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Conquest of the Crystal Palace (NES) artwork

Conquest of the Crystal Palace (NES) review

"If you happen across Conquest of the Crystal Palace, youíre likely to get your moneyís worth, but thatís mostly only because youíre probably not going to pay much to acquire it."

Sometimes on my days off, Iíll head over to the nearest movie theater and check out the first flick that looks interesting. I know what I like and Iím rarely disappointed, but every now and then Iíll watch a movie that is entertaining but wholly forgettable. Thatís exactly how I feel about Conquest of the Crystal Palace, the NES equivalent of a decent popcorn flick that doesnít do anything truly interesting.

The Crystal Palace was a peaceful kingdom ruled by King Bretor and Queen Zyla. The beauty of their kingdom became well known, and eventually it attracted the attention of Zaras, the evil spirit of war. Zaras raised an army to conquer the Crystal Palace, killing the king and queen outright, and launching the people of the kingdom to the stars. Only the young prince Farron and the captain of the guard, Zapolis remained. Zaras cast a spell on those two, expelling them from the kingdom. Farron was turned into an infant and Zapolis became a small white dog, who Farron named Zap. On Farronís 15th birthday, Zap informed the young man of his heritage, and the two ventured forth to reclaim the palace.

Thatís a surprising amount of backstory for such a middle of the road game. Reading the instruction manual and checking out the box art gives the impression of something truly special, but after pressing Start to begin playing, Conquest of the Crystal Palace unfolds in the same manner as any of a hundred other side-scrolling action games. Itís the type of game that youíve likely experienced before, and with more polish than youíll find here.

Farron begins the game with his trusty katana, as well as the ability to call Zap to join him on the screen. Just like Farron, Zap has a life meter. The tenacious pooch bounds around the level, taking out enemies and collecting wayward coins. There are places where having Zap along can be really useful, especially for taking care of some awkwardly placed enemies. However, the four-legged hero tends to be so crazy and quick that I found him to be more distracting than helpful. Most of the time, I preferred to handle things on my own, and only used Zap for certain sticky situations. Itís an interesting feature, but not one that is ever fully realized.

I mentioned awkwardly placed enemies a moment ago. Conquest of the Crystal Palace commits what I believe to be one of the cardinal sins of NES game design and places enemies on narrow platforms. As such, the instances where I lost all of Farronís health while playing the game were extremely rare. Far more frequently, heíd die from pitfalls, which mostly meant he jumped onto an all-too-tiny platform that was occupied by a baddie. One hit and Farron would bounce into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

This is a frustrating way of adding ďchallengeĒ into the game, as you can imagine, and it really detracts from the overall experience. Exacerbating this issue is the developersí similar tendency to create obstacles that directly run into Farronís path while heís jumping. Thereís nothing quite as annoying as jumping to a moving platform, only to have that platform take him right into a jet of molten lava that suddenly appeared.

Thatís not to say that Conquest of the Crystal Palace lacks in the charm or fun departments. Farron controls well, and handles the platforms with aplomb (provided there arenít any obstacles in the way). Each level has a couple shops where Farron can purchase spells, jumping boots, restorative items, and more. The shop is run by Kim, who also doubles as the ďQNNĒ news anchor and gives players the important headlines of the day. Itís a cute touch that adds a little bit of life to this otherwise very standard action title.

Conquest of the Crystal Palace is the epitome of an average game. Everything about it is merely serviceable. The graphics arenít going to wow anyone, but at the same time, some of the bosses are huge, and each stage has a distinct look to it. Similarly, the music has some catchy bits, but is wholly forgettable. The game is only five levels long, but each one goes on for quite some time. Thatís either a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective. The stages seem to recycle enough graphical elements that there were moments when I thought that the game was endlessly repeating until I did a specific action.

I wish I could find something to rave about here, but in all honesty the only element that sets this game apart from the crowd--your canine companion--isnít even all that great. If you happen across Conquest of the Crystal Palace, youíre likely to get your moneyís worth, but thatís mostly only because youíre probably not going to pay much to acquire it. Itís fine while it lasts, but even as I write this review, my memory of the game is fadingÖ

AlphaNerd's avatar
Freelance review by Julian Titus (July 25, 2013)

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