April 17, 2013

[Game 035] Dragon Crystal (SMS - 1990)


The third and final serving from the Master System has already failed to even come close to its mediocre predecessors.  The game opts to give no introduction of any kind; beyond the title screen lies immediate immersion into the dungeon.

Have a reason for being here?

The manual does contain the backstory which is written like a single stream of thought from the overactive imagination of a six-year-old hopped up on several litres of espresso.  It's so awesomely bad that I'll reproduce it here in its entirety.

One late afternoon, as you ride down the same old street on your bike, you see an alley you've never noticed before. You make a turn thinking it could be a shortcut home. Whistling your favorite tune, you pedal down the alley. All of a sudden, a small antique shop jumps into your sight. You park your bike and enter the musty shop. The first thing that grabs your attention is a mysterious light coming from what seems to be a crystal ball on a dust-covered shelf. You approach the crystal and gaze into it until a powerful, unknown force pulls you in...

You don't know how much time has passed or what has happened. But as you look around, you realize you're surrounded by giant flowers and you're not alone! Whenever you walk, a huge egg follows you! You wander around for awhile wondering if you are just dreaming or if all of this is really happening. When you turn around, you see a couple of nasty looking green blobs and vicious green frogs trying to attack you! The only thing you can do now is fight! Luckily, you find a dagger. With a couple of stabs you destroy the beasts. You walk around some more and pick up various items - from weapons to magic potions - scattered about. You eventually find out that this strange world is nothing but an intricate maze crawling with frightful creatures!

You must successfully exterminate the ferocious beasts - or else you can never escape from this tormenting nightmare!

The last line reminds me so much of the last line in my own prologue except it's not lame when I'm doing it because I'm being ironic or sarcastic or something.  Anywho, after that gripping intro story, it becomes clear within minutes that the generically named Dragon Crystal is nothing more than a graphical roguelike.  Everything is randomized, including the very first room the character starts in (I'll be referring to the character as "the character" because there's not enough substance here to make me want to Shen it up).  Sometimes there'll be a sword upgrade guarded by a single monster (see above pic) or sometimes it'll be a vast hall of treasures and monsters.

The character will have a chance if he
can make it to those swords before
the enemies swarm his ass.

Exploration consists of wandering corridors and rooms, looking for the exit to the next level.  There can't be too much wandering, however; a food system is in place to make sure the character doesn't dilly-dally.  Once food reaches zero (and it will), the character starts losing HP instead of gaining; he has a natural regeneration fueled by foodstuffs.  I rather like having this impetus to keep the character searching for more rooms in hopes of finding breads and meats, as well as other loot.  There's a good number of special items that can be used: scrolls, potions, rings, and rods.  Whenever one of these item types are initially found, they are shown as being a certain colour.  Only after it is used does the effect become known.  If the character finds more of the same type, it's colour descriptive is replaced with something a little more informative.  The colours are randomized each game so they can't just be memorized.  Both the food system and colour-coded items are staples of roguelike games so it's no surprise to see it incorporated here.  It's just too bad the game fails when it comes down to the finer details of what makes a good roguelike.

Rogue: the original roguelike.

The ratio of eventless corridors to eventful rooms is dreadful in DC and, to make matters worse, many hallways are dead ends.  Notice how original Rogue manages to get corridor use just right; they are generally used to connect the rooms (you know, where the GAME actually takes place).  Later levels in Rogue have some tricksy hallways but it's not overdone.

Compare and contrast to
this shitload of fuck.

At later levels, creatures start appearing that can drain food or strength with each hit.  Battles with these beasts usually results in taking multiple hits, which can cripple the character to the point of no return.  The food shortage isn't too bad as long as there is some food nearby (relying on random is usually a bad idea, though).  The strength drain is far worse as it appears to be permanent.  Taking around 10 hits will render the character unable to compete with the regular monsters of the level.  Might as well reset at that point.  Forget killing them at a distance since there are no reusable missile weapons.  The character can chuck old swords and armours but these often miss and do little damage anyway.  So draining creatures are to be avoided, which is fine except that creatures with that ability become more numerous as the character delves deeper until he's pretty much having to avoid everything.  Throw in some ranged attacks that drain and the character is left with very little room to maneuver.

And top it all off with a
grammar fail.  Just lovely.

In case of death, the game does allow limited continues as long the character has found enough gold.  Additionally, all special items gathered up to that point will be lost as well.  This can be useful in earlier stages but at later stages the character will either be too strength-drained to make continuing matter, or the loss of all special items will make any further progress very difficult.  Really, it would have been better to forget about the continues and just have shops like a real roguelike.

Continue after being drained
of half his strength?  PASS!

One final bitch.  Notice that brown smudge that follows the character around?  That's a dragon which hatched from an egg and has been getting bigger as the character gains levels.  It doesn't do anything, though.  I was hoping it'd help out in combat once out of its shell but nope.  I assume it'll do something at the end but why bother having it follow the character?  Is he suppose to bond with something that does nothing other than shadow him?  Whatever, I'll assume it's just there to give validity to the dragon in Dragon Crystal.  Not that I should be using any form of the word valid around DC.