Review by buruburu1
A Great Game You Might Have Missed
Graphics (26/30, judged by era)- Arriving fairly late in the system’s life, Crystalis benefits from the developer having had a number of titles under its belt. It is often compared to the original Legend of Zelda in terms of being an action / adventure title. In terms of that comparison, certainly this is the more visually attractive title. However, it isn’t the best-looking game on the system, and probably is not the best-looking game that SNK produced in the era: Victory Road may have been more attractive.
Still, this is a solid title visually, spanning many environments and large, complicated dungeons. The characters and enemies are large and clear.
Sound- FX/Voice (6/10) This game has a competent but typical batch of mostly battle related sounds, nothing special and nothing that needs to be played with the sound up.
Sound- Music (8/10) The sound track, however, really shines, and is the best that SNK produced in this era. At times, the music seems like it might have been influenced by Castlevania, which is no problem at all.
Game play- Length/Replay (15/15) I probably spent 10-12 hours working through this game. A few folks said it might be finished faster, but I highly doubt this for a first play-through. Your character can hit a maximum level of 16, and though the game is scaled so that you probably hit that at the end, it encourages you to grind a bit to hit it earlier.
As well, as with many games of this era, there are certain times when it is difficult to figure out what to do. Back in the day I might have dedicated a couple of hours to just revisiting past areas and dungeons, trying to find what I missed, but I don’t have that much patience anymore. So after maybe 20-30 minutes of having no idea what to do, I consulted a guide for the next portion, to continue on. If you play this entirely in old school ways, including mapping out your own dungeons on paper, I can see this heading towards the twenty hour mark, particularly because the game manual tells you all the items you can get, so as the game nears the end you would start to backtrack to find a few of these.
Game play- Game Design (32/35)- This is a fun town, field, dungeon, boss, repeat type of action role playing game. While most of it is fairly linear in its progression there are a couple of places where the game allows for a couple of options, certain items that are not needed, for instance. But generally you start in town, talk to townspeople, get items, some of which can be bought at shops and which bear directly on an upcoming quest.
Then you head out into a large field area, from which there are usually multiple destinations you can go. Of course, early on these are more constrained in terms of the order you have to take them on, but as you go one a couple of these paths can be done one before the other or may require backtracking to them later with another item in tow.
The field itself is largely for exploring to find these paths, and battling. There are usually no quest-related things to do on them. But you may use these areas to level up. As the game progresses, the enemies you find in these fields can be quite a challenge, reducing your health to where you enter a dungeon quite weakened.
From the field, the dungeons offer long, often maze-like challenges. Enemies are frequently encountered and re-spawn very quickly after scrolling off-screen. This creates an occasional exploit for experience farming, but more often than not becomes a headache as difficult enemies continue reappearing in your path. The dungeons often get you lost and can be multiple levels, including cliffs where you can fall off and end up a floor below, costing you considerable back tracking. Once key items are picked up and a boss fought, you find yourself in the next town, which has its own unique field and attendant dungeons. While you can walk your way back through many past areas, you will inevitably rely on the warp ability and item to transport you to the various towns you gain access to. Because the economies inflate in standard video game style, it becomes easier to warp back to the first town to pay for a night at an inn than pay inflated rates in later towns. A rather simple exploit there.
Along the way the story develops in ways I did not much care about (since I’m not huge on plot) but which were interesting enough to propel me forward even if not interesting enough to remember much about it.
Along the way you will meet certain key characters who you can eventually communicate with via telepathy, which creates an interesting hint system, as at different times these characters will provide useful clues for what you should be doing next.
One of the biggest challenges of the game comes in its fighting. It is not so much that battling enemies is difficult, though it sometimes is. It is rather that the weapons and armor you get can be given elemental powers via items. This powers up the weapons and armors, and allows for charged attacks and such. As well, you get into the having the right element for the right enemy, and that is where the challenge ramps up. Particularly later, you end up with multiple tough enemies in the same area or dungeon, which require you to constantly get into your menu to switch elements. That part becomes a bit tiring and frustrating, especially when some of those enemies are fast moving and do a lot of damage.
Boss fights tend to be interesting and exciting, challenging while not being overly frustrating. And as the game goes on the field and dungeons become a bit more complex.
Overall it is a good game, that asks you to explore a lot, to make your way through every nook in a dungeon so you will not miss a special upgrade. You will trigger events and paths forward through interactions with non-player characters. And you will experience a fantasy world and game that brings in aspects of science fiction.
One last nit is the save function, which is not at all clear. To save your game you have to enter a sub-menu. But when you power on the system, the Continue option is not going to help you: this is what you can choose when you die. But to load a save file, you have to choose either New Game or Continue (though Continue is faster since it omits the introduction cut scene), then go to the menu, then the sub menu, then load a file. It is just really weird to have to essentially dip your toe into a new game just to load your saved status. It is a definite quirk in an otherwise well crafted game.
**Final Thoughts- I probably would have loved this as a kid, but I did enjoy it even as an adult.
Product Release: Crystalis (US, 07/31/90)
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