When I was but a wee lad, sometime in the early 90′s there was a new store that opened up in my hometown called Phar-Mor. It was not unlike your average Walgreens or CVS; a pharmacy with some essential grocery type goods. But Phar-Mor was something special. They had Nintendo rentals for 39 cents a day. That’s right, 39 cents a day. My mother, bless her heart, would go out of her way to go to Phar-Mor for things she needed, and come back with one or two, or even sometimes four of these ridiculously inexpensive rentals for my brother and me to play.
In about 1992, the company’s founder and CFO (allegedly) embezzled about $10 million from the company and bankrupted it.
This meant two things, first, that I would be crying myself to sleep that night because the most awesome game rental place that ever existed was gone forever in an instant (later to be replaced by some fledgling company called BEST BUY, like that will ever work, pfft)
And second, Liquidation Sale.
In the end, it wasn’t so bad that they went away, because they had an awesome clearance on the NES games that they sold. Of which, my mother grabbed a handful for us for about $3 to $5 apiece.
Among those…was Crystalis. A game I’d never heard of before, not even in Nintendo Power or anything like that. But I was never afraid to try a new game.
I had played games like Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy before, and I loved them. But I never knew until then that there was a game like those two combined.
Crystalis is a top-down Adventure RPG. You wander the world, explore dungeons, and solve puzzles (like Zelda) but you also find and buy new weapons and armor, gain experience and levels for the monsters you fight, and learn and cast magic spells (like Final Fantasy). It was in many ways the best of both worlds, the graphics for the time were stunning and the music is still hailed as some of the best ever composed in videogame history. On top of all of this, the story is rather compelling as well.
Nothing is perfect, however. This game did come with its issues. If you did not know exactly what you were doing, the game could take you a very long time to figure out. Most of the dungeons are mazes and some are very samey-looking and very easy to get lost in. Two of the puzzle/quests are very vague and send you searching for invisible objects in not-so-clearly-defined locations. And each sword has an element, and almost every enemy is immune to at least one, so there is a lot of menu hopping and sword-switching. But really, beyond those small gripes, the game holds up. It’s still challenging, but not ridiculously difficult; and it is so damn fun to play.
I am a huge fan of Final Fantasy and Zelda 2 in particular, but in my opinion, this is the best game ever released for the NES, and it so richly deserves a sequel, but unfortunately its developer SNK no longer exists. Some other company bought the rights to port the game to the GameBoy Color, which was cool at the time if you had a GBC, but in most regards the port is vastly inferior and frustratingly different.
It would make my day if somebody gave this game a good makeover in the form of a rom hack that was a sequel or a story extension of some kind. There are a couple of rom hacks for Crystalis out there but as far as I know they just add toilet humor to the dialog.
If you’ve never tried this game before, give it a shot (there are tons of rom sites out there for you to try it out) or go pick it up at your nearest vintage used game store. It’s well worth the trip.
Enix made some games like this on the SNES, like SoulBlazer and Illusion of Gaia, but those are for another day. Enjoy this one if you can find it, it’s a gem.