Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Up till fairly recently, the RPG was an unknown concept on consoles. Slowly but surely this controversial genre has infiltrated the ranks of the shoot-'em-up and arcade adventure and become a welcome breath of fresh air in the Sega owner's collection. Roleplaying games have progressed far from the popularised days of Gauntlet. Nowadays, there's much more interaction and not so much aimless wandering.
The playing view for Dragon Crystal is similar to that of Gauntlet using a forced 3-D perspective from above. But when you first view your character in a clearing, all is not as it seems. The trees surrounding the warrior seem to hold no exit for him. But the brave young man holds a shiny golden sword in his hand and this is his aid to freedom. In fact, this muscly character can use the sword to cut his way through the trees around him. This novel method of moving adds an extra element to the adventuring as you never know what the undergrowth (or whatever the surrounding ground is covered in) holds in store for you.
Your main objective is to find the transporter and beam yourself to the next world (isn't it strange how such a primitive person has such hi-tech equipment?). Along the way, of course, there are plenty of little gadgets and gizmos to pick up which add and increase all manner of abilities (see Crystal Quest).
As you hack through the foliage, you'll eventually come across a gaggle of gruesome mutants, it is possible to pass them without killing them, although you get so much aggro that you might as well deal with them all. Battles with the big guys are executed using the familiar RPG method of attack rounds. At the start of your quest, you are given 100 hit points (or HPs if you want the roleplaying jargon), which diminish depending on the ferocity of the creatures you encounter. A heavy battle could mean you lose a large amount of HPs, but these can be replenished by picking up the numerous chunks of food that litter the ground. Rest also gives you some "energy" back, although this can be quite slow.
You start the game as a lowly apprentice, but your situation can be improved by picking up gold pieces. If you collect enough, you will be promoted to a new character who will have a greater number of hit points. Gold can also give you a continue option if you gain enough, making it a real incentive to hunt down.
This first RPG for the Game Gear is one of the most accessible I've seen on any format. It is incredibly easy to get into, yet has quite a bit of depth for a hand-held game. The menus which are used to access certain objects etc are simple and quick to use. Unfortunately, the simplistic approach for the graphics doesn't work as well. The backgrounds are incredibly bland and the sprites poor representations of monsters. Even so, the gameptay holds the whole thing together. If you haven't risked an RPG before, then Dragon Crystal is the ideal game to start on - there's even a groovy tune!
SEGA £29.95 • IMPORT