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Dragon Crystal (Sega Master System) artwork

Dragon Crystal (Sega Master System) review

"Some of the more frustrating aspects may make for an "unfun" experience"

Ready for the Roguelike?
On your way home, you come across a mysterious antique shop. Upon entering the shop, a crystal ball grabs your attention and, suddenly, pulls you into it! You wake up with an egg following you (I suppose it just rolls along the ground behind you a la BB-8) and a dagger in your hand. The story for Dragon Crystal begins in its game manual...unfortunately, it pretty much ends there as you don't really get any story progression from the game itself. Enter the Dragon Crystal, the only roguelike on the Sega Master System. Being a roguelike, you can expect to find your way through 30 randomly generated mazes with everything else, from items to enemies being randomly generated as well.

Dragon Crystal (Sega Master System) image

Randomness and Replayability
The first thing you will notice is that each floor has a "fog" (some sort of repeating tile particular to that floor) that covers every area you haven't explored yet. Exploring reveals the randomly generated maze where you need to find the warp zone to the next floor. Every maze holds different rooms with random drops of items and spawns of enemies. The enemy type is random, but certain types are limited to different floors, so you do get a sense of progression as you reach higher floors. Additionally, Dragon Crystal holds true to basic RPG standards, so the more enemies you kill to level up, the more powerful you become. The item drops themselves are random, but certain item types are random as well. Each time you start a new game, the potions, rods, rings, and scrolls will reset. When you find these items in your new game their type will be hidden by certain colors (e.g. Red Ring, White Potion). You have to use these items to discover what type that they are, but, since they are random, the White Potion one game may heal you and the next game may paralyze you. All of this randomness, needless to say, adds an almost unending element of replayability as long as you enjoy the core gameplay offered. This game truly offers a new experience every time you play it.

Having replayability is a good thing, but there are a lot of bad things to consider as well. First of all, the game has a hunger system where you need to stockpile food. If you run out of food you slowly lose health, and, if you don't heal or find food, die. Just having this mechanic adds a level of tedium to the game that it truly didn't need. On top of that though, the food drops can be very unreliable and you can certainly play games where you don't find enough food and simply end up starving to death. This is especially not helped by the fact that some enemies steal your precious food on later floors. Talking about deadly enemies, there are some that have almost crippling status effects. In addition to stealing food, some of the worst enemies decrease your strength, rust your equipment, and even DE-level you! This can end up with you having to simply avoid many enemies which can make it impossible to even confront baddies on later levels from not having enough experience. The final dastardly blow this game delivers is that of your companion. It begins as a simple egg rolling along behind you and eventually hatches into a dragon! This sounds pretty awesome. Having your newfound friend fighting with you and breathing fire upon all the unfriendly foes you encounter would be great...except...he doesn't. Your useless dragon follows you around and just sits there watching while you starve, get beaten, or wander around lost, desperately looking for that next warp zone. No help...ever. Considering that the game is called Dragon Crystal, for the amount of use that you get out of your dragon, maybe it should have been called just "Crystal".

Dragon Crystal (Sega Master System) image

I'm a huge fan of RPG's and I really had high hopes when I first plugged this game in and played it. I was disappointed...miserably. I do not like having any sort of regular upkeep system, and, thus, really hated the food system. There is no sort of storyline progression to the game. Your companion is practically useless (the only useful thing is for protecting you from attacks on one side). Also, I didn't like having to discover the items every time I played. However, I did have a bit of enjoyment when I first played it, before discovering some of the more frustrating aspects. Also, having replayed it recently, I was able to better manage some of annoying things (like food upkeep and knowing what enemies to avoid) and didn't find the game was bad as I originally did. The game does offer a unique experience on the console and an unbelievable level of replayability. With that said, I think that Master System fans of roguelike games should try this game out, but I think that some of the more frustrating aspects may make for an "unfun" experience for other gamers.

Dragon Crystal is a 2.5 / 5, for being the only roguelike game on the Master System, but having some very frustrating gameplay elements detracting from it.


Never3ndr's avatar
Community review by Never3ndr (June 18, 2014)

Retro-Gaming Enthusiast!

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