This month Tecmo, a new third party publisher, is bringing Rygar to the Nintendo. It is an action and adventure game that you might have seen in arcades over the past year. However, the home version has been refined, with more of a focus on exploration and adventure, rather than straight-up action. The game immediately reminded me of Konami’s Castlevania – right down to the whip-like weaponry.
The setting and story in Rygar are original ideas, sure to capture the imaginations of gamers everywhere. The game takes place in Argool, a holy land that has been taken hostage by the evil King Ligar. You control Rygar, a resurrected warrior given the task of restoring peace to the land. Although there is no in-game story or text, detailed information is found in the instruction manual.
Rygar is armed with a weapon known as the Diskarmer. It can best be described as a powerful yo-yo with a shield at the end. Rygar is able to attack enemies while standing, jumping, climbing, or crouching. Although his Diskarmer is reminiscent of the whip in Castlevania, there really aren’t any upgrades to make it more powerful or longer and there aren’t sub-weapons to collect and use either. You are able to jump on some of your adversaries, which will either stun them or, at the very least allow you to bounce on their backs. In addition to bosses that guard the regions, there are about a dozen different kinds of regular bad guys.
Exploration, deciphering clues, and attention to detail are all crucial parts of this game. Unlike most titles, there are no levels, just different regions that are all connected to each other. There is not a set order on how to complete the regions or go through the game. You’re able to set your own path, however you need to collect certain items to progress through some areas, or to even reach them. You’ll often come to dead ends, which will require you to backtrack to find the item you need to move on. I loved this feature, as it gave me freedom to explore the world on my own terms and added a fun challenge.
You’ll find yourself returning to the same areas several times to successfully complete Rygar. The view switches from side-scrolling action to a top-down view, similar to Commando. You’re able to easily backtrack on the stages, so unlike Super Mario Bros. where you can’t go backward in the level, here it’s encouraged and required. Garloz is the center of Argool, which is played from the top-down perspective. From here you can find the entrances to all the other regions. In the manual there is a map of Garloz, as well as the location of most of the required items. I would strongly advise against using this map, unless you get stuck. Using it simplifies the game too much and takes away from the fun factor of the game. It’s far more enjoyable to explore the world and make discoveries on your own.
When you reach the end of a region, there is a boss to defeat. Each of them are unique monsters with different methods of attack. Some have easy patterns to figure out and are simple to kill, whereas others took me many times to get conquer. After defeating each boss, you are awarded one of the special items, which are necessary to reach new areas in the game. The Wind Pulley and Crossbow make it possible to glide and climb to previously unreachable areas. The Suit of Armor and Coat of Arms give defensive and medical power-ups to Rygar, improving your chances for the final battles. During your adventures you will come across doors in the regions that you can enter. They are occupied by the “Legendary” – Gods who will give Rygar hints, restore his health, or give him medicine for later use. Sometimes they will give useless information or make bizarre statements, so don’t be surprised if you’re confused on more than one occasion.
Rygar starts the game with 3 orbs, which serves as his health meter. As you take hits, the meter depletes. As you defeat enemies, you build your stats up, and the number of your orbs increase. You can eventually earn up to 12 of them to take on the more difficult enemies. The level-up system in Rygar offers some unique ideas, but is overly complex and uses confusing terminology. For every monster you dispatch, your Tone and Last numbers increase. These mean your strength and defense. Basically the more creatures you kill off, the stronger and more powerful Rygar will become.
Sometimes collectible items appear and these go towards your Mind Strength Meter. As you fill this, you can trade them in to get a one-time use power-up or fill your health. This can really help in difficult spots or boss battles. Be prepared to die a lot – whether at the hands of a brutal boss, falling down bottomless pits, or simply running out of health from swarms of enemy attacks. When you die, you restart at a checkpoint, which is always in the region you died. You also keep all of the stats and special items you have earned up to that point, but your health meter resets to 3. If you are at a hard sport or going into a boss battle, you’ll want to fill your health the maximum amount.
The biggest complaint I have about Rygar is the lack of a way to continue your game after powering off the NES. When you turn off your Nintendo, you lose everything and have to start over from the beginning of the game. This is a pretty long game and has some extremely difficult areas. It would be exhausting to defeat the entire game in one sitting or even in a day, at least until you learn it inside out. Personally, I left my NES on for an entire week before I saw the ending. Perhaps the timing of Rygar’s release is just unfortunate, because Nintendo has taken strides with its upcoming games to include password features (Metroid and Kid Icarus) or battery back-up (The Legend of Zelda). Either of these options would have been welcome here.
Graphically, Rygar looks spectacular. The game has beautiful backgrounds and a variety of settings, with areas in the mountains, forests, and in the sky. The character and enemy designs are well animated and the game does look sharp. As with many Nintendo games, when too much is happening on the screen, the game slows down and interrupts the smooth gameplay. This is annoying, but I’m starting to accept it as a problem with more complex games.
The music in Rygar is really a mixed bag. When you start the game in the Gran Mountains, the opening track sounds amazing and sets a perfect tone for Rygar. Unfortunately there is just one more good track in the game. In fact, some of the dungeons late in the game offer up bland bleeps and bloops that sound awful. The worst offender takes place during boss battles where the music completely vanishes, and we only hear the combat sound effects.
The controls in Rygar also have some issues. The majority of the game plays smooth, but when triggering the pulley to cross water, you have to stand in a precise spot to activate it. Often I ended up falling in the water, which of course is an instant death.
Those negatives didn’t get me down and in fact Rygar is an excellent adventure game for the Nintendo. I enjoyed playing through it, and it truly is a unique, fun, and challenging experience. The large world, gorgeous graphics, and mythical theme of the game really make it stand out and it’s easily one of the top titles currently available. The software has its fair share of flaws that hold it back from an elite perfect score. The absence of a password or battery back-up system, confusing level-up design, and some poor music (or lack thereof) were its glaring problems. The game also lacks some replay value because there’s not a 2-player co-op mode or really any incentive to go through it again. Don’t let these trivialities deter you though, or you’ll miss out on a great Game Pak!