Review by Joe the Destroyer
Reviewed: 04/20/01 | Updated: 05/22/06
An action/RPG epic
When the idea of post-apocalypse is brought up, one does not instantly think of swords, dwarves, vampires, and talking bunnies. You might think up guns, banged up cars, bloody battles, and mutants as seen in Fallout. However, one game decided to take an alternate spin on the idea. Thus we find Crystalis; a post-apocalyptic adventure action/RPG stylized like that of Zelda with changeable equipment and experience building. While the action/RPG genre did not really come into its own until the advent of Secret of Mana, Crystalis shows that that wasn't totally due to lack of technology or specs. The game simply floats of its own accord and has stood strong against the trials of time. It sits now as an epic classic in the NES library.
In Cyrstalis, you take the role of a nameless man who was cryogenically frozen. He wakes to find that society as it was once known was destroyed and that he has been fabled to save the world from the new fate it has written for itself. In the wake of the world wide disaster, a new empire has risen and threatens the prosperity of now fragile world by repeating the mistake it once made. Much of the landscape has been poisoned and the animals that once existed are nothing more than brutal mutations. Rising to the occasion and accepting the Sword of Wind, the new hero seeks out the other three swords that are sworn to him in order to defeat Emperor Draygon before the world is plunged into yet another calamity.
The different approach that was taken here is that the world did not develop into a land of left over technology full of guns, half-naked women, and highwaymen robbing any passer-by to make a living. Instead, they took a more medieval approach, where swords and spears rule over the now forgotten guns and automobiles. It seems the world has so finely been thrown back several ages and epochs that almost no trace of the technology that once existed is present anywhere except in the final stages of the game. I guess that's a bit unbelievable, but it makes you think just how bad the disaster must've been. The game's all around plot is actually well done considering. There are a few twists that appear in the game; nothing huge, but certainly interesting.
The gameplay is quite basic, as can be expected from old school goodness. The view is top down with you moving your character on a 2D plane. Unlike many games like this, the movement is not grid-based like Dragon Warrior. Instead, movement is quite free and fluid. This helps make the game a bit more difficult and less restrictive in your movements, making battle (particularly against bosses) that much sweeter. In order to defeat your enemies, you must hack the living hell out of them or charge up your sword to fire a projectile blast. As you collect more items like balls and bracelets, you can fire more powerful projectile or even unleash a devastating spell, respectively. As mentioned, this also sweetens the already furious gameplay, making you think, react, and strategize through those tougher battles. It is, all in all, what separates this game from others of its like.
If the thought of a 2D plane brings up dull, lifeless environments, rest assured that the game's graphics are spectacular. Environments are fully rendered with lush landscape and full trees, not to mention reasonably immense design. While the game is fairly linear, each area allows for great exploration factor to keep the game from going stale. The developers also loaded the game with vibrant colors and astute design to characters, enemies, and other piece of the environment.
The game's sounds are a bit of a mixed bag, particularly in some of the sound effects. Whenever your character is hit, he makes a loud PEEP that gets annoying very fast. To heal him effectively, you can use the spell Refresh (which you use quite often) which also makes a rather irritating sound. Aside from that, most of the sound effects fit perfectly with their given event. Slashing into enemies makes a nice, satisfying hack, like you're slashing right through flash. Some of the explosions that occur when you break down a wall with a powered up sword blast also sound fairly awe-inspiring.
The music, however, helps make up for the slight deficits in sound effects. For the most part, the music is all fitting of the epic feel. Some of the music when you enter temples and dungeons seem to bring up the idea of not just basic dread or evil, but some kind of desperate malevolence. Of course, the boss battle music is some of the best, as it really captures the feeling of the heat of battle.
Easily one of the best features within the game comes from the challenge factor. This does not solely pertain to the difficulty of the game's battle, but also to using clues and inferences to figure out where to go and what to do next. At many points of the game, you may be stuck having to guess at what the closest thing you need to pull of is, and the only clues given to you are sparse snippets of information from townsfolk or storyline characters. A lot of the time, the game simply requires you to find an item that may be hidden in a certain area, or to gain access to an area that is blocked off. In this way, the game's flow is quite linear; there is very little branching. However, this aspect of the game really forces you to think because the item you're looking for may not be where you think it is. Sometimes, you may even have to use certain spells or wait until a certain time to head to a certain area to be able to have any chance to move the game ahead.
Crystalis has cemented itself as a classic that may never die. Even after taking a not-so-successful remake on the GBC, it still seems to endure as a timeless action/RPG. The gameplay is simply stunning and very fluid, the story actually seems to develop quite nicely without overloading players with dialog, the challenge is very well balanced, and the graphics and sound work effectively to sell the atmosphere of the game. It is nice to see that the action/RPG genre is still not dead even today, as more Mana and Kingdom Hearts games continue to make their way out of the woodwork. Perhaps, soon we can see another Crystalis game, possibly even a better remake than the GBC adaptation. Let's all just hope...
Graphics: Some of the best graphics for NES 10/10
Sounds: Good music, semi-poor effects 7/10
Controls: Work very well 10/10
Plot/Storyline: Something very much different from any other NES game. Fresh and original and had a good build to it which many games at that time didn't have 9/10
Gameplay: Loads of fun 10/10
All Together: 10/10
*Epic feel and gameplay
*Perfect control scheme and sensitivity
*Well developed story
*Original game idea
*Some of the sound effects can be a tad annoying. Just a tad, though.
If you own NES and like RPG's, then I suggest you give this a try. It's a very fun game.
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