"Without a doubt, Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is a perfectly acceptable follow-up to its excellent predecessor, and a good title in its own right (particularly if you liked Devil May Cry and the sequel's release in 2003 seems too far away). With generally impressive visuals and a terrific sense of atmosphere, it seldom goes wrong."
There are two kinds of franchises: those that see a release every year or every other year, and those that see releases every 5 or 10 years. If you were trying to stick Rygar: The Legendary Adventure into one of those two categories, it would definitely fall into the latter. The last time most of you will remember seeing him, he was enjoying the glory of the 8-bit golden age. Then he inexplicably disappeared, all but lost to memory. Until now. Tecmo, now known more for its fighting games than its action games (at one point, it was one of the kings in the genre) has chosen to revive Rygar. And for the most part, the company has succeeded.
Back in the day, Rygar was a game about a guy in a red suit who ran around with what looked like a spike-tipped yo-yo, thrashing out at turtles and other enemies while dashing about the mountains. Sometimes the view switched and he was viewed from overhead as he crossed over rivers and so forth. It was an exhilerating title, one of the best the NES saw. Thankfully, Tecmo has kept things true to the game's roots. Not only that, but they've managed to give us a good backstory and they've updated the series with all the trimmings you'd expect from a Playstation 2 title.
The first of those trimmings is the full 3D. Tecmo easily could have made this a 2D piece similar to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. No one would have complained. Instead, they allowed themselves to be more heavily influenced by another great title from recent years, Devil May Cry. The influence is obvious the moment you begin playing and it doesn't end until the closing credits. From elements of the story, to the general way in which the levels unfold, to the controls and the way enemies appear, this is obviously inspired by Capcom's offering.
When you begin playing, you're in a dungeon that looks like it came right out of Devil May Cry. The enemies aren't quite puppets, though; they're spiky slugs. And there are a lot of them. As you move through, you're quickly given a run-down of the controls. The 'x' button jumps and the rest of the four face buttons perform variations of your basic attack. This is important because you're going to want to string together attacks. Simply mashing the square button will work, but if you want to do some good specials, you'll need to time your mashes and compliment the furious button pounding with some logic. If you're surrounded by slugs, it's fun to grab one, swing it around, turn to another group, and keep moving. The controls make this possible and in theory, you can rack up combos of 100 hits. Or you can be lazy and just circle your foes, sniping at them.
The weapon you're using is probably the best part of this game, and what makes Rygar: The Legendary Adventure somehow feel fresh even while it's a copycat of sorts. Besides the combos, there's the fact that you can get three of the yo-yo like weapons. Each has different range, elemental attributes, and special attacks. So you'll find your favorite from the three and mostly use it. Since the weapon basically amounts to a spike-tipped shield attached to a chain, you'll sometimes feel like you're playing a 3D version of a Castlevania title. Also cool is the fact that you can find magical stones hidden throughout the world and attach them to the shield to affect your attributes, much like the DSS in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.
Finding those magical stones is rather time-consuming. You'll definitely have to become familiar with Rygar's world. Speaking of his world, it's Greece. You'll be exploring ruins, mountainsides, sky islands, and the inside of a volcano. Always, this feels like it came straight out of mythology. The inter-connected levels fit together perfectly while still giving you a decent sense of variety. Even cooler is the way this feels so perfect for the franchise. It adds new depth to the series and suddenly you can't imagine why you never realized in the past that Rygar was trekking through Greek ruins.
There are several ways the location in this game is enforced. One is the scrolls you stumble across, filled with bits of Greek mythology. Another, of course, is the visuals. There's the red tint of a setting sun on the mountain as you climb to its top before descending into the volcano, the crumbling colums (much of the game forces you to remember that if it's made of stone, three fourths of the time your weapon can break through it), the beautiful statues, and the waterways.
