Crystalis, (also known as God Slayer: Sonata of the Far Away Sky in Japan) was developed by SNK, and released for the Nintendo Entertainment System on April 13, 1990 in Japan, and in July 1990 for the English Translation. Despite it never becoming a major success during its run time in stores, it has since then been labeled a cult classic. While games like The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy are considered by many to be the definitive Adventure and RPG experiences on the NES, Crystalis can still hold it's own against these two powerhouses.
Unlike many NES titles, Crystalis has a very prominent narrative to it's story. At the title screen it tells you just exactly what has transpired until this point in time (the starting point in the game), and does a very good job of it as compared to other games (here's looking at you Zero Wing). Besides the story, the gameplay elements are pulled off quite eloquently. With the game behaving like an old school Dark Souls, it has players collecting items from across different zones in order to unlock zones with tougher enemies, ultimately progressing the story along. The combat may seem simple; but with so many spells and elemental swords to choose from it's tough to figure out exactly how you want to slay the countless hordes of dragons and blobs that block your path. But beware swinging those mystic blades haphazardly or crossing into a new zone without grinding a little first! Enemies will punish you just as quickly you would punish them; and if you decided to fore go picking up those potions at the shop just to save up for a new shield or piece of armor, it may very well be GAME OVER for you. Although, like most NES titles, Crystalis has a very strange save system, making you press start, and then select, just to get to the save screen. Beware ye who forget to hold in RESET as you turn off the console, for all of your precious items, and progress is now lost to the void.
Now, this wouldn't be an NES review if we didn't talk graphics and music. If you take a look at a video of Crystalis game play or even screenshots of the game, you can see it doesn't look like your average NES title. SNK really outdid themselves with how well the pixel art was done. Looking almost as if it were designed to be launched on the SNES; the colors and lines give a breath of fresh air to the console normally attributed to block-y characters, and rigid looking landscapes. As for music, while it's not quite on par with the tunes and melodies of titles such as; Super Mario Bros. or Tetris, these midi tones will send you into a humming frenzy at work, just as well as those from the likes of the earlier mentioned titles.
Despite being developed more than twenty years ago, Crystalis still stands near the top as a game with a story on par with that of Xenogears, Combat as fun as The Legend of Zelda, and a save system as mind boggling as Final Fantasy. If you haven't already, pick up a copy at your local game shop, if not to play then to add to your collection!