Game of the Month September, 2003:

System: NES Developer: Tecmo
Rygar is a game that left a distinct impression on me when I first played it many years ago. I couldn't help but think that, at the time, some of its graphics effects were ahead of their time. It was interesting how the sun stayed in place in the background as the foreground objects scrolled. And the animation of Rygar, the hero, in both a sidescrolling and overhead view, was superb. Nothing I had seen before in a game had looked as creepy and claustrophobic as the bug-infested underground caverns. Large, colorful enemies and bosses, rounded out the eye candy, and seeing the sunset was a nice touch. Looking at it now, it's graphics may appear somewhat blocky and static, but in 1988, Rygar was a visual wonder.

The sun also rises...and sets, too!

Rygar soon learned the downside of not helping to control the pet population. But Rygar's joys weren't all relegated to its aesthetics. It was the first NES game released in North America that had a true experience-buidling system: Rygar gets stronger and gains life meter blocks by fighting enemies. The game itself is somewhat non-linear, as the basic goal is to search out and destroy the bosses. Much like in the Zelda series of games, some areas will be inaccessible at first, and you can only gain entrance by finding the appropriate items. The items that Rygar needed to find were very unique among adventure games of the time: a grappling hook to climb up and down screens, a pully to ride across ropes, and a crossbow to make a rope between two poles. Dead ends are few in Rygar: many times you can fling the grappling hook straight up, or drop down from a ledge with it to find more areas to explore that were off-screen, and previously, off-limits. In his adventure, Rygar also finds many wise men (some with a creepy third eye called "Indoras") who will give him items, refill his health, or spout off a bit of classic NES nonsense dialogue such as, "It's 2 a.m. and time for the monsters to awake!" All the while, Ligar's lion-shaped stone castle floats ominously in the sky overhead. This is the game's final destination, and the way to enter it is another one of Rygar's greatest mysteries.

Rygar has some other perks that made it stand out to me, such as a decent soundtrack (one of my favorite video game songs is the underground cavern theme) and excellent play control. Rygar has a weapon that acts like a giant killer yo-yo, and it's just plain fun using it. Rygar's jumping ability includes being able to bounce on some enemies and momentarily stun them. Although Rygar does have some challenging areas, particularly the Dragon Forests in which it's necessary to run a gauntlet of ground enemies while huge dragons drop rocks on you from above, it is a rather easy game. I really would have liked for it to have been more challenging, and I was disappointed in the final boss, who is just a slightly harder version of an earlier boss. One thing to consider is that the game has no save feature, (though it does have unlimited continues), so this is probably one reason the difficulty is not so high. You have to complete it in one sitting, and the game world, though small by later standards, is large for one in which you cannot save.

You'd think that something that big and made of stone wouldn't be able to float, but there you go.

I've heard mixed feelings for Rygar's Playstation2 sequel (the first update to the series in over a decade). I would've hoped that a sequel to Rygar could've taken what was begun with this game, and make it larger, and more challenging, now that save features are commonplace. I guess I'll have to play it myself, someday, to find out, but until then, I won't mind going back to the NES Rygar every now and then.



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