Review by Bouchart
I can't believe it's not Castlevania!
It is impossible to discuss Rusty without mentioning Konami's Castlevania series because Rusty feels and plays much like a Castlevania game, yet Rusty is a very competent and enjoyable platformer if a bit overly difficult at times.
The protagonist is a woman named Rusty, a vampire hunter. In a medieval town the local women are being kidnapped by the vampire lord Monte Carlo. The game's text is entirely in Japanese but the plot isn't complicated and it's easy enough for someone not fluent in Japanese to figure out what is going on based on the animations and cutscenes. Speaking of cutscenes, Rusty's armor is red in cutscenes but blue during gameplay, which is a strange oversight.
The game consists of ten levels which in general are linear. Most levels contain optional areas which may or may not have powerups, and levels typically require some backtracking to acquire keys to unlock doors. Rusty uses a whip to attack enemies and can attack to the left, right, and directly upwards. Rusty can also use her whip to swing from certain objects to cross gaps. Powerups include an invulnerability shield, an owl which attacks nearby enemies, an energy ball attack that hits most of the screen, and a clock that slows down enemies. Small statues contain keys, powerups, and sometimes extra time or even an extra life on rare occasion. Often these are hidden, requiring the player to stand and attack in a certain place before they are visible.
Controls take a little bit of effort to master. To run the player presses up and either left and right, rather than double tapping left or right or holding a button. While running, Rusty can jump farther, but not as high, and stopping from a run takes a half second or so. For the most part it's better to walk unless obstacles in the level require the player to run. Powerups are used by pressing the jump and attack button at the same time. Every now and again it doesn't register properly.
The levels have a variety of themes and styles. The first is a ruined town, the second is a rainy forested area, and so on. All are colorful and vibrant, even the caves level which one might think would be drab and bland. Enemies have a typical horror theme, and include ghosts, skeletons, leeches, a type of crawling bug, plant monsters, armored monsters and the like. Each level ends with a unique boss, with the exception of the last level which has three bosses in succession.
Rusty features a fantastic soundtrack. Each level has different music, and it's worth playing the game just to listen to it. Sound effects are simple yet functional. However, each boss screams the same feminine sounding scream when defeated, which is a bit jarring when fighting certain bosses.
The difficulty is a bit excessive at some parts. In particular there is one level, the clock tower, which requires near-flawless play to complete. The level automatically scrolls and has a number of well-hidden keys needed to unlock doors. It's also one of the few levels where the time limit is also an issue. Bosses generally require a lot of trial and error to learn their patterns, and the boss of level nine is especially brutal without an invulnerability powerup. While the game is difficult there are unlimited continues, although using a continue resets the score to zero and starts the current level from the beginning rather than at a checkpoint.
Fans of the Castlevania series will notice a number of curious similarities between Rusty and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. Both have anime-style artwork, and Rondo of Blood was the first Castlevania game to use this style. The cutscene for the first level of both games prominently features tombstones in a graveyard; both first levels start in a ransacked town and the bosses of both first levels are a flying wyvern type of enemy. The second level of both games are both in rainy forested areas. Each game features a level in a cathedral with a very prominent bell. Both games feature rescuing captured women as the main plot point. Some enemy designs are also similar; for example, the third form of the bone golem boss in Rondo of Blood looks very much like a larger, recolored version of a common enemy in Rusty. There are probably a bunch of other similarities as well. The remarkable thing is, Rusty was released a couple of months before Rondo of Blood was released, so it is wrong to say that Rusty copied Rondo of Blood. In fact, it is possible that Konami was involved in the development of Rusty in some way; perhaps it was an abandoned project that was sold off. Of note, the final boss looks like it inspired the design of the final boss of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which was released a few years after Rusty.
Anyone who likes Castlevania games is going to like Rusty, even if it is a bit on the difficult side. It has great level design, music, and gameplay. Don't dismiss it as a mere "clone" of Castlevania.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Rusty (JP, 07/16/93)
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