Review Information
Reviewer Name: Koborover
Game Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Options: False
Game Information
Full Title: Dragon Crystal
Year Released: 1991
Game Type: RPG
Max Players: 1

"One late afternoon, you pedal down an unfamiliar alley thinking it could be a shortcut home. Suddenly a musty antique shop jumps in your sight. The first thing that catches your attention inside is a mysterious light coming from a crystal ball. You approach the crystal and gaze into it until a powerful, unknown force pulls you in..." Guess what, you've just been pulled into what I think is one of the best and unfortunately overlooked SMS games. Equipped only with a dagger and robe, you must fight through 30 levels of monster-infested mazes. You're not entirely alone however, a huge egg seems to follow you around every step of the way. The objective is to find the Magic Goblet, the way out of this mess.
Dragon Crystal is a turn-based RPG, meaning that everything doesn't move until you do. A unique aspect, and an important thing to remember, because careful maneuvering can make the difference between life and death. You'll have to fight increasingly stronger monsters in the 30 randomly generated dungeons. Fortunately, there are items around that will help you, like better swords and armor, but also (mostly) helpful items such as scrolls, rods, potions and rings. All these items however are unknown to you at first (you see only the color), so you'll have to try them out to know what they are. These are random every game too. Finally you'll have to collect food to survive and pick up money to buy continues. The game is pretty hard, especially at first when you don't know the use of every item. But even if you do, due to the random nature of the game, you won't find that one good sword or armor in time before the stronger beasts arrive, or you'll warp in a room with too many monsters to deal with. Then there are those monsters that you can better run away from, even with decent equipment, unless you have specialized equipment to deal with them (like Dragonslayer swords and Dragon Suits to deal with Dragons in the final levels). It may sound too nasty, but the game is well-balanced enough to make the most attempts possible. Luck is definitely a factor to win this game, but once you get to know each item and monster, you can beat the odds. The well-balanced difficulty and random nature of the game, and the diverse monsters and items make the gameplay very challenging and fun, even for those who finished it many times. The only dissapointing aspect I can think of is that the egg which follows you around (which will mature into a dragon as you gain experience and hitpoints) seems to have no function except blocking monsters in tight corners so you won't have to deal with all the monsters at a time. This can be useful at times, but it would be a lot more useful and cooler if it could actually attack too. I probably should mention here too that the usual SMS flickering and slowdown can occur if the area gets too crowded, but it won't be often and because of the turn-based nature it'll never get you killed by accident.
You'll play Dragon Crystal from a clear top-down view. Level graphics are colourful but they can get repetitive and boring. However, this is the SMS we're talking about here so I probably shouldn't be too critical. Sprites are nicely animated (although the player character walks a bit stiff), but again nothing spectacular. The game does have simple yet effective intro and outro animations, and the ending screen kicks ass, making the effort quite worthwhile. But in short the look of the game isn't the strongest point.
Sound & Music
The same goes for the sound, really. The game has some effective sound effects and catchy tunes, but not of the über-quality you haven't heard before. It's often more important for SMS games to not have annoying sounds, and thankfully this is the case for Dragon Crystal. There are 5 main tunes in the game, one for the intro, three for levels 1-9, 10-19 and 20-30, and one for the ending. They are catchy but especially the level tunes can get boring and repetitive after a while. In all, it's decent, but not stellar.
Controls are well taken care of. Your character is easy to maneuver and fighting merely consists of running into enemies. Moving through your inventory is a breeze too, as is equiping and using the items. You'll never have the feeling you're short on buttons. Not much more to say really, the game has good, non-frustrating controls.
Replay Value
Music & Sound
Replay Value
This is where the game really shines, along with the gameplay. The game's random nature makes every quest different. Once you get the hang of it, you'll keep trying to beat it for the first time, and when you do, you'll be trying it again. Once you get to the end, you could warp to level 30 in a room with just the Magic Goblet, leading to an easy end. Or you could warp far away from the Goblet in a different room filled with 6 Dragons, the toughest monsters in the game, which can eliminate you and your last continue when you're so close to the end. Not knowing what to expect everytime you enter a room is what makes this game so attractive.
When I got this game, I was put off by the difficulty at first. But when I really got into it, it really started to grow on me and now it's probably my favourite SMS game. The randomness simply rocks. Although you got to have some luck at times, like finding strong equipment and collecting all the useful items early in the game, there is not a single quest that won't be challenging, even for advanced players. And beating it is a very satisfying experience, every time. Unfortunately, this game remains one of the more overlooked ones, which is why I decided to write a review here. People rave about RPGs as Phantasy Star, Y's, and Golden Axe Warrior (and rightfully so), but this game is right up there, IMHO. So give it a shot! Have fun, and good luck... you're gonna need it :)
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