Review by fduboo

Reviewed: 02/23/00 | Updated: 02/23/00

Sometimes the most unexpected games are the ones that pleasantly surprise us.

Crystalis came out of nowhere. Amidst a world ruled by Link and Zelda (and somewhat successfully emulated by Battle of Olympus and other wannabes), this game took adventure to a new level. Crystalis manages to maintain a classic action feel, but adds enough RPG elements to create a game with depth that the Zelda series has never been interested in attaining. In light of this, the game holds up after repeated play and proves satisfying.

The story of the game goes like this: the world has suffered an apocalypse, a nuclear winter if you will that has nearly wiped out existence as we know it. Evil forces are on the rise now that the forces of good have been weakened. You and your ''fraternal twin sister'' Mesia, who were cryogenically frozen prior to the war so that your powers could be tapped if needed, have been unfrozen. Your sister has gone on ahead of you, but you must undertake a quest of swords and sorcery in order to bring justice to the land and defeat the forces of Baronia. You must resurrect the ancient and most powerful sword, Crystalis.

The grpahics in this game are functional and at times well done. The hero has some purplish hues in his clothing that isn't really all that great to look at, but the landscapes and enemies are detailed. There's wavy grass and muddy swamps to explore, and some of the spell effects that you gain as a result of discovering the Swords of the Elements are well-depicted throughout the action, which occasionaly (but very rarely) slows down.

The music in Crystalis is better than most adventure games. Though it doesn't really aproach the level of polish found in the Zelda series, the cave music is frosty and mystical and the title screen tunes are heroic and inspiring. The spell sound effects are crystal clear, but the shrill noise used to depict a sword's ineffectiveness against a particular enemy is just plain annoying.

Here is an area in which the game shines. You travel in traditional action/adventure style, with an attack button (B) and the A button used to perform whatever action you select using the items in the speedy subscreen. This easy to navigate menu allows you to select from the magic spells or the special items that you have already collected. This works smoothly and seamlessly, rarely disrupting even the boss fights. Even powering up the sword by holding B (and only when you are standing still) seems intuitive and just right.

Ahh, yes. Crystalis is no slouch in the gameplay department. It consists of top perspective action like Secret of Mana, and you gain experience with each enemy that you destroy (incidentally, they may also drop coins for purchasing items and armor in the towns). You gain levels once you acquire enough experience, which makes you a stronger warrior. In addition, the game makes nice use of elders that each teach you two different spells that correspond to their specialty. Zebu, for example, is a crotchety old man that can teach you the spell Paralysis (hmm...). The game also nicely has you find the four elemental swords (Wind, Fire, Water, and Thunder) and you find power-ups that allow you to charge your sword for up to three levels in order to unleash a fearsome attack. The caves and dungeons scattered throughout the land are somewhat varied and very deep and twisting, but occasionally they get monotonous (Mt. Hydra is a prime offender). There are plenty of adventure and RPG things to do in this game, and Crystalis achieves just the right mix to make things work beautifully. Scenes like the swamp where you fight a gigantic bug are memorable.

The post-apocalyptic theme of Crystalis pays lip service to science fiction and fantasy at the same time, and the combination never feels awkward or unwieldy. The twin sister idea is nice and makes you feel like part of a loose team and the Boss monsters are truly evil and difficult. Character development isn't particularly strong, but the storyline itself makes up for a lot of this.

Replay Value
The replay value of Crystalis isn't really all that great. It IS a lengthy and engrossing game, however, and the Save feature is welcome. It is well done and will stand the test of repeated plays.

Average (8/10)...Crystalis manages to rise above the best of the Zelda clones and is an unexpected surprise. It has everything that makes a game enjoyable and a level of polish that elevates it beyond the glut of games that are just barely above averages (see any game I have given a 6 or 7).

Rating: 8

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