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Saturday, September 24, 2022


 I've commented before about how pre-Zelda Japanese RPGs have largely been forgotten for good reason - they mostly consist of forgettable Wizardry clones, and the few unique and influential ones (Hydlide, Dragon Slayer) are just too dated and clunky to be much fun these days.  Rygar is an odd exception - though Zelda beat it to the punch in Japan, it was released in North America a month before, so technically speaking, this was the first open-world action RPG on the NES.  It's also quite a bit different from its arcade counterpart, which was a pretty straight side-scrolling action game where you were constantly under attack by enemies.  That's still true to a degree here, but quite a few more mechanics come into play.  For one, there are now vertically-scrolling areas, as well as top-down segments that connect the side-scrolling levels together.  For another, you now have stats - Tone (attack power), Last (defense) and Magic (fuels spells); the former two gradually improve as you slay enemies, while Magic is boosted by collecting star icons.  The world is also largely open and non-linear, though like Metroid and Zelda, there is an intended sequence of events for you to complete, with areas locked off by requiring certain items first.  These include a grappling hook to climb to higher ledges you can't jump to, a "wind pulley" to slide across rope bridges suspended over deadly water, and a Crossbow, which lets you create your own rope bridges between posts.  It's quite a well-presented game for its time, too, with some detailed backdrops, well-animated characters and a strong soundtrack by Michiharu Hasuya, who also composed music for several other NES/Famicom titles.  Its movement and hit detection are quite smooth too, with the exception of sliding on ropes being rather finnicky and taking some practice. The game disappointingly has no save feature whatsoever - if you want to beat the game, you have to do it all in one sitting.  That said, you can continue as many times as you want without losing progress (save for starting back at the beginning of the current area), so it avoids a bit of frustration seen in many other early-era NES games.  All told, Rygar is an entertaining game and, for what is essentially the NES's first action-RPG, remains surprisingly fun today.  It's also still dirt cheap in secondhand shops and on sites like eBay, and therefore worth having in any collection.

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: NES
Released: 1987