Review by Psycho Penguin
"SNK's crowning achievement, and it's not even a fighting game!"
When I was a young kid (okay so I was 11), my grandfather bought me a stack of cool NES games. Well most of them were cool. One game that I remember in particular was Crystalis. I remember when I actually thought this game was the scum of the earth. I don't know what it was, but the game just plain old sucked in my opinion. But a few years later (about 1 year ago), my friend told me to retry it. I thought this was a good idea, considering that my taste of games had gone from TMNT 3 to Final Fantasy 3. So, I replayed it. A week later, I finally beat the darn game.
And I realized something. Crystalis was actually a fun and entertaining game. I do not know to this day why i used to hate this game (at one time i called it the worst nes game i owned), but now i consider it to be a great game. It is a classic adventure game in the reins of Zelda. Its not quite as good as Zelda for NES but it is a good game nevertheless. I have never really found myself attached to a game quite like I was attached to Crystalis for the few weeks I had playing it. it is simply a classic game that I enjoyed playing immensely.
I don't know why I didn't like the game back in the day, but now I truly love this game. Believe the hype, Crystalis is a true classic that will live on for generations to come. While it is not my favorite game of all time, it surely does come close. Once you figure out how to play the game, it suddenly becomes fun as hell. I think I was stuck in the windmill place a while back, as I forgot to put the key into the windmill to open the cave, so I always got pissed off at the game, but once I discovered how big and expansive the game is, it became a true classic in my eyes, where it remains to this day.
The storyline in Crystalis is intense, well thought out, well written, and overall very solid. Basically, the main evil dude has built a tower in the sky, and to get into the tower, you need to get four swords, which combine into one huge sword called Crystalis, which is, you guessed it, the only sword you can use to get into the final dungeon. Like any other role playing game, little storylines intertwine throughout the game, like the mom who's lost her son, and the guy who gives you magic powers. I really enjoyed the story in the game.
The graphics in Crystalis were decent for a NES game and were much better than the graphics featured in Zelda. While Zelda had plain graphics, Crystalis had a more colorful variety to the graphics. The backgrounds were very good, and very colorful. The enemy designs were great although sometimes the same enemy design, only with different colors, were featured. This is a shame but it is not that big of a shock considering a lot of other role playing game/ adventure games do the same thing. Still, a little more variety would have been nice. The menu screens look good although its basically blue with white text and a few stale looking pics. Basically, the graphics arent revolutionary. But overall, they are perfectly acceptable for a NES adventure/RPG.
Music wise, Crystalis doesn't quite live up to the ''classic music'' of other role playing/adventure games (mainly the ones from squaresoft) but the music featured is very good nevertheless. I especially enjoyed the classic music featured in the opening screen and towns throughout the game. Actually, almost every music piece in the game is pretty well done. Some of the music starts off good, then slowly gets annoying, then it suddenly becomes the most annoying music you've ever heard. I only truly liked one of the themes in the game, the Mt. Sabre theme. All of the other music just disappointed me. Sound effect wise, Crystalis has room for improvement, but the sound effects featured in the game really aren't that bad. Overall, Crystalis has good music and sound effects.
Control in Crystalis is very solid, but it can get a tad annoying at times. The cool thing about it was the fact that your character could walk diagonally, which definitely added to the game. In some games, you can only walk left, right, up, or down, and not up-right, down-right, etc. and it really takes away from the game. Not in this case, however, and it is all for the better. You can charge up your sword by holding down the attack button to deliver a devastating wave attack, however this is where the game suffers a tad in the control department. To switch swords, you need to go to the item screen, then you need to manually change swords. It gets annoying after a while, as this game would have benefitted from a Super Nintendo controller and Mystic Quest control scheme.
Gameplay wise, think Zelda. Crystalis uses the same basic gameplay of the classic Zelda for NES, and adds new innovations. Still, the gameplay isn't quite as good as Zelda. Some of the innovations include a wider variety of stages, weapons, and more. Early in the game, one of yuor main objectives is to open a tunnel. To do this, you have to use the windmill key. To get the windmill key, you have to awaken a sleeping guard. But you have to get the flute to awaken the sleeping guard. Crystalis has more depth than Zelda but it just isn't as fun. Regardless, it has classic gameplay.
Some of the little elements in the game makes this seem a lot more complicated than Zelda, and it really is. You get a wide variety of weapons, armor, and items, and each one plays an integral part in the game. For instance, some enemies can only be killed with certain swords, so you will spend a lot of the game trying to figure out which enemies can be killed with each sword. In later parts of the game, you need to use the first swords to kill some enemies, and then later swords to kill other enemies, which gets annoying quickly because you need to keep switching swords a lot.
In addition to the innovative weapons and armor systems, there is also a magic system. You get a certain amount of magic points, and as you progress through the game, you gain new magic spells, which are learned from storyline scenes, so you really don't get to learn magic spells on your own, which is a tad disappointing, but oh well. You can use magic points for magic attacks, as well as level 3 sword attacks, which is a cool idea because it forces you to only use your strongest attacks when you absolutely have to, increasing the challenge of the game.
You level up just as you normally would in role playing games, by killing enemies. As you level up, you get more hit points (shown as a life meter, spanning from left to right), magic points (shown in magic points left/maximum magic points format), attack power, etc. However, the enemies early on in the game are extremely stupid, as they just walk around, making them truly easy to kill, and the enemies don't get tougher until later on in the game, so you basically get to level up easily early in the game. But, it takes a long time to level up, aas you need to kill a TON of enemies just to level up, which is time consuming. At least battles are real time, so you don't need to get into random battles.
Crystalis truly has a high amount of replay value. It takes a while to complete the game, and when you do complete it, you will want to play the game over and over again! I simply loved it, and still enjoy playing it over and over again. Each time I start a new game, I can't wait to see all the locales and enemies I already beat and seen. It's simply a religious experience to play this wonderful game each time, and the scary part is, the game seems to get more fun every time you play it!
Sadly, Crystalis is not really the toughest game to complete. While it is truly easy with a strategy guide, it is best to play a game like this without one to fulfill the gratifying experience you will get playing this classic. Most of the ares are simple enough to defeat, there is not a huge amount of puzzles, and the enemy AI is extremely stupid for the most part, at least early in the game, as the enemies just walk around, so the game is really not as challenging as it could have been. Oh well, it's really the only flaw in an otherwise fantastic game.
Despite the lack of any real challenge, Crystalis is a fantastic game that belongs in every person's gaming library. With fun gameplay, awesome and responsive controls (besides the stupid mapping system), tight graphics, and enjoyable (yet somewhat disappointing) music, the game begs to get a 10, and it gets one from me. What an awesome gaming experience, deserved to be missed by no one.
-The game is simply a blast to play.
-The graphics are superbly designed and very colorful.
-The music is great for the most part.
-The sound effects are very well done.
-The controls are responsive.
Not So Good Points
-The music can get a tad annoying after a while.
-The lack of any real challenge hurts the game in the long run.
-The storyline could have been a little bit better.
I Run Down The Game... Psycho Penguin Style!
Storyline - 9.1/10
Graphics - 9.2/10
Music - 9.4/10
Sound Effects - 9.2/10
Control - 9.3/10
Gameplay - 9.7/10
Replay Value - Above Average
Challenge - Average
Game Length - 8-10 Hours
Is It Worth a Purchase? - Definitely.
Overall - 9.7/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/12/00, Updated 01/02/02
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