14: Rygar

Genre: Action Adventure

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Year: 1987

Basic Idea: If you ever needed to grapple really bad…

Review: In my review of Blaster Master, I lamented the lack of any way to save the game considering its expanse and significant backtracking.  I also mentioned I could have forgiven that if I was blown away by the game.  I was blown away by Rygar.

The first thing one notices when they start this game is how insanely good the music is.  If there was a game from 1987 that had better music, I haven’t played it.  Each section of the game has its own theme, and each one is highly addicting.  I am not bullshitting when I say that leaving one area for the next is an emotional letdown for me because I immediately miss the music I was just listening to.

The graphics are not far behind.  The graphics in the platforming scenes are simply stunning for the time.  A sunset framed by purple mountains with a scrolling horizon?  Tecmo was way ahead of its time.  The overhead areas have decidedly more pedestrian graphics, but they’re still serviceable.

Of course, neither sound nor graphics do a game make.  What does make a game like this is intense action with great play control.  The diskarmor is a great weapon, again one of my favorites on the system.  Like Castlevania, it can be upgraded with more experience.  Unlike Castlevania, there are no other power-ups in the game.  You are allowed a couple of magic spells that strengthen your attack and one to heal yourself.  The game makes up for the lack of weapons with the various tools you need to collect to advance.  While the game doesn’t tell you where you need to go, it is linear in the fact that you need tools to get into other areas (though some parts can be done in a different order).  From a grappling hook to a crossbow to a wind pulley, these items must be used creatively to access new areas of the game.

My favorite part of the game are the bosses that guard each section.  Each one is unique and fits the theme of the area you’re in, and some of those special items you collect can also be used creatively to make the boss battles easier.  The game is consistently difficult, but also consistently fair.  The final boss in the game is worthy of the title.

The game does have two moderate flaws, unfortunately.  As mentioned, there is no save feature, which is almost unforgivable.  One would need at least three hours to defeat this game, and that’s assuming you virtually never die.  Five to six hours is more likely, and that’s once you know where everything is.  What makes it tolerable is that there are infinite lives.  Also, you don’t lose experience or items when you die; you just have to start at the beginning of whatever stage you are in.

The second flaw involves using the wind pulley.  There are chasms you must cross on a rope, using the pulley to swing across.  On the overhead levels, it is very easy to misjudge the rope and wind up falling into a chasm.  More of an annoyance than anything, but there it is.

Less annoying but still worthy a mention is some slowdown issues in areas with too many enemies.

With save states, the two primary problems with the game are rendered moot.  So if you’re looking for an old-school game in this vein, fire up an emulator and give Rygar a try.

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One thought on “14: Rygar

  1. I still need to grapple bad! I loved that game but never won it because of the no-save feature. I did load it on my computer a few years ago with emulator, but I was trying to play with the keyboard, which was quite awkward, so I didn’t get very far. I definitely have to try Rygar again with a game controller. I so totally agree with you on the background music . . . it still runs through my head from time to time. It’s worth downloading the game again just for the audio nostalgia.

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