My obsession with RPGs started fairly early, long before I stumbled upon such time-honoured classics as Final Fantasy VII. As a kid, I used to voraciously consume RPGs of all types, eagerly scouting for more to sate my appetite every time I visited a used video games store. My choice of platforms wasn’t always the best, however — I was a Sega kid for the longest time and adored my Mega Drive (known as the Sega Genesis in the US), and in retrospect, the Mega Drive was certainly not well-known for its selection of RPGs. As a result, one of the many I sampled — and have gone back to re-play recently — was Light Crusader, an RPG endeavour by the once-legendary game studio Treasure.
While well-known for their quality action and platform style games, Treasure attempted a Zelda-esque dungeon-crawler RPG in the form of Light Crusader, though unfortunately it did not live up to the quality of their other offerings. What went wrong? Read on…
I was hoping I’d get an excuse to use the ‘F’ rating in these reviews; lo and behold, the gods have granted me just that opportunity. The story in Light Crusader is as thin as tissue paper and about as interesting, while the setting is best described as painfully generic; swords and sorcery, goblins, dragons, demons… yawn. It’s been done before and done a lot better; if you’re looking for an interesting and unique game world to lose yourself in for a while, you most certainly won’t find it here. Sir David the knight (yes, really) travels to the sleepy town of Green Row by invitation of the King, to what he thinks will be a pleasant vacation from his constant battles. But oh ho ho, little does he know that the town is in trouble, townsfolk vanishing at the dead of night and sightings of sinister cultists sneaking around.
That’s pretty much as deep as the plot goes, and with that it’s into the dungeon, pushing blocks around and solving bizarre puzzles as Sir David descends deeper into a sprawling dungeon lair buried beneath the town (complete with an entire village of goblins), which nobody seems to be aware even existed. The story is a thin excuse for a mediocre action RPG, and the setting is frightfully dull, and… there’s really not much more I can say here.
The gameplay is fairly standard action-RPG faire, though aside from the combat (which is… acceptable, if thoroughly uninspired) the focus is largely on solving puzzles — these can range from block-pushing, to timing explosions of bombs and triggering switches in the correct order, to good old-fashioned jumping puzzles. At first this can seem entertaining, though it swiftly turns from fun to frustration due to the poorly-designed nature of the system and the glitchy irregularity of what could loosely be described as the game’s physics system.
There are many times where, intending to push a block or other item in one direction, the game will mistakenly move it the wrong way, often causing it to get jammed up against a wall and forcing the player to begin the whole puzzle anew (because, while Sir David is a fantastic pusher, he had never learned nor understood the ability to pull objects). Moreover, the 2.5D isometric view of the game world is more a hindrance than anything, with many jumps (and even some block-pushing) being more guesswork than skill, trying to judge just where that platform lies on the vertical axis and, more often than not, missing entirely.
The other puzzles range from the genuinely clever and well-thought-out — the kind that’ll make you want to pat yourself on the back in congratulations for solving it — to the frustratingly obscure, often leading to a solution by trial and error. The combat, aside from a few mildly entertaining death effects such as slicing a goblin clean in two (though this game has nothing on The Immortal in that regard) and a slightly interesting system of combining one or more of the four elements to create magical spells, is plain, unremarkable, and largely quite easy.
I’m not going to say Light Crusader is necessarily ugly, because even the ugliest of games can have its unique charms to some. However, the blocky 2.5D isometric view is not terribly well-visualised, most of the game’s artwork is — and I hate to keep using this word — functional at best, and the characters in the ‘cutscenes’ are frankly horrid-looking, even by 16-bit standards (see Sir David’s handsome face in the picture above-right for a fine example). However, none of the visuals are offensive enough to warrant a lower score, and they do their job well enough, but the Mega Drive is capable of looking so much nicer than this.
Similarly, the audio in the game is acceptable, functional, but not remarkable by any stretch of the imagination. The music is inoffensive yet remarkably forgettable, fitting in theme with much else about this game experience.
I don’t want to say Light Crusader is a bad game, but… Light Crusader is a bad game. It’s short, dull, uninviting, uninspired, poorly-constructed, mildly frustrating, and frankly not really worth anyone’s time, especially when there are so many other options available that fill the niche in a superior manner (Landstalker, to name but one). Best to give Sir David’s adventure a miss and look for greener pastures.