ends up in my head for months after I hear it. The rest of the soundtrack is pretty good by NES standards.
Crystalis is a solid game, but it has a few problems that tend to annoy players. First of all, you'll be spending a lot of time hitting select to switch weapons. Every enemy has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, meaning you'll be needing to change weapons for every enemy at times. Ideally there would be a button to switch between weapons, but there's no such thing here. The other notable complaint is that you need to be a certain level in order to hurt enemies. If you get to a boss on level 10 that you need to be 11 for, you won't be able to damage them at all. Levelling usually just requires finding a good levelling spot and grinding for five or so minutes, but the fact that it's there at all is pretty silly. You'll need to be at the max level in order to finish the game so finding good levelling spots is key. A smart player should have no problem abusing certain rooms for easy experience.
Despite those annoyances, Crystalis is a remarkably fun game that has a high replay value due to dungeons you'll never memorize, trigger points you always seem to forget and a decent difficulty level. 15 years later, it's still a very enjoyable game to play and is easily one of the best games made for the NES.
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