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An adventure-style console RPG, like Zelda or Secret of Mana, the kind where instead of fighting monsters through the use of menus, (as in Final Fantasy), you run around in real time and whack the monsters yourself.

Crystalis is an old game for the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, but its popularity was lasting enough that when a port was made for the Gameboy Color, a lot of people were pretty excited.

Crystalis may seem to have a simple plot by today's standards. Games in the 8-bit days were never very wordy, which left the player with a lot of room for interpretation and filling in the gaps in information themself. This wasn't always bad. Crystalis definitely created an intriguing setting for the player to imagine.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. After the previous culture, one of high technology, destroyed itself in war, the earth's axis shifted and all the surviving creatures were mutated. (Back in the day, October 10th, 1997 seemed like a far enough off date to label "The End Day". I had a little celebration when this day actually came by dusting off my cartridge)

This led to the creation of monsters, but also the discovery of magic. A new society was created using magic and shunning technology. But the empire of Dragonia is seeking to dominate the world through technology again, and is trying to capture the power of a mysterious floating tower.

Besides the story, Crystalis was just fun to play. You get only 4 main swords in the course of the game, with different elemental powers, that must be changed around depending on the weaknesses of the particular mutants you are fighting. The swords use a unique "charge" system that lets you shoot magical blasts as well. Each area has puzzles to solve, sometimes through the creative use of magic.

The task of mindless leveling is also softened a bit by the fact there are only 16 levels in the whole game. It does take a long while to earn those last levels though, and those who pick up an old copy of Crystalis should be warned, if you can't seem to damage a boss at all, it's because your level isn't high enough. Then there are times at the end when even level 16 doesn't seem like enough... then you have to find other ways to add more power...

One of the greatest things about Crystalis though, was its soundtrack. Well, some of the cave music could get annoying, but the overworld music and especially the music of Shyron fort are still going through my head after all these years. Too bad they didn't keep it in the remake...

Crystalis remake

When Nintendo created the Gameboy Color, they thought it would be a great idea to start porting all the good old NES games to it. So it was with Crystalis.

The remake of Crystalis had some good intentions. Much of the dialogue was changed, perhaps because the old version seemed a bit too wooden by today's standards. Instead of just saying stuff like "welcome to (insert town here)", people actually recognize you as a hero and thank you for the great deeds you've done in their area. But having everyone start going "thanks for the daring rescue!", and using those same words over and over too, gets pretty freaking old.

A new addition was made to the pawnshops- instead of just selling old items there, you can appraise things to see what they do. Not just armor, but also special items, the swords, even your magic. This is a great idea, especially since some of the items you find near the end of the game might not be understood at all if it wasn't for Nintendo Power back in the day. But telling you exactly what to do with that mysterious item you just found, and who to give it to? This is one of the most pitiful examples of the game being dumbed down.

Other examples:

  • Townspeople give a lot more hints, with sometimes explicit instructions. Signs are added in towns with further hints.
  • A puzzle in the town of Portoa was completely reworked, even removing a small area of the game.
  • Some more simple puzzles, like gaining entrance to Shyron, are removed entirely.
  • Poisonous swamps in the overworld are shrunk so you can simply walk around them or lose maybe only one hit point if you walk straight through.
  • Mimics no longer look just like normal treasure chests. They have eyes on them that are plainly visible, and will never attack you unless you walk up to them and press the A button.
  • Items that were hidden in the old version are now sitting right there in the open in treasure chests.
  • Any sword can kill any monster, instead of having each monster immune to a sword or two. This is especially noticable with the Dragonian soldiers, who commanded fear in the old version through the fact that nothing would kill them till you finally got the Thunder sword. Even the 4 generals, who used to be damaged by one sword only, fall prey to this syndrome.

The most painful changes are the ones made to the music and story. All the music is changed, and most of it sounds horrible. The overworld music became what I like to call the "happy bouncy mutant-killing music" and even the Shyron fort music, which used to be a sad theme of dying hope, has just been replaced with the new standard town music that all the others have.

There is an entirely new intro to the game, which would be a nice idea since it explains the story more, but once again this good intention is completely twisted by the fact that in the game itself, all of the original game's little snippets of story are rewritten and glossed over. Kensu is no longer the aloof, smart-ass wise man he once was. His lost pendant is no longer a gift from Asina, but a test of the hero's honesty. Uh, yeah. Mesia's decision to willingly volunteer as a sacrifice to save the remaining women of Joel is gone, instead she was just captured. Shyron's inhabitants are all cheery and happy to see you instead of downtrodden and pessimistic.

But worst of all, the Change spell is no fun anymore...

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