Saturday, July 4, 2009

Battle of Archaic - A Review

After a fantastic surprise Birthday party and another one the day before (back to back, ingenious planning) I received a slew of gifts. Too many, even. You see, despite the fact that I am in the summer season, most of my day is generally revolved around other people, so free time is not something I generally have. That and summer classes...

One of the gifts I received was slightly gag-infested - a copy of Chrono Trigger for Nintendo DS. For whatever reason, it was recommended by someone that I should get this "great game." I played the game years ago, never felt impressed, and with my current disposition toward RPGs in general (hate) laughing ensued. I was quickly given a receipt to return the game for something of similar value. Long story short, that game was Rygar: The Battle of Argus for Nintendo Wii.

For RPG fans rolling in their own bodily fluids at my gesture towards a "classic," I have nothing to say. I can only justify my purchase toward a game no one cares about; I had been following the (development?) hype of Rygar on Wii for a while - a port of what seems like a good game in the vein of God of War. I hestitated toward getting it on launch due to the vast abundance of lackluster reviews, but at the expense of trading a gift in to Play-N-Trade (free) I was able to form my own opinion on the game, knowing how I tend to disagree with every commercial entertainment review site (MGS4 and GTA4 are NOT perfect video games).

The skinny: I cannot on any grounds recommend Rygar: TBOA to anyone. I can't tell you how great the story is because it sucks. I can't exclaim how much the voice acting is laughibly terrible or really well done - it falls dully inbetween the two extremes. I can't come to your house and show you the awesome display of graphical prowess this game has - it looks like a dated Dreamcast game. I can't even tell you that the gameplay is utterly fantastic because, honestly, the controls are sluggish and non-conforming to former video game traditions (Canceling moves into others) and the core of the game, which is beating the crap out of people with a chained-shield, is unsatisfying to say the least. There is no reason why you would spend your hard earned money on this aged media of entertainment.

Unless you are me.

Rygar harkens back to something few gamers will either remember or appreciate. Back in a time when 3D graphics were just starting to look impressive and 3rd-party developers were tapping into the magic of Super Mario 64's atmosphere, developers were ambitious with their titles. Every game worth its salt in advertising was at least interesting, if not unique or inspired. Today we are filled with shovelware (Wii), penis-enlarging graphics and online (X360) and the games best played in our dreams (PS3). While we had all those thins when Playstation 2 thrived, the headliner was always "Too many good games on one console: What do we do?" Prior to this era, I owned a Playstation and Nintendo 64, only feeling that the latter's flagship title utilized 3D space in an interesting way that merited the change in gameplay. It was fun to swim underwater and wall jump the castle grounds. No other game, until the 128-bit era, made me feel that way. Rygar, in no reasonable fashion, makes me feel this way, but the developers were trying to make a game that felt alive while being scripted and action oriented. Rygar is the love child of hungry developers, with the beckoning 200 Mhz CPU of the Sony Playstation 2, eager to make an engaging interactive journey only made possible with (then) state of the art technology. In more elegant words: to make what couldn't be made before.

To further illustrate my point, I'll tell you one of my prized stories of youth. When I first purchased my Playstation 2, I only had two games - Metal Gear Solid 2 and Final Fantasy X. I knew a few people who really loved the system and would let me borrow games. At the time, I was really interested in how some of my favorite franchises branched out - one of which was Resident Evil. A friend let me borrow his copy of Veronica X and I played it for a total of (drumroll) 40 minutes. Whatever love I had toward the frachise was missing - it felt the same as RE2 but with no enhancement to gameplay. I took the game out of my console in disgust, only to find an additional demo disc in the game case.

Those of you savy enough to remember or simply use google will know that demo was one of the best games on PS2. I didn't know that when I popped it in and I can honestly say I had never spent so much time playing a 3 level demo in my life. It was so much fun to be in this gothic world filled with demons and a little bit of mystery. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the rest of the franchise, but the premier title is still one of my most treasured games in my library. The fixed camera, high-action gameplay, clever platforming... all of it is represented here in Rygar for Wii.

Yes, the game is nothing more than a port with a few slapped on features and costume changes. If I was a fan of the original game, I'd probably be pissed at Tecmo for rehashing it to the Wii with crappy "waggle" gimmicks to create false longevity for the game. But as someone who missed it the first time around and is a huge fan of God of War and Devil May Cry, I love this game. For one, it has a fantastic soundtrack - fully orchestrated in a slight Baroque manner. I am a bit of a music snob and I have found a lot of games try too hard at being "epic" with their scores or do the Michael Bay approach - Rygar escapes these societal complaints with thorough interlaced harmonies and Romantic leitmotifs. The game also has a lot of exploration for a DMC clone - something think video games should delve into more. Tunnels, dungeons and overworlds all make Rygar more than a mission based combo-fest like DMC3. Add a very cool Roman theme, some interesting art design and multiple disk-armors to equip, the game is pretty engaging if you give it the time of day.

Yes, the game is horribly aged and for that reason I cannot recommend it. But if you happen to be a clone of myself, are hungry for no-frills action gaming and can overlook some design flaws, Devil May Cry 1 is for you. 2nd place goes to Rygar: The Battle of Argus.

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