Dragon Crystal is a rogue-like rpg for the Sega Master System. Released in 1992 on the Sega Master System and Game Gear, it would go on to gain somewhat of a cult following and was eventually released on the 3DS virtual console in 2012. It was released to rave reviews back in the early 90s and currently holds a 4.5 out of 5 star user rating rating in the 3DSs’ Virtual Console. So it’s basically been getting top reviews for over 20 years. Nice.
The game is a rogue-like. This means that it is based on the core principal of the game Rogue and it’s close cousin Net Hack. What that amounts to, basically, is that it has very little in the way of a story progression and has virtually no plot, but rather it focuses on re-playability through randomly generated levels. This means that no two games are the same. Do you remember those hard-as-balls platformers that required you to play the same sections over and over again until you “learnt” each level and it’s layout? Yeah, this is about as far removed from that as you can get. There have actually been a hell of a lot of rogue-like games released over the years, both amateur and professional, so it’s quite likely that even if you have never heard of a rouge-like, you may have actually played one.
Luckily for the imagination-impaired like myself, Dragon Crystal is a graphical rouge-like. That might not make a much sense, but a lot of rouge-likes aren’t graphical. I know it’s kinda hard to imagine a game without graphics, but rouge-likes come about as close as one can get. Normally what you will find is ASCII characters representing characters and items on screen, with very little color, if any. Dragon Crystal on the other hand has a full set of colorful and whimsical graphics which, along with the upbeat soundtrack, gives the game quite a laid-back and fancy free atmosphere.
You play as a small warrior that has an egg constantly tailing you. As you gain levels and get stronger, the egg hatches into a dragon. I haven’t actually figured out if you can do anything with the dragon or if you are simply there to protect it, but it looks kinda cool anyways. Your character uses a wide array of weapons which only really differ in terms of damage dealt. There are also shields and armour which can be found throughout the game which help you survive. Although the real fun to be had with Dragon Crystal lies in it’s items. There is a wide variety of items including scrolls, potions and rings which all have different abilities and effects depending on their color. The real kicker with this dynamic is that you have no idea what each item does without having used it at least once before hand.
There are some items with positive effects, like healing and buffing, but there are a whole lot with negative effects, like poison or near-blindness. You can find out what things do by trowing the item at enemies, however if you throw an unknown potion at an enemy iit turns out to be a strength buffing power up, then that monster gets a boost of strength. It’s the same thing with health potions. Another aspect of the items is that the different colored items do different things each game, this means that while a white potion may heal you this game, a white potion may very well poison you the next.
That’s more or less all there is to Dragon Crystal. It’s a pretty fun little game with a lot of re-playability. Due to nature of the game (randomly generated levels) it can be unreasonably difficult at times, but it is still well worth the time.