I almost didn’t get around to writing this as I had a little health trouble this week and ended up in the hospital for part of a night. It wasn’t anything terribly serious but I still feel kind of horrible so forgive me if this review seems a little short.
This week I am covering a game that in recent months has become a favorite of mine. Not many people have heard of it and I have never seen it in a dedicated cabinet. Perhaps it only exists as a kit but either way I’d love to have one for my own, called The Crystal of Kings.
The Crystal of Kings by Brezzasoft (2001)
The Gods have forsaken the land and left behind a number of powerful crystals in their wake. The crystals endow the possessors with great power and whoever possesses them all will have total control over the world. The evil magician NightSpirit has captured the Crystal of Darkness and is gathering his forces to find each crystal and cover the world in evil darkness. The King employs brave Cocco (I have to laugh at imagining where they might have come up with that one during a meeting one day) and his mutant kangaroo pet to destroy NightSpirit and entrusts Cocco to return the Crystal of Darkness to him. Along with three other adventurers, the quest begins!
To briefly sum up what The Crystal of Kings is like, think Golden Axe with a few improvements. You or another player venture through side-scrolling levels taking out attacking orcs, trolls, bugs, skeletons and other magical creatures while collecting gold, magic, points and facing huge end bosses. There are four players to choose from in total, the worst of which is the hideously named Cocco. He never dismounts his weird pet and fires arrows as his primary weapon. The other three characters are pretty cool (like the hero of the main story should be) and they all wield different forms of magic, much like Golden Axe. Cocco controls earth magic in addition to his bow and arrow, the very anime-like tough guy Lustro wields a sword and fire, Lung electricity and a staff and finally scantily clad Justicia with a sword and light magic.
The combat is straightforward although the game begins with a tutorial to give the player a quick rundown of what to expect. There are three buttons, A attacks, B jumps, and C is magic. By pressing A+B you’ll do a cool attack that should take care of anyone nearby but it decreases your life gauge just slightly. Other attacks can be done by taking actions such as pressing forward twice and then attack, where you’ll do a sort of running attack; there are two types of jump attacks (it isn’t explained in the tutorial but it seems that pressing down shortly after jumping and pressing attack will do a downwards air attack; you can also do a low attack by pressing down and A at the same time and finally your attacks will change depending on the distance you are away from your enemy, such as close by you will throw them or maybe do a roundhouse kick. Overall there is enough to stay varied and with the different levels of magical attacks it is also quite enjoyable.
Most enemies you will face are pushovers but on occasion the game will throw a tough one at you where you will need to do a bit of button mashing along with the right evasive action. You have to be careful during the first level when scared soldiers or civilians coming running from the opposite direction of the screen and sometimes you might accidentally kill them thinking it was an enemy running towards you. Destroying objects such as crates or dead bodies can sometimes yield rewards such as extra health or magic and occasionally you will find trapped fairies, who once you free them in time will help you for a brief time. There are four types of fairies, blue regenerates your health, red attacks with you, yellow increases your score and green increases you magic. Once your character looses all of his lives, they will leave some gold and fairies behind in case you decide to continue.
There are six stages in all, each with unique and interesting environments to traverse across. None of them are very long, with a couple feeling too short. At the very least the game keeps you on your toes by offering a large variety of enemies that change with each new stage (even if a couple of them seem to be ripped off of typical fantasy-themed video games) and the game pace is perfect, not letting you wander very far before running into some evil soul that is about to meet its end from your blade.
The Crystal of Kings uses 2D pre-rendered art in high color. Along with this style of animation and detailed environments as well as awesome transparent effects, it results in a great looking game, despite the lack of 3D artwork which was picking up plenty of steam at the time. The amount and use of color is probably the most impressive display that the eye catches, it’s almost enough to overlook the animation which could have been done better as characters seem to lack the amount of frames needed to make the game look really fluid. There is also very occasional slowdown, but it does not hinder the game flow and this still looks great overall.
While the music is nothing extraordinary it is admittedly catchy on occasion, especially the theme song used between levels. The sounds consist of everything needed for your typical brawler – slashing, swooshing, squishing, bashing and screaming noises all combine together to create a fairly good audio experience although the yells from the scared soldiers is pretty cheesy and a tad annoying.
I am unsure if this game ever saw a release as a full cabinet. According to the games entry on KLOV/VAPS, there are 3 people that own the game and they all own a circuit board that plugs into a generic cabinet but no one owns a dedicated unit. As such I cannot really comment on what the cabinet is supposed to be like, although if anyone has some pictures of one, please pass them along!
The Crystal of Kings is a side-scrolling fighter that is widely overlooked probably because it came out at a time when people just didn’t seem to care about such games anymore and it shares just a few things in common with Golden Axe. It is also easy just like Golden Axe is although you can change the difficulty which also will change the ending of the game, which is a nice touch. It really is worth a try if you ever come across a machine as it is fun to play over multiple times and it looks great. Just ignore the storyline and Cocco and you’ll be on your way to some sweet brawling action.