ABOUTReleases: NES: April 13, 1990; GBC: June 26, 2000; SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (Switch, PS4, XB1, Steam): Various 2019
Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1 player
ESRB Rating: Teen
IntroThe late 80s and early 90s were a hell of a time to be a kid--Video games were radical dude. They were also brutally difficult, meant to curb rentals and increase purchases. Somehow, I missed out on a true gem in the era, Crystalis (God Slayer in Japan). Made by SNK for the NES and later released on the GameBoy Color, albeit with some alterations (more here). It was also packaged as part of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for newer hardware.
GameplayThe gameplay is somewhat ahead of its time, making it surprisingly enjoyable in the present day. There is a nice blend between action & RPG. The standard RPG elements are there: you battle enemies on screen and gain experience points to level up your stats; Gear can be bought and sold to help said stats; Combat is a bit finicky but for the era of NES, it's remarkably good. Some 'points' are lost as swapping between swords to damage different enemy types is a bit cumbersome, but... Pacing done quite well as the player movement is fast and enemies can be farmed or avoided entirely as needed. Boss fights, so far (2 down as of this writing) are engaging and varied. Overall, the game difficult is quite enjoyable and relatively easy. I've died a few times (poison is a harsh ailment) but the game 'autosaves' your progress from the last village you depart. You do need to hard save as well for when you close out the game, so keep that in mind if you decide to play.
LengthJudging from the How Long to Beat page for Crystalis, I am looking at between 9 and 11 hours to complete the game. As an older (and less radical) dude, I approve of the short duration even if a younger me would have been totally bummed.
VisualsVisually, the game looks pretty good for a NES title. The areas are somewhat varied, open, and well spaced. I have no complaints in this department, especially for the era.
SoundtrackAudio-wise, ehh... I'm not much of a fan. I'm not really a fan of many game soundtracks though, so take it for what it is. Here's probably the best song from the game, from my limited play time.
FINAL THOUGHTSA few days later and I've just wrapped up the game. What a great experience all around. Even the music grew on me.
The gameplay difficulty spikes at a certain point but is never unmanageable. Once you get the bracelet for the water sword the game becomes entirely trivial, as demonstrated here. This becomes even more severe once you unlock the bracelet for the final elemental sword, Thunder. I can image the labyrinthine paths of the Goa Fortress would have been an absolute nightmare before the internet. In many ways, I wish I had been able to experience that myself. But, I opted to follow a guide when possible and would honestly recommend the same to anyone wanting to play today.
The last bit, while on the floating tower, is quite gorgeous and wildly different from the levels prior. The whole thing is chock full of variety (hardware limitations notwithstanding).
Give Retro Achievements a try if you're playing on RetroArch (and do say hello in the dedicated community thread). I played on 'hardcore' mode and had no major difficulties getting all the achievements. The save state functionality is disabled, but the game is quite generous about auto soft saving. Be sure to save when in towns, as I am pretty certain the soft saves won't survive a power off.
In closing: There's not much to lose by giving this game a shot in 2022: it's short, enjoyable, and entertaining. I'd easily give it a 10/10 given the hardware and time it was released. I still give it a solid 10 when playing today.
SHOUTOUTI also want to give a huge shout out to
for recommending this game to me. Also many props for creating so many wonderful threads, including the RA thread.