With only the visuals in place, Tecmo could have called this a job well done. Instead of resting on its laurels, the company decided to give the game appropriate music. Never has a soundtrack felt more appropriate in an action game. They hired an orchestra to give us the tunes, and what a beautiful decision that was. Music manages to increase your heart rate without resorting to the funky music a company like Capcom would normally apply. Somehow, the game just feels classy. Perhaps not so classy--though obviously it was meant to be--is the song they hired some famous singer to provide. She sings it at the end of the game, and at a point in the story where it seems slightly ridiculous.
Ah, the story. This is another of the game's strengths. It's also a weakness, but I'll get to that in a minute. Before the game begins, you're treated to a beautiful cinema. In it, Rygar is fighting in an arena. Suddenly, huge bursts of fire rain down on the city like giant serpents. Streets crack open and slug-like creatures scurry up out of the abyss. It all feels like something from Final Fantasy X and it's beautifully rendered. This is all a dream, apparently. When you begin the game, Rygar is being presented with some laurels from a princess. Then things get cheesy. She mentions a dream she's had (why she would do this at an apparent coronation is unclear) and Rygar is shocked. He's had the same dream. While they contemplate this, as if by coincidence, the dream suddenly comes true. Then you're in the first level, anxious to find out what's happening.
What's happening is pretty cool, as stories go in this kind of game. Unfortunately, a good basic plot is ruined by what seems a rushed execution. You complete a level, you get more story, you complete a level, repeat. The problem is that this story is fairly complex. And with it crammed into around six parts, most of it feels horrifically underdeveloped. At the best of times, the plot seems more shallow than it actually is if you give it some consideration. And at its worst, the plot causes the characters to say some things that will just make you laugh. Try and keep a straight face when Rygar clutches a feather and shouts emotionally ''I swear my victory to this feather!'' It's a pity. The use of famous historical figures from Greek legend feels like it could be as cool as the historical scenes in Eternal Darkness, but instead things happen so quickly that whoever conceived the plot doesn't have enough time to properly develop it.
Therein lies one of the game's two fairly significant problems: it's too short. There are what amount to seven levels here. None of them are quite so long as a dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and none of them are quite as developed. Any real length comes from the time you're spending solving a puzzle. Once you've done that once, it's easy to fly through a dungeon again as if there's nothing standing in your way. The overworld isn't particularly large, either. It feels about the size of Hyrule Field from Ocarina of Time. Halfway through the game, I was thinking I'd only scratched the surface. Then the plot was wrapping up and I realized I was near the end. Sadly, you can probably do like I did and finish this game with less than 6 hours of clocked play time.
The other weakness I was referring to is the camera. I know that's a problem that haunts most 3D games. And to be fair, it's not as bad here as it could be. It'll take you a while to get used to. Around an hour had passed before I was really used to it. That might not seem so much, but consider the game's length; you're still getting used to the controls 20% of the way through! Only once or twice did the camera lead me to serious trouble, though, and I can't really say any of my deaths--of which there were precious few--came about as a result of a problematic perspective. When it's erratic, fortunately, the action on-screen isn't generally particularly demanding.
Perhaps the coolest part of the game is the set of bosses you'll face. There are around 8 of them, at least half of which are some of the most awesome a gamer is likely to fight for quite some time. The first boss is simply astounding and really whets your appetite for what's to come. Probably the most disappointing boss in the game is the very last one, who is a cheap fighter and not the visual delight its predecessors were.
I realize this review seems fragmented. Perhaps the game inspired that, perhaps not. Don't let that influence your purchase, though. Without a doubt, Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is a perfectly acceptable follow-up to its excellent predecessor, and a good title in its own right (particularly if you liked Devil May Cry and the sequel's release in 2003 seems too far away). With generally impressive visuals and a terrific sense of atmosphere, it seldom goes wrong. However, it's also a game that will be over almost before it begins. And I can't help but feel that it was about to be so much more but Tecmo grew too afraid to take the time. Though it sometimes feels rushed, though, there's no doubt this game is good. Definitely an ideal rental, with a few last-minute attempts to extend the replay value that might warrant a purchase for some people.
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 07, 2002)
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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