Before I delve into Crystalis, let me delve into another C word. Cookies. Cookies are fun to eat; but once you have eaten a cookie, it is gone. It stays with you forever by moving its fatty content directly to your hips, but you cannot eat it again. You have to move on to a different cookie. This game was exactly like that on the old Nintendo Entertainment System. Play once, beat it, and move on.
Now Nintendo Software Technology has decided to "breathe new life" into the game by ripping out its soul. There are a lot of things removed from the game that people may cringe at; gone is the opening "In the year 20XX" line, gone are some characters, such as Deo the Rabbit, gone is the original translation, and gone is a huge chunk of storyline with the main character "Simea" and Misea. Also, the ending is different, the storyline is slightly different, and the original music was dragged out back and shot. However, that doesn't make it a horrible game. Please keep reading to discover more. *cues dramatic music*
The story states that in an undisclosed year, mankind was wiped out almost completely by nuclear holocaust. Then Thundar the Barbarian roamed the Earth to stop evil! Oh, wait.... wrong story. The radiation mutated animals and awakened a new era of magic. But one magician named Dragonia had other plans. Instead of joining in harmony with his fellow magicians in rebuilding the Earth with magic, peace and hippie free love, (gotta repopulate the Earth) Dragonia decides to use "forbidden" technology with dark magic to take over the world!
Four of the head honcho magicians who helped rebuild the Earth decided to make swords from four elements. FIRE! WIND! WATER! THUNDER! When their powers combine, they form CRYSTALIS, the baddest sword this side of the Green Destiny. Now, Dragonia caught wind of this uprising, showed up, kicked all four of their scrawny magician butts, and scattered the four swords to the four corners of the Earth. But hope is not lost! Two warrior/magicians who have been asleep since God knows when might awaken and save the world! Guess what? You are one of the two warrior/magicians.
The story progresses as you go searching for the swords. The story is rather weak, but it is entertaining. I am saddened, though, by Nintendo Software Technologies' butchering of parts of the plot. It still plays out mostly the same, but a lot of it has been altered to the point of frustration. The history between Simea and Misea is completely omitted, and some characters changed gender or were omitted in this one. Hardcore fans of the NES game will be very upset, but those who haven't played the original won't notice at all.
The gameplay in Crystalis is like that in The Legend of Zelda but with fewer puzzles and more button mashing action. You gain experience points and money for the creatures you beat. You can level up and buy/equip items like a normal RPG, and fighting is all in real-time. No menus, just your skill and the ability to press the B button rapidly. When you hold the B button you can charge your sword up, you can do that to unleash more powerful attacks.
There is a wide variety of spells to play with including a teleport spell and the ability to transform yourself to look like a few other characters. There is also a nice variety of items to find and use. In a nutshell, the game consists of the following: go to town, find out problem, go to dungeon, find new item, kill boss, problem solved, go to the next town, repeat. The game is rather basic but still fun and worth your time. However, it lacks any type of replay value. Once you are done, you most likely will not feel compelled to play it again.
Graphics are true to the NES game. The character is large, the towns are bright and colorful, there are even new, pre-rendered cut-scenes and additional detail in the games settings. The game looks best on the Game Boy Color, when this game is placed in a Game Boy Advance, it appears too dark for its own good, which is a shame. There is some substantial clipping and slow down later on in the game that needs to be addressed, however, those graphic defects are only mildly annoying, and do not hinder the gameplay.
The sound in the game is true to the old NES version in some respects. There is new sound in the game, and that new sound includes some HORRIBLE voice samples. The voice is scratchy and way below the quality of voice found in some other Game Boy and Game Boy Color games such as Cannon Fodder and Perfect Dark. The original music is all gone; and has been replaced with music that sounds like it was made for another game. The music ranges from annoying to, well… just annoying. Don't play it loud. Trust me, people standing next to you will thank you for turning the music down.
It seems rather hard to hit enemies at first; because of slightly off hit detection. However, when you hit the B button, you use your sword without delay, which is good because at times you need to hit that B button pretty damn fast. The menu screens, however, are a mess. It's hard to tell what I have equipped in the items menu a lot of the time, and that hinders play enjoyment. Which ring do I have equipped? *looks* I... can... not... tell! THE HORROR! On the plus side: you can save anywhere and your walking pace is swift.
Despite some flaws, Crystalis is a fun game. Worth buying if you loved the NES game and want to try a "remixed" version of it. If you have never played the NES game, buy this or borrow it from a friend. I would recommend it for a long flight, or a nice dose of -albeit tainted- nostalgia. Crystalis is one of those great little games you need to try at least once. So, do yourself a favor and try it out.