Retro of the Week - Demon's Crest

Posted by Swifto on 30 July, 2012 at 09:35AM

Tags: retro, platformer, graphics, SNES

Retro of the Week - Demon's Crest

I love a good bit of writing.

But I think we've established that... Quite thoroughly, I believe. (Idunno, what do you guys think?)

So for a change of pace, here's a game that has extremely little writing. Instead of descriptions, bits of flavourtext and character lingo, the mood of this game is brought about almost entirely through the use of visuals.

Naturally, there's other factors that help make this game what it is. (and what kind of article would this be if I didn't discuss all the bits that make this thing?)

First up, the music. While I wouldn't contend to it being all too fantastic (I can hardly remember a truly noteworthy tune before or after playing it), it at the least sets a good impression in-game. A fair bit of it is a bit more on the ambient side than anything, which works when in the game itself, but doesn't leave too strong an impact for afterwards. For example, I remember enjoying the song that plays during boss fights, but I can't remember the melody to it short of a few scattered bits of the song here and there. Hardly enough to form a cohesive song in my head.

The gameplay is a nice change of pace, though. Rather than the usual 'start at level 1, beat a boss, go on to level 2 etc etc' construction that many games follow, especially of the time, Demon's Crest instead follows a more.... Sandbox approach? A looser approach to level progression? Exploratory? More Metroid-esque? Idunno.

How it goes is that you're the demon Firebrand, a red gargoyle of legendary reputation (in universe and kind of in real life as well), stuck within a colloseum match against a hopelessly large undead dragon. After scraping by that fight and managing to escape, Firebrand cuts through a rather normal level as usual, fights a mini-boss, goes through a different type of level, then fights a proper boss. Seems fairly standard, and it works wonderfully for a tutorial level of sorts. There isn't an ability Firebrand has right off the bat that you don't know about after this level.

It gets interesting once that level is done, though. Now, you're thrust into a height-distorted Mode 7 world that you can freely fly about in, swooping towards the ground to make a landing at whichever destination you want. It's an interesting and very fun change from the usual overworld maps. Flying around is very fun all on its own, and feels very natural. It isn't very difficult to use to go from place to place, and once you manage to master it, it gets even more fun. Rather that stopping near where you want to be, slowly rotating, and diving to land from a near hover, you can get skilled enough at these controls that you can swoop from place to place without slowing or stopping, making just the right tiny adjustments to your flight to make the perfect landing. It's something that Capcom could have just thrown into an overworld map type of system and been done with it, but they went the extra mile to add an interesting touch that goes great leagues towards making this game a memorable one.

In the more traditional platforming sections, any old fans of Gargoyles Quest can find many similarities here. Gone is the fairly clunky jump timing of the previous games. Firebrand can now hover forever, which means a lot of the more twitch and timing types of levels from previous games have been eliminated. What would have been a stressful and/or frustrating level in the previous ones is now a game of patience, surveying the area, and landing at the right spots to get just the right angle you need. Some may object to this, those who enjoyed the challenge of the old games, but I for one welcome it.

Anyone who's played the previous Gargoyle's Quest games can immediately tell that there's a different speed and pace to Demon's Crest than previous ventures. Quick reactions and twitch jumps are gone, replaced with a bit slower, more strategic pace to the game. It's different, especially from a lot of Capcom's usual games, and I enjoy every minute of it. But just because it's slower doesn't mean Demon's Crest is any easier. Worry not. The challenge is still present, ooooooh yes. It's here in droves. What brings the difficulty in here is vicious enemies, clever level design, and fierce bosses. Being able to hover forever will not bring much advantage in a lot of fights, and oh you will die. You will die plenty of times. Thankfully, the game is fairly gracious about this, and you lose nothing except needing to start the stage over again at the worst of times.

Well, I think that about covers it. I think I've got everything I could say about this gam-VISUALS.

Oh ye gods, how could I forget.

This game is pretty. Like, this game could have been released on the Playstation and people would have still called it gorgeous. Far from bright, but still full of colour, Demon's Crest makes excellent use of dark tones and backgrounds. It uses this motif to present us with a world that's possibly darker and more sinister than any other Capcom game to date, and certainly was for its time. For a realm composed entirely of demons, the architecture and designs certainly make that part of the game very believable.

Complementing this macabre world is some truly sinister monsters. Many of the casual enemies would look quite ghoulish in their own right in any other game, yet in Demon's Crest they have to compete with some of the most grisly bosses seen of the age. These bosses range from larger than Firebrand (at minimum) to quite monstrous. Some of the environments that these bosses are fought in make for great challenges on their own, without bosses to run into while they fling projectiles around.

So for those of you who like a good challenge and an interesting world to sink yourself into, look no further.