Sunday, March 20, 2016

Remembering Crystalis

SNK's 1990 video game Crystalis has some standing as a cult game, very fondly remembered by some, but by others not really remembered at all.

Arguably one disadvantage the game faced was in the timing of its release. It came after the 16-bit era had not only dawned, but got well underway. By April 1990, not only were the NEC-Hudson Soft Turbo Grafx 16 and Sega Genesis out for quite some time, but that very same month Crystalis' own maker, SNK, was breaking into the console market with its own 16-bit entry, the Neo Geo--and the release of the Super Nintendo was mere months away.

This was not a market conducive to even the most advanced use of 8-bit technology making a splash.

Another was, apparently, the tendency to see Crystalis as a Zelda clone, apparently still alive and well, and perhaps reinforced by the development of gaming since then. After all, not only was the Zelda series one of the icons of the 8-bit era, so much so that it was easy for it to overshadow the rest of what was still a new and small action RPG market, but the series has gone from strength to strength to remain as current as ever. By contrast, there was little in the way of follow-ups or remakes to the original Crystalis, limited to a Game Boy Color port back in 2000, with no edition ever released even for the Virtual Console (apparently on account of the idiot wrangles specialized in by holders of law degrees).

And of course the massive increase in the sophistication of gaming, the action RPG genre in particular, makes it harder for someone whose standard is set by newer gaming to take a nuanced view of the differences among games of a much earlier generation, made within rather narrower technical limits than those with which today's designers work. It would seem that for many one 8-bit game of this type is pretty much the same as another--reinforcing the "clone" charge.

For my part, however, I would say that Crystalis was the best action RPG of the 8-bit era, deserving of much greater recognition than it has received.

My Posts on Gaming
Why Crystalis is Not a Zelda Clone
Preview Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Wizardry

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