"Rygar inhabits a three-dimensional world. However, you'll be forced to deal with fixed angles. As you roam down a hallway and the map indicates that there are doors on either side, you'll need to guess at their precise location. Even in the very first stage, this results in confusion. You'll have to constantly compare Rygar's position on-screen with the little mini map in the corner, since a ledge that you need to jump and grab is more likely to blend in with the background than not. Perhaps it'll even be completely out of sight."
Rygar and the princess are gathered in the courtyard, where she is placing a wreath of olive branches on his head. He is a warrior and she is a princess. This is how people do things in the land of Argus. Randomly, as assorted soldiers watch and listen, the noble maiden happens to mention a horrific nightmare she had. There was a monster and darkness covered the land. As the princess tells the story, she and Rygar utter the last few words at the same time: "Darkness covered the land!"
They are stunned, for they have had the same dream. What could have caused--?
Monsters attack. Big monsters. Titans, even. They knock the assembled warriors to the side and a big winged guy carries away the princess. Rygar falls to the depths of the coliseum, where he receives the yo yo-like diskarmor weapon from a goddess who has foreseen his arrival. The brave warrior of Argus will fight to free his land from evil and to save his beloved!
Rygar: The Battle of Argus begins (and ends) with a plot so amateurishly told that you might be tempted to pinch yourself to make sure you're awake. What's interesting to me is that at one point it wasn't so noticeably bad. It was always slightly stupid, sure, but mostly it worked in spite of its shortcomings. Sadly, that's no longer the case.
When Tecmo announced that it would be developing a Wii port of Rygar: The Legendary Adventure, I was pleased that more gamers would finally discovering a hidden gem. I had purchased the original release the day it hit stores and blazed through it that same evening. At the time, I was utterly enchanted by the Greek influence on architecture, on drama and combat. I remember marveling at the gorgeous graphics, the destructible environments and the thrill of whirling my diskarmor like a man possessed as fierce combo attacks decimated spiked slugs and agile warriors. All of that makes a welcome return for this newest version--though the graphics are now merely passable even when you take advantage of the option to modify the aliasing--but there's a bit of a problem: the flaws are still here, too.
I'd mostly forgotten about those.
Flaw number one is the perspective. Rygar inhabits a three-dimensional world. However, you'll be forced to deal with fixed angles. As you roam down a hallway and the map indicates that there are doors on either side, you'll need to guess at their precise location. Even in the very first stage, this results in confusion. You'll have to constantly compare Rygar's position on-screen with the little mini map in the corner, since a ledge that you need to jump and grab is more likely to blend in with the background than not. Perhaps it'll even be completely out of sight.
The bland but atmospheric stages are difficult to see and the perspective changes too often to let you become absorbed by their diminished splendor. As you round a corner in a passage, the camera will instantly find a new cinematic resting point. You might have been pressing up on the analog stick to move forward. As you arrive in the new scene (something that happens without transition), suddenly pressing the stick in that same direction leads left or right. This disorienting setup can lead to moments where you're wandering in circles between two segments of the stage, just trying to walk in a straight line. It's exasperating, an outdated play mechanic that today's games have thankfully left far behind.
Boss battles are also disappointing. I remember the final confrontation in the first stage as a magnificent fight for survival between Rygar and the first of the Titan warriors. A huge statue rumbles to life, shaped like two giants flanking a horse's body. As you face up against this massive, screen-filling threat, it's hard not to be startled by the epic scale. At least, that's how things were. Now, the whole affair feels almost dull. Just running up to the horse and whipping it with the diskarmor, then holding the 'block' button when a sword swings in from the side is the bulk of the strategy required to beat the 'fearsome' opponent.
Most of Rygar's problems don't come from weak design, though. Seven years ago, it was pretty good. The problem is that 'pretty good' in early PlayStation 2 terms roughly equates to 'pretty bad' in 2009. Only a handful of action games from that era have aged gracefully and this isn't one of them. Now we're used to fluid movement through larger and more detailed environments. Visually stunning boss battles are the norm, not the exception. We also want engaging plots with dialog that doesn't sound like it was penned by a fifth grader. In short, we expect games that haven't stalled in 2002.
It's easy to see why Tecmo took the risk in spite of that fact. Imagine for a second how cool it could have been if swinging the Wii Remote around in your living room determined what vicious combos Rygar performed. I bet someone at Tecmo was excited about a re-imagining of the original epic adventure with Wii Remote gestures lending the whole affair a sense of flair, only that didn't quite happen. Instead, standard controls have just been re-mapped to Wii's setup. Certainly that works, but it robs the new game of one of its potential hooks.
Or does it? Journey away from 'Conquest Mode' and enter 'Gladiator Mode.' Rygar will appear on a platform, surrounded by enemies. Enemies continually spawn and you can defeat them with quick gestures of the Wii Remote that influence whether you whip in a circle, a thrust or an overhead arc. This is neat at first, even though the enemies you'll fight are the standard foes and eventually bosses from the main game, but it does get old pretty quickly. The general nature of each battle also makes it obvious that gesture-based controls were eliminated elsewhere because they're inconsistent. The novelty wears off in about 2 minutes and what you're left with isn't reliable enough to be entertaining.
What all of that ultimately means for Rygar: The Battle of Argus is that you'll probably be happiest if you rent it, beat the main 'Conquest' mode and then forget about the game altogether. After returning it to the video store, naturally. Late fees suck.
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 07, 2009)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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