Rygar: The Legendary Adventure (PS2)

Fussbett 01/10/2003 

Everything gets better when you put spikes on it. The porcupines know it, and golf shoes know it. Lets look at this helpful illustrated comparison of leather wristbands on musicians who fancy themselves as "cool":

No, not cool at all. Slightly cooler. Yeah, that's about right.

As you can see, each spike added increases the wearer's ability to ROCK. Also, wearing an unspiked leather wristband pretty much makes you a retard. Caltrops itself is a pro-spike website, as you can see from the Caltrops logo. Without spikes, you'd probably mistake this video game site for a site about pinball or perhaps Phantasm, or maybe benwa ball appreciation. Alright, those are pretty cool website ideas, so bad example there. Let's get this game review on track.

The Legendary Adventure

Rygar is an old 8-bit era arcade game that fuses spikes with a children's toy: the yo-yo. With your spikey yo-yo, you set out to kill all kinds of shit in a 2D platform world. But that was then, and this is now, the age of the colon. This is a new Rygar, titled "Rygar: The Legendary Adventure", and as you probably expected, it's in 3D and much worse than the original.

In the real world, princesses cannot be saved.
So what is so Legendary about Rygar's new adventure? Well, Rygar must save the princess. While you let that plot point digest, I'll talk about the backdrop, which is a crazy mix of Roman and Greek mythology cooked together in a Japanese tempura pot. When Rygar's movement isn't being thwarted by the ever-frustrating invisible walls, he traverses huge distances on foot (via your thumb) through the Greco-Roman ruins of his country (with some occasional teleporting), sometimes fighting impressive boss battles but mostly smashing urns. The spiked yo-yo Rygar exclusively employs is incredible, and features great animations which makes the yo-yo-whirling experience very satisfying. The sparks that are thrown off when the spikey edges grind against anything give a sufficient "wow" effect, and it's easily the highlight of the game.

Wielding this awesome weapon is overkill though, as it seems that in previous adventures Rygar has already rid his world of monsters, and now the mighty hero wanders his homeland in solitude for most of the game. Rygar: The Legendary Adventure sometimes feels like Ico but without the fun. Your number one foe in this game is the ubiqitous clay urn and cracked pillar WHICH MUST BE SMASHED. Or not. However, I don't know how you could possibly pass up the temptation of the "10 BUILD UP POINTS" orb that lies within the creamy center of most urns and pillars. I'm not kidding. It's as if this Rygar fellow is now either moonlighting on a wrecking crew, or just a punk vandal who gets off on tombstone defacement because 90% of the gameplay is about smashing stone.

"This is a nasty decaying pillar infestation you have here, ma'am. Good thing I work weekends." SMASH SMASH SMASH
Don't think that the lack of foes means the bad guys are especially tough. Fortunately for your health bar, when the enemies do sporadically appear they stand motionless, not unlike an urn. These fearsome enemies MAY launch a bullet at you if your initial twelve button presses miss their target. To deal with this onslaught of enemies, Tecmo has equipped Rygar with many attack variations and as the game progresses, adds different yo-yos to your arsenal which increases your movelist even futher. Here's a tip from me, in case you get overwhelmed with your attack options: Just press the SQUARE button a lot while facing the enemies and they'll be dead shortly. Don't even bother swapping to one of the other two yo-yos you find later in the game -- just hit SQUARE, or if you need to switch it up, hit CIRCLE a bit, because it's the same move. "The simplicity of the action and interface makes the game very easy to pick up" would be what I'd say if I was reviewing this game with a level head.

