Review by · July 17, 2000

One of the earliest and best games ever made was “The Legend of Zelda”. This overhead action RPG was the story of a young elf trying to save the princess of Hyrule using a sword, a shield, and more special items than most Action RPGs could boast. Not only was there a great variety in that game, but everything in it was also done in a flawless manner, creating a very enjoyable and timeless game that we all will cherish forever. Now, whenever one game does well using a certain pattern for itself, it is almost an unbreakable law that somewhere, you will find another company ready to steal and clone it. Usually these games are pitiful and are laughed off of store shelves with scorn, but sometimes, the new game will shine out from the crowd and stand on its own. I present to you Crystalis.

In the far off year 1997 (Please laugh quietly.), nuclear destruction rained upon the Earth on what was known as the End Day. Mankind realized the mistakes of technology and began working on the forgotten art of magic. Society slowly rebuilt, promising to use its rediscovered power for only good. However, one man, a powerful wizard, decided that he should rule the world, and began to study the long lost art of technology. He soon mastered it, but still not satisfied, he began imbuing his creations with magic, and thus became the first technomancer. With his terrible power, he began bringing catastrophes across the land. All was seemingly lost…

In a far off village, beneath an ancient building destroyed in a landslide, a man, dressed in pink (I really didn’t appreciate their choice of color.), awoke from a cryogenic sleep of centuries. After leaving the building, he discovers that he was, in fact, prophesied to appear on that day. After receiving the mystic sword of Wind from the town elder, he leaves to explore the world for the three other elemental swords. Together, they will become Crystalis, the only weapon that can save the world.

As I said earlier, Crystalis is very close to being a Zelda clone. You run in the four directions, swinging a sword or charging it up to shoot out an elemental blast. You can also play with various special items like jumping boots and such. Enemies abound, biting, smashing, or stabbing your hero to pieces. Unlike Zelda, The world consists of many scrolling areas, instead of single screen rooms on the world map. Towns pop up from time to time, offering new and better equipment.

Although there are only five swords in the entire game (wind, fire, water, thunder, and Crystalis), each one can be given power-up items to improve their charged attacks. Status ailments have been added, such as poison, petrify, transform, or paralysis. The list of enemies could go on and on, and even though there is some palette swapping, you’ll often find yourself saying, “What’s that little blob thing over there?” (Please add a hillbilly accent to the last sentence.) The bosses are challenging and well designed, there are a few small mini games, and the puzzles put before you usually require a creative use of all your spells and a hefty dose of thought. Although not as innovative as the grandfather of Action RPGs, Crystalis’ Gameplay gets an 89%.

The NES had 8 bits of graphical force behind it, and we can’t expect too much of it. Although it blew away the competition originally, only those who played it back before the 32 bit systems came out can truly appreciate it (::sigh::). Still, Crystalis used every ounce of the little system that could’s graphical prowess. Bright and varied backgrounds help show the mood of the game, wherever you are. The people are large sprites that are capable of a surprising number of actions for an old game like this. Whenever you change your shield or sword, your character’s appearance changes. Special moves and bosses are big and flashy, just the way they should be. Considering the system used for this game, Graphics gets a 93%.

The music in this game was wonderful, even by today’s standards, and some of the tunes still come to mind with enjoyable ease. There are many songs for each of the many different areas to explore, and each one is very fitting. This game even had a song that induced claustrophobia when you explore the caves. Each tune had a lot of feeling in it and pushed this system to its limits.

The sound was done well, although not as incredibly. Decent explosions were used, spells had nice auditory effects to match the visual ones, and killing a blob had that pleasant icky feeling to it. I hate to give really high scores, but Sound/Music gets a 96%

The story may start out with the usual nuclear holocaust, but after that, it becomes very unexpected. You explore many different cultures in your quest to find the swords, and I was very surprised by the quality of the dialogues with townsfolk. This is one of the few NES games I’ve found where people have conversations. The ending was nice, and topped off the story well. The plot is almost original and it was built into the game perfectly. Crystalis gets a 90% for the Storyline.

Controls in this game were a little annoying, but not very. Movement is fast and responsive, the menus are easily used, and saving can be done at any time from anywhere. Attacking was a little annoying due to the charge up method, but aside from accidentally firing off your thunderstorm too early or wasting a freeze ray when your finger slipped, I thought that the controls were decent, and so Controls get an 80%.

As any gamer over the age of fourteen knows, all of the best games were made for all of the old systems. Modern games waste too much time trying to look pretty and sound cool. I do like that, but I play games mostly because they’re fun, and this game is just that, and still managed to have some of the best graphics, music, and quests of its time. Crystalis is a true classic, and I give it an Overall rating of 92%.

Gameplay – This is one of the best rip-offs ever. 89%
Graphics – Why did they make him pink? Oh well. 93%
Sound/Music – Can you not love the overworld theme? 96%
Storyline – From Tibetan monks to Amazons, this guy meets everyone. 90%
Control – Shouldn’t be much of a problem. 80%
Overall – This game is a true gem. (Yes, I hate puns too.) 92%

Overall Score 92
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Andrew DeMario

Andrew DeMario

Andrew went by several names here, starting as a reader reviewer under the name Dancin' Homer. Later known as Slime until we switched to real names, Andrew officially joined RPGFan as a staff reviewer in 2001 and wrote reviews until 2009. Andrew's focus on retro RPGs and games most others were unwilling to subject themselves to were his specialty.