Light Crusader (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is an action RPG released late in the Sega Genesis’ life cycle. Developed by Treasure – a developer known on the Genesis for classics such as Dynamite Headdy, Gunstar Heroes, and Alien Soldier – it is not well known despite its pedigree. To be honest, until I ran across a copy earlier this year, I didn’t even know the game existed.
The game begins with the hero returning to a town that requested his help. The king informs you that villagers have been going missing and begs you to investigate the disappearances. As for narrative – that’s pretty much it. I’m sure it gets a little deeper the further you go, but you are essentially thrown right into the action.
The game is played from a top down isometric perspective that reminds me a bit of Diablo. You can walk in the four cardinal directions, attack, and jump. Some actions are context sensitive – for example when you’re in town you can hit the attack button to speak to townsfolk to get some clues. There are also shops in town to buy and sell items that you find, but I never had anything to sell and was too broke to buy anything. To get to the dungeon, you need to figure out a small puzzle in the graveyard – unfortunately because my time is limited and I couldn’t figure out what to do I had to revert to a walkthrough. When I saw the solution it was fairly obvious, but the act of getting stuck 5 minutes into the game was a preview of some of the more obscure puzzles that I was about to deal with. As for gameplay, there are some puzzles to figure out, some light combat (which is not great), and some light platforming. For the platforming, the isometric perspective doesn’t do the player any favors and simple jumps can take several attempts to land properly. Despite this, the minute to minute gameplay works and is fun and rewarding – something I wouldn’t have expected given some of the downsides. I can’t say for sure, but I get the impression that some of the later puzzles will be very difficult which would be a bit disappointing.
Music in Light Crusader was awesome – it was some of the better Genesis music I can think of. The town and dungeon themes were atmospheric and drew me into the world. Sound effects were also excellent – this is Treasure doing what they were known for. Which leads me to….
Visuals. While not everything is amazing, I would say the graphics are definitely above average with some of the sculptures and other sprite work looking fantastic. While hard to see in screenshots, the doors and some other elements are actually 3D and look great. I will say that the main characters animation is a bit weak, and some townsfolk don’t animate at all – the only blemish on the overall look of the game.
Overall, I had a good time with Light Crusader and I’m shocked that it’s so unknown (and cheap!). If you have a Genesis and are looking for something different, I think it’s well worth a shot.
Verdict: Play again! This was a good time, and while I imagine some of the later puzzles will be difficult and possibly frustrating I can overlook the flaws.
Images courtesy of Giant Bomb