Reviewed: June 21, 2003
Released: November 21, 2002
Rygar makes his triumphant return from his 8-bit NES roots in what may be one of the best fantasy action games currently available for the PS2. I must confess I never played the original, but I heard only good things about it while researching this review. Rygar: The Legendary Adventure apparently has taken all of the excellent gameplay elements from the original and updated them with a stunning 3D engine and a fairly complex combat system.
Taking place on an island in the Mediterranean Sea called Argus, this next-gen sequel tells the tale of a noble warrior determined to save the Princess Harmonia from the clutches of the evil and powerful Titans while returning the Island of Argus to a state of peace. Rygar is thrust into the dangerous underworld where he must rely on his almighty Diskarmor, which becomes the essential tool in his quest for victory. Armed with the Diskarmor, Rygar sets out on what will become a quest of epic proportions.
The entire theme of the game reminded me of classic movies like Sinbad or Clash of the Titans. Everything has this majestic look and feel with awe-inspiring levels full of crumbling Greek architecture. You have leather clad warriors, horrible monsters, magical weaponry, and everything else required to make a classic action game.
Most surprising was the level of sophistication in the script. The story is fairly complex and told through a unique blend of movies and reading materials that you can find throughout the game. Even though the story is a bit complicated the gameplay and your motivation for where to go and what to do is pretty clear. Save the princess, save the city, save the world. Just another day in the life of a typical videogame hero.
Rygar is part action, part fighter, and part adventure game. You will wander and explore amazing 3D environments, some are static screens shown from fixed cinematic cameras while others will pan and zoom to cover the action from exciting perspectives. It’s a unique blend of third-person camerawork taken from games like Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and the Onimusha games.
Destruction is the name of this game and if you can see it chances are really good you can destroy it. Almost every freestanding object, sculpture, urn, and column, can be destroyed along with a frightening assortment of monsters ranging from gooey slugs to giant insects and frightening Titans.
An essential survival tool, used not only as a weapon but as a divine, spiritual artifact is your Diskarmor. Deadly spikes extend from its center allowing you to kill the enemy by hurling your weapon like a giant yoyo. Pierce your enemies to swing them around and destroy others in your path or slice through enemies that are suspended in mid air. You can swing the Diskarmor and slam it on the ground to shock enemies in your way or use it as a grapple to reach otherwise inaccessible locations.
The Diskarmor comes in three flavors, each with special magical powers and unique attacks and combos. You start off with the Hades Diskarmor and will acquire the Heaven and Sea versions as you work your way through the quest. The Hades is a great medium-range weapon while the Heaven Diskarmor can reach much further and be swung around in sweeping circles, and the Sea Diskarmor is great for rapid short-range attacks.
While destroying everything in sight is admittedly a guilty pleasure there are some benefits to your vandalism. Most destroyed objects will reveal a purple sphere in the debris that will give you experience points when collected. You can “spend” these points to upgrade your Diskarmor allowing you to summon giant mythical beasts to fight for you.
The pacing in Rygar is fast and furious and the control system supports this frenzied gameplay style perfectly. Everything is kept extremely simple with combos generally consisted of patterns of Square and Triangle. You can explore even more deadly combinations involving movement and jumping. You can launch the Diskarmor then spin the left stick to swirl the deadly disc in large circles or block with the R1 and combine that with the Triangle to summon the aforementioned creatures like Cerberus. You can even cycle through the various Diskarmors using the triggers for instant access during combat.
Not everything is made available to you from the start. Many of Rygar’s moves like the forward-slide is locked until you learn it through gameplay. Many attacks and combos are not available until you acquire the appropriate Diskarmor, and you will also need to increase the power of your Diskarmor with magical stones that you will find throughout the adventure. These can give your unique weapon elemental powers of fire, ice, and lightning making you that much more deadly.
The levels are huge and your first time through many levels you will see plenty of places you simply cannot get to until later in the game. This is a bit frustrating but does offer a good incentive to go back to those areas with your new skills and collect the items that were previously out of reach. These are generally the more powerful artifacts and well worth the trip.
