I may as well say it. I'm starting to hate modern action games. I'm not sure where to pinpoint it exactly but I guess when I look back at Bayonetta and realize all of the things that are wrong with it I start to wonder why I bother at all. I'm actually not a fan of combos and level design consisting of nothing but rooms full of enemies has never sat well with me. Regardless I may as well suck it up because for the most part it seems like these kinds of action games are the only ones being made.
Rygar is one such game. While it is an update to a classic NES & arcade game everything from its structure to art-direction is quite different. In fact it's pretty easy to say this game is either a Devil May Cry clone or a precursor to God Of War. There are some minor adventure elements like finding new powers used solely for exploration but most of the game is going to be spent smashing worms, smashing scenery, and smashing bosses.
The original NES game was an interesting take on the action-adventure genre. At its basics one could argue it's a Metroid clone but the level design and unique method of handling concepts like power-ups & enemies led to something quite different. As a Devil May Cry clone, Rygar PS2 doesn't do enough to stand out. For one exploration has been scaled back pretty heavily for an almost completely linear game. There's a bit of back-tracking involved but it feels rather arbitrary.
Anyway I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. Let's talk about Rygar himself or rather his diskarmor. No offense to the man but in terms of personality it'll take more than hilarious overacting to make him endearing. The diskarmor however is a very neat tool as it functioning as a weapon, a shield, and a means of crossing chasms. The combat aspects are self explanatory as the diskarmor can be thrown out like a whip, swung like a mace, or even have the quickness of a dagger. This makes the combat rather interesting in that the position of enemies should always be accounted for and using the right diskarmor to match works out quite nicely.
Problem is the enemy variety is terrible. I mentioned smashing worms earlier and that is in fact what a solid portion of the first stage is going to be spent doing. There are multiple flavors of worms if that accounts for anything. There are also phantoms that slide their claws across the ground in order to give Rygar a good swiping, some mini-humanoid things(for lack of a better word) that spit stuff, and exploding spiders or something. Throw in the occasional Cyclops and that's the entirety of the regular enemy variety. It probably wouldn't be so bad if there was some creativity to how the different enemies handled but instead they serve mostly as combo-fodder.
When Rygar isn't destroying the baddies he's destroying everything around him. The early parts of the game are rife with decayed ruins, crumbling rocks, and well just about anything that looks like it has a crack or two. This is in a way necessary because all manner of power-ups can be found in whatever bit of rock Rygar manages to smash. This is also effective at killing the pacing and triggering that OCD a lot of gamers suffer from where everything must be destroyed before the game can continue(even though this is almost entirely optional). It's neat in the first playthrough but quickly wears thin after that.
All of the challenge in this game is in the boss-fights. Unfortunately one of the reasons they're so challenging is that the game does a poor job of testing the player's ability through encounters with regular foes, which just makes for an uneven game design. At any rate the bosses are still tough in that they help to showcase that Rygar isn't exactly the greatest at getting around. He's got the running and jumping part down but he's not quite the adept at evasion. While he can block it's the attacks he can't block that are the problem. The man is slow and though he has options for getting around quickly like a slide they aren't much use in the boss-fights.
Power-ups in this game are handled rather oddly. After a certain part of the game Rygar gains the ability to socket jewels into his diskarmor to give him new powers and/or strengthen his stats. Better stats is self-explanatory but the new powers kind of rub me the wrong way. It would have been better to just give them to Rygar regardless of jewels so that they would find more use and probably be more effective. Instead these are found in random bits of scenery and usually so late in the game that they aren't worth bothering with. At least all of the jewels are carried over in future playthroughs so they can go unused in those as well. One nice touch is that this game has been effectively designed for those wishing for an experience not tied down by power-ups. This score-attack mode breaks the game up into levels and judges how well the player does in getting through them.
At times I have to admit that there are games that just aren't designed for me in mind. The biggest offense to me is the dearth of real exploration. Aside from an endurance battle towards the very end there's hardly anything that deviates from the path set by the game nor is there a reason to. Instead of providing a comfortable balance between platforming and fighting a lot of areas tend to focus on one aspect or the other(one of the areas near the end is entirely platforming). Still I think it works well given what the developers were going for and while not my kind of thing it's worthy of merit.
Possibly the best thing I can say about this game is that it's short. In ten hours I could play through this game three times. If nothing else this game is set at the perfect length and manages to weave an altogether solid experience. It's also bolstered by an enchanting soundtrack and just about the best/worst voice-acting in the medium. Despite my issues with the game it doesn't drag things out or really manage to become truly repetitive despite the lacking enemy variety. In fact no part of the game ever really becomes repetitive because the level designers knew when to quit and move on to the next section of the game. Sick of crossing platforms? Well here's some enemies. Sick of enemies? Have some traps. Had enough traps? Time for a boss. This game transitions everything properly and doesn't allow itself to become stale.
Overall this game ain't bad for $3.