Good to be back, folks! Lumpz, your favorite retrogaming clown, is here and back to provide a fair and accurate review of a game that has been camping on my backlog for over 20 years: RYGAR!
I remember walking into the rental place, seeing this title on the shelf, marveling at its awesome cover art, but always opting to select another title. However, it remained in the back of my mind, but by the time I was prepared to rent it and try it out, most of the local rental places had started to shut down and many of them liquidated all of their NES products!
I was horrified initially, but after time, resumed my daily tasks of eating, breathing, etc. Fast forward about 15 years: I have a favorite little haunt where I can score NES titles for incredibly cheap and enjoy the company of the awesome staff who co-own/run the place (far cry from Gamestop, yet way better). It was then that I saw Rygar, standing somewhat out of place wedged in between the horrific LJN NFL Football game and a copy of Solstice (which is next on my list of future purchases).
For a measly $3, I was not going to pass this opportunity up! That was over three months ago and it sat patiently, waiting for me to strap up and try it out! Two days ago, I decided that it was time, so I plugged in my NES Advantage controller and popped this beautiful, plastic piece of nostalgia into my console! Onto the review!
In hindsight, how could I have said “no” to this piece of awesomeness?
Release Date: April 14, 1987 (Japan), July 1987 (North America), March 30, 1990 (Europe)
Created by: Tecmo
Premise of the Game
Rygar, a warrior wielding the legendary Diskarmor, must liberate the land of Argool from the nefarious clutches of the wicked Ligar. To aid him in his quest, there are sages throughout the land that provide valuable clues, power-ups and items.
Our hero also has at his disposal three spells that can restore his health, increase the power and reach of his Diskarmor and allow him to damage his enemies from a distance, at the cost of skill points which are acquired by defeating enemies. Doing this, Rygar also gains additional health points after earning enough “Last” points.
Ligar and his minions must be defeated to bring peace and prosperity back to Argool.
Not bad, but I haven’t even talked about the overhead view yet!
Graphically, Rygar on the NES is not as detailed as its arcade predecessor, to be honest. By itself, however, the graphics are serviceable and even feature a parallax background that moves independently from the foreground. Backgrounds can feature either a dark forest, a dank cave, or even a beautiful sunset in a red sky, all of which provide the appropriate atmosphere.
The enemies are detailed and feature varying colors and behaviors. Some may seem out of place for the perceived era (i.e. wave-shooting robot), but graphically, are pretty cool-looking. Aside from the occasional slowdown or flicker, the side-scrolling portion of the game is adequate and beautiful 8-bit art, awkward-looking enemies and all. Now onto the “not-so” great…
Whoa…what game is this?
Don’t get me wrong. Swapping from a side-scroller to an overhead view has been done successfully in the past (ahem, Blaster Master), In Rygar, however, slowdown becomes more apparent as enemies fill the screen, which results in flicker and makes it difficult to see your weapon when its deployed (which is now slightly right to your character’s center).
The change in weapon position takes some getting used to and doesn’t necessarily destroy this game’s appeal for me, but it can be frustrating to newcomers. Stepping back, however, the graphics are pretty solid for an overhead map and feature plenty of detail and exploratory opportunities. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is getting the pulley to work right when crossing rivers on ropes. To engage the pulley, you have to have it in your inventory, walk C-A-R-E-F-U-L-L-Y towards the rope, taking great care to place Rygar’s shoulder on the EXACT PIXEL where the rope ties to the stump.
If you are successful, you will hear a distinct “click” sound. If you are not successful but still alive, back up from the river’s edge and madly wiggle the control near that pixel until you hear the click. The worst that can happen is that you will fall into the river and die, return to the title screen and press “start”, at which time you will be transported back to beginning of the current dungeon you are in.
This is useful since this game does not offer a save feature, and as I played the game, I became more adept at attaching the pulley the first time around. However, dying can also be preferable to tedious backtracking and save you lots of time, depending on your circumstances!
This will be burned into your psyche by the time you beat this game!
Finally, the enemies in the overhead view can be maddening. Relative to the speed of some of the enemies onscreen, Rygar seems to move CRAZY SLOW! The demon trees encountered throughout many of the levels fire projectiles that seem to travel much faster than your character, so plan ahead and prepare to zigzag your way out of a jam!
Some of the enemies just look plain ludicrous on the overhead map, such as the ghelman, who looks and crawls like a deformed, infant version of Bam-Bam from The Flintstones. His awkward gait alone makes him hard to hit and since he is MUCH faster than you, it can be hard to avoid his charge.
Seriously…what the hell is that?
Graphics: 7/10 – Solid, but could have used some help in “hitbox” detection and speed.
All in all, the controls are very responsive and Rygar completes his onscreen actions with ease. When you press and hold “UP” and press “B”, Rygar will shoot his grappling hook straight into the air without a second thought. Rygar can attack head-on by simply pressing “B”, and he can even duck and hit enemies low to the ground.