Rygar uses a save point system that essentially gives you unlimited saves provided you are at a glowing lion head sculpture. These are shown on the in-game map, so they are not too hard to find and the designers have strategically placed them after difficult areas or just prior to a boss battle.
Boss battle…did someone say boss battle? Oh yeah, Rygar is full of boss battles starting with a very intimidating one not more than 15-minutes into the game. In the following level you will face three bosses in succession without a save point in between, so things get challenging very quickly in this game. Bosses are typical of most boss fights in that you simply need to learn their patterns, avoid their attacks, find their weak spots, and attack at just the right time with just the right weapon.
There is a huge variety in difficulty between the bosses but it doesn’t ramp up very well. Normally you expect the game to get harder near the end but in Rygar there is a huge hump to overcome in the middle then you can pretty much coast to the finish through the final two boss fights. You’ll find plenty of artifacts to increase your life and magic bars and power-up your Diskarmor, so by the time you get to the final bosses you are sufficiently equipped to tackle them.
In a word, Rygar is “stunning”. The opening movie left me speechless and I continue to watch it each time I return to this game. But the movies are only a small part of the visual splendor found in Rygar. Everything is perfectly crafted from the detailed character models to the hideous monsters that you must fight to the glorious levels you fight them in.
Rygar himself is a wonder to watch as he performs all sorts of killer moves and combos in fluid motion. Monsters all look and move realistically, well, at least as realistic as a 200-pound slug might move. The amount of detail in both 3D models and textures on those models is staggering.
You will play through eight wondrous levels with themes right out of Greek and Roman history whether it be landscapes or crumbling ruins, ancient temples, or dark and sinister caverns. The levels are enormous and when the camera swoops out for the long shot you won’t believe your eyes. These levels are also multi-layered with stairs and ledges and the token platform jumping level.
The camera does an incredible job of tracking the action, keeping enemies and Rygar in sight at all times. The camera will come down low and tight for combat then swing high and wide for exploration. Some of the levels have a fixed camera angle for dramatic effect like in Resident Evil, and these are functional and quite exciting.
There is very little fogging or pop-up, which just makes the fluid 60fps that much more impressive. Architecture is beautifully textured and modeled to crumble and fall apart when struck by your weapon. Special effects range from volumetric dust clouds rising from the rubble to particle effects, heat distortion from torches, reflective marble floors, and some of the best colored lighting effects I’ve seen in a long time. The power of the PS2 has never been put to better use.
My only complaint with anything visual is the menus that are a bit hard to read partly due to the color scheme and partly to the jaggy font. This makes it hard to read the tablets and other story information you find during the game and even harder to figure out the already-complicated enchantment system.
The music is outstanding as you might expect considering it’s being performed by the Moscow Philharmonic. The scope of the soundtrack is as epic as any fantasy movie you have ever seen, perhaps more so, and it really helps to immerse you in the mythical world and enchanting gameplay.
The speech ranges from above average to terribly corny at times. This is mainly due to some translation problems but it doesn’t really detract from the overall experience. The sound effects more than pick up the slack with thunderous booms as you destroy columns and bring down walls and ceilings or the slicing noise of your Diskarmor scraping on stone or the sickening squish of giant worms being eviscerated.
Based on content alone, Rygar could be considered a short game clocking in at just over 15 hours of gameplay. Your mileage may vary depending on how motivated you are to backtrack and explore previous areas to get new items. The game is challenging, but the difficulty is all over the place reaching it peak about 70% through the game then letting you coast to the finish.
Rygar is one of the best action-adventure titles you can currently get for your PS2 immersing you in a wondrous world of fantasy and magic. The Diskarmor is one of the most innovative weapons of all time and with the three versions and dozens of combos and unique attacks the possibilities for creatively dispatching your enemies is nearly endless. If you love action, fantasy, and heroic combat then look no further than Rygar: The Legendary Adventure.