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RYGAR / Tecmo / PS2
Rygar: Destroy All Ruins
Both the Rygar NES and arcade games (along with various ports of both) were pretty well-received in their time and still have some small share of fandom today. Even with the revival-mania of game companies these days, however, I don't think anyone expected the series to be revived totally out of nowhere about 17 years after the last title in it had been released.
So, kind of a bizarre franchise to resurrect, but not necessarily a bad one. The original Rygar arcade game was a linear but well-constructed action game with a unique weapon (the swinging Diskarmer, something like a chain whip with a spike-studded disc attached to the tip), and the NES version was an interesting early experiment in non-linear action game construction similar to Zelda 2, Metroid and the Goonies 2.
Unfortunately, Rygar only pays tribute to the depth and complexity of the NES version in the most cursory way. It's essentially a linear, generic 3D action game - most of the game world is left open to you to return to and explore, but very infrequently are you actually required to, the return trips being something more of a hunt for bonus items if you feel up to it. While tremendously better looking, and sporting much smoother and more even gameplay, the world maps of PS2 Rygar don't have anywhere near the interlocking complexity that the NES game had.
The game is actually something like a 3D Castlevania game (one of the more decent ones) meets the presentation style of Devil May Cry. The game engine is not true 3D, but a series of static backdrops in which only Rygar and the enemies move in quasi-three-dimensions. There's seven worlds total, connected by a "main field", which you take on in a totally linear order - one isn't unlocked until you beat the boss of the previous.
The game looks lovely, if a bit lifeless. Rygar's environs are mostly elements of Greek and Roman ruins, with a whole Isle of Crete sort of vibe to the "main field" area. Most of the dungeon areas are ruined colosseums or temples of some type. The backdrops are detailed and very pretty, and paired with the symphonic soundtrack performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the game does have a certain lovely ambience to it. Unfortunately, the world is also only populated by Rygar and the six or seven types of regularly occuring enemies he faces (lots of palette swaps as the game goes on in this one.) Boss battles are similarly nice, but with an element of disappointment - they tend to be pretty big, but also pretty immobile, or with really fixed attack patterns that don't vary much.
The issue isn't really the appearance of the game, though, which is at the very least passable and pleasant. Nor is it with the gameplay, which is pretty smooth, some issues with pointing Rygar in the right direction to attack aside (and with the fixed camera angles sometimes being in goofy locations.) The main issue of the game is that it's very short and very easy. There's only roughly 6-7 hours of playtime here total, and that's if you comb previous areas for the bonus stones that power up Rygar. And unfortunately, most of that playtime is spent simply mashing the Square button. Rygar uncovers various new powers as he progresses - the ability to swing at certain grapple points, a mid-air stomp, new Diskarmors that have new swing patterns and combos - but these are all used in only the most cursory ways, and the vast bulk of the game consists of pointing in the general direction of enemies and mushing on Square while occasionally jumping. Visual appearances aside, most of the bosses move slowly and are kind of a joke in terms of difficulty, and the dungeon environs are never complex or confusing. That means the game is also never really frustrating, but it accomplishes this by stripping it of nearly any real challenge.
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