Sunday, October 5, 2014

Rygar - Thoughts

It may be a bit weird that I'm an ardent fan of the Ninja Gaiden trilogy on NES, yet have sparse experience with other Tecmo titles. To be frank, their non-sports games are few and far between, and not much else seemed to hook me like Fire n' Ice upon initial play (though I'm still determined to one day complete Solomon's Key). So picking up Rygar for the first time felt like a fun experiment—I wanted to see how the developers handled platforming before they mastered it with Ninja Gaiden two years later.

The journey begins immediately, thrusting the player into a wasteland crawling with critters. Here you'll come to learn Rygar's modus operandi—spawning enemies with an incessant annoyance a la Kung Fu. Combined with the fact that you have only a single method of attack, combat distills into a pretty basic formula of determining whether your closest foe is to your right or your left. Thankfully the gameplay often switches between top-down and left-right perspectives for some variety (though the top-down view is fraught with strange issues like how jump-attacking means you have more mobility PLUS a longer attack range), and there are a few spells you have available (though the energy pickups for them have an abysmal drop rate). The game is also slightly nonlinear with handful of upgrades, fleshing out its sense of adventure.

What I thought was most revolutionary about Rygar was that it incorporates character stats that persist through death. Every enemy you slay can add to your strength or vitality (which are denoted by TONE and LAST for some peculiar reason) and at unstated intervals you'll gain an increase to your damage or health bar. This means that you'll rarely be stuck fighting a boss, as a bit of grinding can lead you to wipe the floor with monstrosity in a minute or two, even if you die repeatedly while farming. The final boss in particular is especially subject to this consequence, as I had spent so long exploring his palace that I was able to kill him in roughly ten hits, closing out my journey with an uneventful climax. Finally, the game is also not nearly as archaic or cryptic as Adventure of Link or Castlevania II, so even if you haven't played before it's not too hard to figure out where to go.

I really can't say I adore Rygar but I certainly wasn't put off by it; the Argoolian journey is a simplistic romp that would have enhanced had I any nostalgia for it. The gameplay fits somewhere between the questionable design of Mighty Bomb Jack and the flawless artistry of Ninja Gaiden, incorporating some interesting mechanics that are surprisingly subversive in modern games nowadays. I think the infinite continues, stat carry-over and relative brevity of the entry all help to make it an entertaining title, but it's hardly one I'd suggest to those that aren't NES fanatics. In a way, the 2002 sequel Rygar: The Legendary Adventure echoes the essence of the original very well—an interesting game unfortunately outclassed by everything that came after it.

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