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Demon's Crest (SNES) artwork

Demon's Crest (SNES) review

"Monstrously magnificent"

Demon's Crest asset

Knowing in advance that Demon's Crest marked the end of the Red Arremer trilogy, I had hoped that this game would serve as a proper sendoff. Unfortunately, I've played through too many disappointing "farewell games" to feel confident about this one. Thankfully, as I engaged the introductory boss in combat, my worries slowly dissipated. The short battle didn't pit me against a garden variety Ghosts franchise opponent, but a tremendous undead dragon. Weren't not talking about a run of the mill dragon sprite that had been discolored to appear undead, either. For as the beast arrogantly stomped its way into the coliseum, I soaked in every gory detail of its putrid body: its sinewy flesh hung in rotting ribbons, its cracked bones peeked through the myriad fissures in its epidermis, and its decaying intestines protruded from what used to be its armored belly. The beast bellowed a fearsome roar and charged toward me. At first I thought the fight would be tricky, but I managed to dispatch the creature with little trouble before exiting the arena through a newly formed hole in the wall.

I was ready to bemoan what an anticlimax the altercation was, until the demonic dragon shoved its head through the hole in the wall and recommenced its fiery assault. It seemed the thing might have the upper hand, but my firepower proved to be too much for the winged terror. After a few choice shots, the dragon shut its emerald eyes and what remained of its facial flesh deteriorated. Its head separated from its decomposed neck and slid down the arena wall, hitting the ground with a hefty thud. Although it was a mundane battle, mechanics-wise, Demon's Crest's grotesque presentation spruced up the fight. More than anything, it reassured me that this trilogy would be going out with a violent bang.

Although I breathed a sigh of relief and eventually completed the introductory stage, my worries came flooding back. For it was at that moment that I remembered the quasi-RPG presentation from the previous two games. I groaned as I entered the world map, expecting another tedious overhead-view sequence to ensue. To my surprise, though, traversing the world map was much swifter than before. Instead of having to traipse from one locale to another, Firebrand could actually fly to his destinations, taking no more than a few seconds to reach the next stage in the campaign. No longer did the sequences between levels feel like overlong interruptions.

Demon's Crest screenshotDemon's Crest screenshot

Since Demon's Crest eschewed its faux-RPG presentation, there wasn't as big of an emphasis on traveling to various towns and gathering clues. In fact, there's only one town in the game, and its main purpose is to provide supplies like healing items and magic spells. Since it was a small town, my visits there were more like brief detours than interruptions.

I'm not going to say that I wasn't disappointed with some of the changes made in Demon's Crest at first, though. For starters, I loved the stage layouts in the previous two games. Both of them featured intricate levels that begged not only for platformer skill, but problem solving in order to survive their gauntlets of perils and pests. In contrast, the levels in Demon's Crest were more straightforward. Some of them did feature convoluted corridors, but none of them were as complex or demanding as Gargoyle's Quest's levels.

This is not to say that Demon's Crest's stages were without merit, though. In this game's case, intricacy played second fiddle to personality. Although I'm reluctant to admit it, I preferred Demon's Crest's gloomy environments and unique level-specific features over its predecessors' complex (but mostly environmentally bland) stages. For instance, I enjoyed blasting my way through a burning forest whilst dodging a veritable hailstorm of flaming debris. I was reminded at that point of the importance of sharp reflexes. Another stage involved a rising/lowering tide combined with spiked ceilings and floating platforms, testing both my patience and precision. I charged through tenebrous tunnels lined with torches, struggling to keep them lit so as not to arouse irksome vampire bats. I even ascended cemetery hills that hearkened back to the first stage of Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Demon's Crest's environments complimented its awesomeness generously, mostly through its macabre settings and stiff challenges.

Demon's Crest screenshotDemon's Crest screenshot

It wasn't environmental graphics alone that impressed me about Demon's Crest's stages. The game also featured a fair amount of exploration, wisely rewarding such endeavors with helpful items and loot. I found myself demolishing walls to secure medicine jars, a la Legend of Zelda, or accessing hidden passages to acquire special talismans. These puppies were among the most helpful, as they tended to increase stats like offensive power or speed. Better yet were the occasions that I chanced upon hidden stages, usually found tucked behind statues or submerged beneath murky depths. Such passages gave way to more loot and prizes, and especially optional boss battles.

Where Demon's Crest truly shined, though, was in its rogues gallery. Not only was its boss lineup as grotesque as ever, but they were tough as all get out. I battled a kyphotic, blade-armed skeleton named Belth, and matched wits with an unholy insect called Scula. Taking on that sucker tested my precision and my ability to learn patterns, especially in responding to its telegraphed attacks. There's also Crawler, whose aberrant body composed of meaty pulp and stringy sinews made up for his unimpressive name. And since this game is all about climax, Capcom saved the most powerful and grotesque demons for last. It's in the final battles that I met the ultimate challenges, complete with scores of moving platforms, homing plasma balls, acidic floors, and punishing DBZ-like laser blasts.

Firebrand was not without a few tricks of his own. As the title implied, there were several crests to obtain throughout the game, each of which could transform the standard red gargoyle into an elemental-based badass. For instance, donning the Water Crest replaced Firebrand's wings with membranous flippers, or using the Earth Crest transformed the antihero into a destructive golem. Best of all was the Crest of Heaven, which provided Firebrand with every known special ability in the game.

It's with a heavy heart that I finally close the book on the Red Arremer trilogy. It's a shame that Capcom pulled the plug on this side series, but it's at least great that they ended it on a high note. With abominable creations rendered in glorious 16-bit graphics, perilous stages, and oodles of loot and hidden passages, Demon's Crest is easily the strongest game in the Red Arremer trilogy, if not the entire Ghosts series.

Demon's Crest asset

Farewell, Firebrand. Here's hoping Capcom allows you to rest in peace, rather than reviving your series with a lackluster reboot relegated to a Japan-only release on a mobile device. Should we meet again, let's hope in the form of a spectacular return.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 11, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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If you enjoyed this Demon's Crest review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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overdrive posted October 11, 2013:

This was a great game that I keep meaning to come back to for some unfinished business. There was one thing I didn't like about it...the bash the skull mini-game. And so I never got two of the items that determines the final level and the endboss and never got the best ending. Someday, I'd like to do that.
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yamishuryou posted October 11, 2013:

Those last two lines make me expect it. I mean, Breath of Fire VI on mobile? WTF.
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overdrive posted October 11, 2013:

And I can only imagine how "great" a modern Gargoyle's Quest game would go.

Three hours of cinema focusing on how badly Firebrand is angsting over having to fight his fellow demons because it's all leading up to a huge battle with his brother, who's the final bosses main general. Followed by a bizarre "faux-retro" ending where after beating the final boss, in the best ending, he magically is transformed into Arthur to set up the beginning of Ghosts and Goblins.
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yamishuryou posted October 11, 2013:

An Uwe Boll movie could have a better plot.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 11, 2013:

Thank you for reading, both of you!

BoF VI was the game I was mostly indicating at the end, but I've noticed some other franchises have been releasing mobile-only games as well (most of which, like Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, aren't worth a damn).

Honestly, I hope Capcom--should they miraculously decide to release another Firebrand game--decides to go the Mega Man 9/10 route. You know, develop a whole new game with retro graphics and release it on digital platforms like PSN or Steam. It isn't likely, of course, but one can wish...

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