At one point you'll realize that you can simply run past any opposition you may face, but Tecmo is one step ahead of you, blocking your path with the greatest game design crutch since the crate: the magical force field. You're not going anywhere until you've cleaned up this room, young man! The faux-depth to the fighting aspect of the gameplay is another depressing side of R:TLA because games like Devil May Cry have already shown us that this type of gameplay can be enjoyable if done right -- like if the enemies are challenging. Or interesting, unlike the boring creatures in Rygar: The Legendary Adventure. Bugs, the lot of them! Witness such uninspired design types as "spindly lobster thing" and "floaty blob thing with a claw" and "floaty blob thing with a club". Then, just when you think you've seen it all, you have, and they throw a texture pallette swap on the lobster monsters to make them look different. It's fucking obscene. There are 45 different types of pillars to be smashed, however, so bring your hard hat. Now that I think about it, you'd better bring an extra pair of Greco-Roman sandals too, because there is a lot of aimless walking around to be done while you figure out where you're supposed to go next. In fact, bring a Gameboy, because that will really help pass the time while you wander ancient Greco-Romania for hours.

"I've gone on many soul-searching trips to the countries in Europe with my favorite guitar. Personal experiences like playing my guitar in front of places like the Parthenon in Athens during sunset and midnight jam sessions in Rome have stimulated my creativity." -- Satoshi Kanematsu
(artist's impression)
Post-Mortem of a Dead Classic

The original Rygar was a fast action, skin-of-your-teeth reflex game that stood above the rest. Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is like the femme son who enrolls in art school instead of taking up the family trade: killing tons of shit. Note that in 1986 Rygar wore pants, and now he wears a skirt.

How did this happen? How did a Rygar game get made where you wander around in a skirt, collecting points, looking at scenery, and praying for a challenge? From a Gamespot interview, the project leader Satoshi Kanematsu takes a break from one of his soul-searching European vacation jam sessions to shed some light on what went wrong:

"In my development team, there are guys who worked on excavation projects in Rome and Pompeii. The father of one of my key members is a world-renowned archaeologist, and he gives us great advice."

Hey, it shows, Satoshi-san. The game plays like a documentary of an archaeological dig, complete with the dead air atmosphere. You know who you should've consulted on this project? Not an archaeologist, but someone who played the original Rygar. Here's how that would've gone: "Yo, you should put more fighting into this action game."

We can all agree that the game is fantastic to look at, though, and when you return this game after BEATING IT IN TWO NIGHTS you can tell the Blockbuster clerk that Rygar: The Legendary Adventure features some of the best PS2 visuals produced to date. "It's like I could smell the pillars", you might say before heading off to rent NHL 2K3. Sure, once Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is finished there are extras to unlock and other such time wasters, but you've got better things to do, namely play NHL 2K3 all night long. What's that, Satoshi? You didn't intend to create a lifeless graphics showcase?

"The main idea is to create action-packed gameplay that feels good. To do so, we paid a lot of attention to the tempo and soothing pace of the game. The idea of emphasizing the rhythm of the game will be reflected in the map design, character motion, and camera work."

FIVE vastly different characters onscreen simultaneously in the 1986 Rygar.
PS2: Not enough RAM?
Again, (if we tactfully ignore the "action-packed" that slipped in there) I can't argue with him. Rygar: The Legendary Adventure lives up to the soothing pace and tempo that they set out to achieve. Satoshi's game design metronome must have been set to 3 BPM (Baddies per Motherfucking-long-time). In oppressive Tokyo, where life is so crowded and hectically paced that the average schoolgirl is forced to piggyback a business man to and from work every time she steps out of her flashing neon cubbyhole home, a "soothing pace" may be a great selling point. Conversely, I've never heard of someone in our Xtreme sports market demand a soothing quality to their video games. Oh wait, Myst fans, we've found your new game and it's a goddamnned RYGAR game for some fucking reason. I guess the guy in charge of the game warned us at every turn that game would turn out the exact opposite of what I wanted. Perhaps I'm the one who is at fault for thinking too highly of the original arcade Rygar? Were my expectations just too high?

"From the moment you grab the controller, you'll be screaming in joy, 'Awesome!' and 'Unbelievable!'  We're determined to completely immerse you into the world of Rygar with the ultimate entertainment experience. Expect this game to become one of the greatest games ever created."

Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration right there.


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