Crystalis, or known as God Slayer: Haruka Tenkū no Sonata (“God Slayer: Sonata of the Far Away Sky”) in Japan, is a 1990 action RPG produced by SNK for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Crystalis never became a runaway hit when it was first released, but it’s now considered a cult classic. The game’s initial success created another installment for the Game Boy Color system ten years later. This version is considered a remake rather than a sequel. I’ve never played this game, however, a good friend stated that it’s not a very good port. I did hear that this game suffered from many changes to the story, music, and other aspects that were just not needed or wanted.
The game begins with the main character awakening from cryogenic sleep one hundred years after a global nuclear war. He doesn’t remember who he is, but as he journeys throughout his adventure, he discovers that he may be the key to saving the world from destruction. He is aided by four wise sages and a mysterious woman who holds keys to his past. The hero finds out what’s really at stake and rises up against an empire to ensure that humanity has a bright future. While I won’t ruin any more of the plot, I will, say that the sages have special ties with SNK characters from other games.
The gameplay is that of an Action-RPG very similar to Ys and Legend of Zelda rather than traditional RPGs with random turn-based battles. Like with Ys or Legend of Zelda, the game makes you learn the patterns of enemies and bosses. The enemies will come at you at various directions and often change direction so the player will have to adapt. Boss fights are different as the bosses will teleport or have other means to stop you. For instance, the first boss will teleport and also have bats fly at you taking your health. There are some trial and error with the bosses, but, I found that once I discovered the pattern it became easy as every enemy and boss has a specific pattern that can be exploited for victory. Also, some bosses and enemies require that the hero be a certain level so there is definitely some grinding involved but that was the standard of many RPGs at the time.
You will gain the use of four swords throughout the game that are fused with elemental power (earth, wind, water and fire) and a fifth sword as well. Each sword gets an orb that will power up the sword allowing the player to travel further by removing obstacles in your path. For example, once you find the Orb of Wind and equip it you will be able to break down walls that are a different color by standing very close to it which will bring you to the first boss. Items are one-time use, but are extremely important in the beginning when starting out before you learn Refresh. Like with any RPG, it’s always good to have extra in case you need it.
As a kid, I rented this game a lot. It was my go-to game for so many months because it really was a different experience. I remember starting a new game and being hopelessly lost since there was no direction after the mayor gave you money. I honestly had zero idea where to go even after I met the first wise man. I did play other saved games but it always felt like I cheated because I would miss some of the story.
What I remember fondly, was the music and even after all these years the music is still as good as it was when I first played this game. I still hum some of the music nowadays and smile when I do. This game was different from Legend of Zelda as it featured more of a story than just rescue the princess which I liked. In addition, the opening cinematics really grabbed my attention, especially the part about how in 1997 the world was almost going to end, as this was something different from what I was playing at that time.
The only negative thing I can say is that this game doesn’t really provide direction on what you need to do. It’s more like you have to just explore and get lucky you’ll be in the right area or have the right item.
I was lucky to be able to replay this gem recently and my friend provided me with the means to get started on this game. Once, the hero wakes up and the cave collapses, make your way to the first town. Go to the mayor’s house who will give you enough money to buy the Alarm Flute. After you have met the first wise man, Zebu, head to the windmill and play the flute while standing next to the worker that is sleeping on the job. After he wakes up, he will give you a key to start the windmill, which will net you the healing spell of Refresh from Zebu and an entrance to a cave where your journey can continue.
This is a game that I recommend for anyone who appreciates classic RPGs, but wants something different from the standard RPG. It’s also a great introduction to Action-RPGs in general, just as Ys is, which is another great series in the Action-RPG genre. I hope you’ll take the chance to play this hidden gem.