If Dragon Crystal teaches me one thing, and one thing only, it is this: don’t touch mysteriously glowing crystals inside equally mysterious antique shops. If you do, you just might end up getting teleported elsewhere like the nameless hero of this Game Gear title, forced to drag a large egg behind him and fight his way through mazes of monsters in hope of getting back home…to his bicycle. Yeah, it came out in the early 1990s; how’d you guess?
Well, that’s literally all the plot you get (and need), so here’s how Dragon Crystal actually plays. It’s a roguelike, with Bicycle Hero-Man beginning in the middle of a maze level covered mostly by fog. The first few levels are a mix of trees, cacti, sunflowers, and Easter Island style statues, though I couldn’t tell you what shows up later in the game. Maybe dragons, maybe crystals. You progress by finding a warp tile somewhere in the maze, stepping on it to advance to the next floor. While you search for this warp tile, you’ll come across a number of items to add to your inventory, as well as enemies to battle.
Battles are turn-based and remind me very much of Hack, Slash, Loot, given how many times Bicycle Hero-Man missed with the swing of his dagger. Anyways, you face the target monster and press in its direction to attack. Sometimes you’ll do damage, sometimes you’ll miss, and the same goes for the monsters fighting you. Text at the bottom of the screen fills in the details. But nothing happens until you hit a button, so you can stand completely still and really think about your next move or dump into your inventory and see what potions you can use. It’s not very deep combat, but it works well enough, and several enemies can cause status effects, such as poison or dizziness. You don’t gain experience points in the traditional sense, but your HP increases with each new floor you find, and equipping new gear raises your power and defense stats.
Dragon Crystal is all about the
bass items. Just like how Bicycle Hero-Man had to touch the mysterious crystal in the antique shop, you too will have to use most items to learn what they can do. This is my least favorite part of roguelikes, something that always made my heart skip a beat when using unknown pills in The Binding of Isaac. However, once you use an item and know what it is and can do, all future instances of that item will be acquired with everything spelled out. Thank goodness for that. Each item is color-coded, though the color doesn’t necessarily correlate to the effect, so be prepared to toss green books, purple rods, yellow pots, and cyan rings at enemies to see what the 401 is. Careful though as I discovered a cursed ring through this process and was unable to remove it once I put it on. Oh, and certain pieces of armor will affect how your character looks, so this immediately gets two thumbs up from me. All that said, I’m still not sure what money is good for given that I haven’t found a shop or merchant out in the wild.
So, that egg that is just immediately trailing behind you at the start of the game…well, by the time I had died, it had hatched into a small, tiny dragon. I’d like to imagine that it grows even larger over time and eventually helps you fight other monsters. That’s the dream, really. I read that there about 30 floors in total to get through.
Well, here’s as far as Bicycle Hero-Man got on my first run:
Dragon Crystal‘s a fun little maze-crawler, with good replayability to it. I expect to return to the color-coded items and foggy forest trees real soon. You hear that, Siro Me? I’M COMING FOR YOU.