Say goodbye to that latter option, however, after Rygar obtains the grappling hook and happens to be standing on a platform that is not solid ground . This only applies to the side-scrolling levels, and if there is any chance that the platform you are standing on can be rappelled down, Rygar will do it.
This is highly frustrating on later levels, when the onscreen enemies are running at you in droves and from all directions. In many cases, you have no choice but to take a hit, which is one aspect about some of the games I have played in the past that I absolutely HATE!
This could have been fixed by having the option to unequip/equip the grappling hook instead of having it “on” all the time, or removing enemies low to the ground if the option to attack low was going to be removed.
Another aspect that can be confusing is the subscreen, where Rygar’s spells, life potions and skill points can be observed. “UP” and “DOWN” cycle through Rygar’s spells, and pressing “A” casts the spell, granted you have enough skill points. “RIGHT” and “LEFT” cycle between the life potion and Pegasus Flute (when you have them) and they are used by pressing “B”. There are no onscreen instructions to tell you this, however, and can be hard for a newcomer to grasp.
There have been many times during my initial complete playthrough that I intended to use a life potion, but end up pressing “A” and casting a spell and depleting my skill points! This is NOT a good thing when you are preparing for a messy boss fight, and resulted in me backtracking to another FAR AWAY location to grind for more.
Skill points are dropped randomly from defeated enemies, but their item drop percentage seems to hover around 20% and skill points can be extremely tedious to obtain. Again, this could have been rectified with the use of simple onscreen instructions to explain which button selects which item/spell.
Controls: 8/10 – Solid, responsive controls, only hampered by the inability to “unequip” the grappling hook and the somewhat confusing subscreen, where a mistake can result in time-consuming backtracking.
Many of the levels have some great tracks, especially the first two screens! From Sueru Mountain to Gran Mountain, the music is lively, heroic and upbeat. The first overhead map (Garloz) also features pleasant and upbeat music as well, and the Den of Sagila features a track that greatly enhances the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a cave.
The Gran Mountain track is repeated in later levels, but it’s so great and spaced far enough between that it is still pleasant and not repetitive or out of place. it greatly disappointing, however, that there is a complete LACK OF BOSS MUSIC! That’s right!
There is no boss music whatsoever! All you get when you enter the boss’s domain is intermittent “roaring” (for lack of a better term) and that IS IT! This applies even to Ligar, the final boss! Even walking through the Sky Castle towards the final confrontation lacks quality music, as it endlessly plays a 3-second loop that attempt to sound intimidating, but seem to fall short of its intended goal.
The lack of music tends to dull the stressful experience of a boss fight, frankly, and I would have liked to heard something, ANYTHING, other than the boss’s annoying “blarurgruh” (as close as a translation as I can give you)!
The in-game sounds, however, are great! There is a satisfying “whoosh” when Rygar deploys his Diskarmor, impact sounds are great as the bodies of your enemies explode and even jumping sounds are pleasant, though it does sound like Rygar favors tapdancing shoes for some reason!
A distinctive click similar to using the pulley is heard while jumping, both during liftoff and after landing! Still awesome!
Sound/Music 8/10 – The small amount of music tracks are pleasant to hear, but it would have been nice if bosses had their own tracks. The Sky Castle could have done MUCH better at building suspense, but the other in-game sounds are very pleasing to the ears!
In general, I really enjoyed playing this game and I am glad I finally had the opportunity to see it through and share my thoughts with all of you! Many of the problems with the actual gameplay can be fixed simply by learning the rules of the game and adapting to them, such as the frustrating pulley engagement system when trying to cross a river or using items in the subscreen.
However, other problems seem to be a cross you have to bear, such as not being able to low attack on a platform after obtaining the grappling hook.
Having to take a hit is extremely frustrating to me if it could have been fixed with the addition of an equip/unequip feature, but this doesn’t break the game for me. The lack of dedicated boss music is more of a letdown than a dealbreaker, but I would recommend throwing on your favorite track to drown out the boss’s terrible “roar” sound effect.
Other than that, the controls were responsive, the graphics were adequate, and offered the player incentives to leveling Rygar up, such as more life and Tone points, which hearken back to RPG-like elements and differs from the arcade version. It took me about 4 hours to beat the game, much of which included frustrating backtracking (right before Ligar!) and grinding for skill points, but I had fun the whole time!
Diagnosis: Highly Recommended!
Thanks for reading and GAME ON, my fellow gamers! Lumpz the Clown OUT!
Lumpz the Clown is an avid gamer who does Let’s Plays, reviews and other assorted clowny goodness He aspires one day to make video games his full-time career and enjoys interacting with like-minded individuals with the same passion for gaming.